Profiting From E-Meetings

Trust company boosts bottom line via Web tools.

As the initial shock over the events of Sept. 11 has faded, corporate bankers at Wilmington Trust Corp., as at many enterprises, have returned to something like a normal work routine. Travel-averse employees who embraced Web-based meetings and seminars immediately after the disaster are beginning to return to the skies, particularly to attend important meetings such as merger closings.

But that doesnt mean e-meeting software is about to become shelfware at Wilmington. In fact, Wilmington, the countrys 13th-largest personal trust company with $34.7 billion in assets under management, is actually accelerating its use of Web-based virtual meeting software. Why? Rather than seeing the Web meeting tool just as a way to cut travel costs and worries, Wilmington officials have shaken up the tool like its a piggybank, launching new online services that have not only paid back the cost of the application but also promise to open up new revenue streams.

"When we did the return-on- investment analysis for our management on these tools, we decided not to use a soft-dollar approach," said Norma Closs, the companys e-commerce liaison and a corporate financial services vice president, in Wilmington, Del. "We said, This is how the bank can charge more and charge new fees for new services."

Over the last few months, the company has launched a series of four fee-based services that allows corporate customers to collaborate online on everything from capital market fund-raising transactions to bankruptcy reorganization committee negotiations. The online services, trademarked and branded under the Wilmington Trust name, are built on top of e-meeting software from eRoom Technology Inc., of Cambridge, Mass. While the online services have yet to blossom into significant sources of new revenue, they have already more than paid for software licensing and other IT deployment costs, Closs said. And expectations are high that more new online service revenues will follow.