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Franklin Technology Chief Gets to Work

Franklin Resources of San Mateo, Calif., adviser to the $218 billion Franklin Templeton complex of mutual funds, is getting serious about technology. With a new head of technology, the company has made a major financial and company-wide commitment to develop improved systems.

Allen J. Gula joined the company Sept. 1 as senior vice president and chief information officer. His number one goal is to lift Franklin's technology to a new level. His plan is to use technology to make Franklin more efficient, and competitive.

"I think Franklin will look and feel a lot different a year from now," Gula said in a telephone interview.

Franklin has, by Gula's own admission, lost some of its technological edge in the service area over the past few years.

According to Gula, the key to Franklin's future success is developing a determination to act quickly.

"There was a time when, as a mutual fund, you made money in spite of yourself," said Gula. "Now, competition is increasing, margins are slimmer and niche guys are trying to take their piece from us. You need to be quick on your feet. We've got to have a sense of urgency. Things move fast. One minute you're making money, then it changes. You have to be nimble."

Gula has had years of experience building and employing state-of-the-art technology. For 17 years, Gula was an important force behind the technological precocity of KeyCorp of Cleveland, Ohio. Before that, he worked for Society Corp. of Cleveland, Ohio, the holding company for Society Bank which purchased KeyCorp in 1994. Before joining Society Corp. in the late 1970s, Gula was a software developer.

At KeyCorp, Gula was in charge of the company's global information services. That meant he was intimately involved in developing everything from its backroom systems and a sophisticated call center to its electronic commerce business and Internet banking capabilities

When Society Corp. bought KeyBank, Gula led the integration of the two firms' technological platforms. Gula also helped KeyBank attain the distinction of being the first bank nationwide to link all customer access points (customer centers, ATMs, telephones, and the Internet).

Now at Franklin, Gula said his mission is two-fold - to create technology that builds upon Franklin's strong domestic brand name while building parallel technology that will service Franklin's many global markets. Gula's mandate is to provide for Franklin's entry into new international markets while giving Franklin's domestic brokers better tools.

Much of Gula's work will be focused on building Franklin's web presence. As consumers become more comfortable with the Internet, the task is clear for Franklin and other companies - to change into an "e-business company," he said.

Franklin needs to expand what brokers and other financial intermediaries can do at Franklin's website, Gula said.

As he did at KeyCorp, Gula plans to harmonize the graphical image of the company around the world and individuals' interaction with it, he said. Also drawing from his work at KeyCorp, Gula is helping Franklin develop its data mining initiatives. Data mining means pulling information from different internal departments and systems and melding them into one system which can then guide the development of personalized products and services.

Gula's strategy is supported by Charles B. Johnson, Franklin's CEO, said Gula.

"Charlie gets it," said Gula. "Some things we're going to need to do are pretty dramatic. Charlie is committed to doing what we need to do, both domestically and internationally, under a global strategy."

Though Gula declined to disclose his information technology budget, he implied it was significant.

"I may never say this again...but it is more than I can spend," he said.