Caso providian trust

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Harvard Business School

9-398-008

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Rev. June 7, 1999

Providian Trust: Tradition and Technology (A)
A New CEO

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Within two weeks of accepting the position of CEO of Providian Trust Company, Stephen
Walsh, a lawyer by training, faced an unusual corporate conflict and he would have to play the role of
judge. There was an extraordinary difference of opinion betweenProvidian Trust’s internal auditor,
Peter Storey, and the leaders of a major information technology (IT) project in the trust division.
“Peter’s extremely vocal point ran to the issue of documentation, that it was incomplete and should
be brought up to speed,” explained Walsh. The conflict reached a climax during an Audit Committee
meeting on May 13, 1995, when members of the committee, whowere all on the Providian Trust
board of directors, expressed to Walsh that they had lost confidence in the internal auditor and
recommended that the external auditor, Steinman & Smith, do an analysis of the project
documentation prior to implementation.

No

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The purpose of the project was to convert the trust division’s outdated information system
into a more efficient system usingAccess Plus, new trust and custody management software made by
Select One. The project had been initiated in 1993 under a former CEO, who had been dismissed by
the board, and had continued under an interim CEO. By the time Walsh arrived on the scene, over
two-thirds of the $18 million budget had been invested in the implementation of the IT project and
Providian Trust had built up expectationsamong clients that the new system would dramatically
improve service. Though the company had experienced transitions in leadership at the CEO level, the
Access Plus project had stable leadership under the direction of senior vice president of Trust,
Investment & Treasury Michael LeBlanc. It was LeBlanc who had argued before the board in April
1994 that the information technology project wascritical to the business future of the trust division,
winning its unanimous approval to move forward with the plan. Storey, who had criticized the
project from day one, was regarded by some Providian Trust executives as having a tendency to “cry
wolf.” Walsh, working on a five-year strategic plan for Providian Trust, emphasized that he did not
have time to become intertwined in a political knot.I’m the new CEO. I have no credibility yet with this board other than my
C.V. It’s the Audit Committee that’s expressing reservations about this project. So, in
addition to satisfying myself about whether or not this is a go, who better than the
external auditors to satisfy the Audit Committee in terms of the appropriateness of

Do

Research Associate Melissa Dailey prepared this caseunder the supervision of Professor F. Warren McFarlan as the basis
for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. The
names and some of the facts have been disguised.
Copyright © 1997 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to
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This document is authorized for use only byJorge Antonio Guill?Galv at Universidad Rafael Land?var until March
2013. Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Permissions@hbsp.harvard.edu or 617.783.7860.

398-008

Providian Trust: Tradition and Technology (A)

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continuing the project? My solution was to have Steinman & Smith send in one of
their people and I asked that person to join the Implementation...
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