GOLD TECHNOLOGY WINNER………The marriage of technology and finance usually means one thing: centralization. Yet, Toyota Financial Services (TFS) chose to use its new credit risk solution to

decentralize decision-making. Where Excel is generally considered a dated and error-prone format, Toyota Financial used it as the central element of its new tool. So much about the technology project that landed a gold Alexander Hamilton Award for the U.S. financing arm of the Japanese auto maker runs counter to generally accepted wisdom about finance IT; yet, Toyota's risk adjusted return on capital (RAROC) model, an application that is used by 30 field offices for loan and profitability calculations, has produced significant improvements in the company's RAROC as sales volume has increased. "How should a big firm like us set prices in 30 different areas?" asks Craig Reider, TFS' national manager in treasury and manager of the project. "We gave the field a model we would have used and let them make all the decisions. It helps us get better market share and react to competitive forces."

But it wasn't always that way. With the expertise and data, corporate headquarters had been making decisions about the theoretical best terms for consumer loans, but without information on the real competitive challenge that only the regional field office employees had. Sometimes theoretical pricing didn't hold up, and sales had to watch good customers being picked off by more nimble competitors.

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