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SunTrust Rolls Out Cell Phone Banking

GT Software enables SunTrust to roll out mobile banking on customers' cell phones.

BBy 2011, 816 million people will bank by mobile phone, according to a global study by Juniper Research (Hampshire, U.K.). But Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks ($175.1 billion in assets) has positioned itself ahead of the curve by making mobile banking available on its customers' cell phones today. "Mobile banking is the way the world is going," says Glenn Schneck, assistant VP - mainframe services and online systems services for SunTrust. "We wanted to get it out there ahead of the [competition],"

Before SunTrust could launch mobile banking, however, it needed a way to convert its existing, mainframe-based CICS transaction-processing applications to Web services in order to connect its IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) zSeries mainframe with mobile devices. According to Schneck, the bank decided to take a service-oriented architecture approach to accomplish the integration. The bank, he says, sought a robust solution that would be easy to install and maintain, provide a quick and efficient graphical development tool, work in a high-availability environment and require limited training. Schneck adds that SunTrust also wanted to tap a provider that would offer strong vendor support.

The search for a solution began in spring 2006, and SunTrust conducted proofs of concept (POC) for IBM's Service Flow Modeler, Seagull Software's (Atlanta) LegaSuite and GT Software's Ivory Service Architect solutions in late summer. "The POC was a real-life project with real, useable services created by SunTrust personnel," Schneck notes, adding that the bank ultimately selected Atlanta-based GT's product.

The emergence of higher-priority projects put the mobile banking initiative on the back burner, but implementation of GT's Ivory Service Architect -- which includes Ivory Studio, a graphical development tool; and Ivory Server, which acts as the integration layer between Ivory Studio and CICS -- finally began Aug. 1, 2007, Schneck relates. "The server portion of GT Ivory was implemented within the CICS address spaces," he explains, noting that no new hardware was required for the implementation. "The GT Ivory graphical tool for creation of the services was downloaded and installed on the developer's desktop."

Following the selection of Atlanta-based Firethorn as its front-end mobile application, which is hosted on customers' cell phones, SunTrust launched the mobile banking service as a pilot Oct. 1, 2007. The service formally was rolled out a month later. "That's 60 days from development to production," Schneck says, pointing out that this included testing. Most impressive, he says, "The mobile banking application required zero new lines of COBOL code."

A major benefit of the GT solution, according to Schneck, is its ease of use. He reports that "limited training was required -- the graphical modeling features of GT Ivory made it easy to learn and use." During the proof of concept, Schneck relates, two or three application programmers were shown how to use the product within a couple of hours. The vendor has not had to train anyone since then, he says. "Two of the bank staff wrote training for the rest of the staff," Schneck explains.

Schneck says he is thrilled with the fast start-up afforded by the GT solution. As of April 2008, more than 2,600 SunTrust customers had signed up for mobile banking, he adds. "Since we implemented the applications that use GT Ivory, we have not had a single problem call on the product or services," Schneck stresses.

Still, the adoption numbers were a bit short of the bank's goal, Schneck concedes. But he expects higher adoption as SunTrust makes the service available via additional wireless carriers. He explains that until recently mobile banking was available only to AT&T subscribers. However, SunTrust recently added Verizon (another Firethorn partner) subscribers as well.

Case Study Snapshot

Institution: SunTrust Banks (Atlanta).

Assets: $175.1 billion in assets.

Business Challenge: Create Web services from mainframe-based applications to enable mobile banking.

Solution: GT Software's (Atlanta) Ivory Service Architect solution.

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