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Deena M. Amato-McCoy
Deena M. Amato-McCoy
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A Flexible Technology Architecture Is Key to Remaining Competitive

Despite the downturn, banks are turning to SOA, virtualization and cloud computing to enable the flexible technology architecture required to sustain cost-effective operations and remain competitive in today's volatile market.

As part of its core banking replacement project, Edmonton-based ATB Financial (US$24.5 billion in assets) is transitioning to SOA. According to Ken Casey, the bank's EVP, major initiatives, ATB's previous, mainframe-based computing system featured controlled user access to everything from applications and customer information to product pricing and procedures.

"One of our challenges was the delivery of products and services demanded in a modern banking environment, which consists of multiple channels," he relates. "We realized that creating a more complex computing environment to solve these issues could result in more points of failure" across that environment.

The bank chose to implement the SAP for Banking suite, which supports operational and analytic banking applications using a business process platform, according to the vendor. ATB expects the model to support a multichannel banking architecture and to reuse various applications within this framework, Casey says.

ATB operates multiple channels, including branches, ATMs, online banking, interactive voice response (IVR) and telephone banking services, a call center, and an interface for an online portal that supports sales and services as well as customer relationship management capabilities, according to Kris Hansen, ATB's chief architect. "Customer information is essential within each of these channels," he says. "By using our new SAP platform, we can ensure that we use one customer record and have a single version of the truth."

Data will flow over the enterprise business services and be shared through the middle layer that connects ATB to the platform, Hansen explains. Then SAP's platform will connect ATB to the interoperable services that extract the customer data from a single end-point service, he adds. The tight integration is scalable and can be reused as ATB adds more business channels or ties new applications to the customer data in the future, Hansen notes.

At press time ATB was developing approximately 40 business services, including payment systems and partner services, and preparing for the first tests. The bank plans to go live on the SOA platform by summer 2010.

A Virtual View

"At different points of the day, business demand changes," explains Lee Fisher, manager, worldwide financial services business development, scalable computing, with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard. "This increases storage needs."

Historically, if a bank needed more storage, it added a new server -- a costly investment when one adds the wattage needed to power the unit to the cost of the hardware itself. Today there are more cost-effective options. For example, many banks are consolidating servers in data centers and making the move to multicore servers, which can run multiple applications simultaneously.

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