Right to the core

The Egyptian American Bank says the US$4.2 million overhaul of its core banking system has already improved customer service and helped streamline its day-to-day operations.

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By  Shankar Sharma Published  April 25, 2005

|~|EAB1.jpg|~|The decision to standardise comes as no surprise, explains EAB's Sheriff Mansour.|~|It was announced in October 2004 that Egyptian American Bank (EAB) had opted to standardise its enterprise-wide core banking system. Founded in 1976, the bank has prided itself on its focus of providing quality service to customers. The financial institute believes that better customer service can be attained through highly trained and motivated personnel and technologically advanced operations.

The bank selected Intel Itanium 2 processor-based HP Integrity rx8620 and rx7620 servers to enhance customer service and to underpin its future growth. Being one of Egypt’s leading joint venture banks, the decision to standardise comes as no surprise, as Sheriff Mansour, vice president and head of IT at EAB, explains.

“We decided that our database and desktops should be properly maintained and standardised,” he says. “You can not go into a bank and see that one machine is using HP hardware, while another is using IBM products. It does not add to the professional look of the bank. The applications have to sit on an IT platform that was standardised.”

A professional appearance aside, the implementation has been of enormous benefit, remaining true to the company’s ethos by offering a new service to customers. While the former core banking system itself was not problematic, EAB reached a conclusion that new core banking processes had to be embarked upon. Some of the bank’s equipment was old and complicated; hence the overhaul. HP’s offerings span IT infrastructure, personal computing and access devices, as well as imaging and printing.

The financial institution’s old solution was tailored inhouse and it gradually became a difficult juggling act for Mansour and his team members, who at times felt as though they were operating within a software company as opposed to a bank. The management was advised that too much time and resources were being consumed and a more flexible banking application was purchased.

Implementation systemising required eight months, demonstrating that such procedures need not be lengthy. This included the migration of all customer accounts, data conversion and management. It also included the putting in place of online systems for the company’s staff. EAB went fully live in October 2004.

The training process started within the company, although some processes were outsourced as Mansour explains. “I chose to outsource because at the moment I started the process there was no hardware in place,” he states. “I was not going to wait weeks to get this done when I could immediately directly hire a training centre outside the bank,” he adds.

Mansour himself has 20 trainers —encompassing both IT and general operations — under his wing. Their role is to manage the training of the product according to the company’s needs in addition to carrying out the training for the new systems. Their expertise, coupled with extensive planning focusing on EAB’s specific requirements ensured a rapid implementation process.

“I first got inhouse resources for the DBA [database administration]. That was very important,” he explains. “I kept my old programmers on site until the last minute to make sure that they were fully aware of the system and how to use it.” Furthermore, Mansour is a former HP employee, so the relationship between customer and client is firm and long lasting.

The whole process, including consultancy, hardware, outsourcing and training, cost close to US$ 4.2 million. With EAB boasting 32 branches and over 900 employees, this figure represents value for money according to Mansour. “I presented the case at a conference in Dubai in January and lots of customers were impressed,” he shares. “With the new system we shall be able to downscale procedures by 20% by the end of the year. I’m trying to transfer the knowledge between staff.”

Although it is too early to calculate returns of investment (ROI), EAB is witnessing numerous positive signs. There is now an improved utilisation of the bank’s systems. Tellers and customer service officers have access to a much larger database, rendering their job easier. “We hired help desks to support this as well,” points out Mansour. “We built a database for enquiries which has helped us to find some gaps and fix them before launch. There were a few teething troubles at first, but now everything is in place and properly managed.”

Not all of the old data was cleansed and the bank has kept it for backup purposes. The old system is still running, enabling staff to log on as and when they wish in order to make enquiries. Meantime, EAB has managed to allow users to posses their own company database in order to export the data. One notable benefit has been the reduction of downtime for Mansour and his team.

Under the old system, the typical working day for the organisation’s IT and operational department used to end at 10pm. Now, daily work is regularly complete by 5.30pm. The reduction of downtime and increased capabilities of the system have resulted in staff enjoying fewer working hours. Moreover, the performance of the new system allows clients greater accessibility.

The new solution runs all internal banking transactions and provides staff with enhanced access to customer financial records. It also provides product and service information to enable improvement in overall customer service. As part of its strategy to deploy a new, centralised IT environment, EAB required a server platform that would deliver enhanced processing performance, support for its core banking application, and scope for future growth.

Extensive evaluation and benchmarking demonstrated that the open-standards based Intel Itanium 2-based HP Integrity servers delivers increased availability of data and reduced management costs. Additionally, the platform displays the flexibility to enable EAB to efficiently add extra processing resource to the existing system as business demand increases.

“As the central hub of our enterprise-wide IT systems, it is essential that our server environment delivers best in class reliability and performance now, while giving us the flexibility and scalability to grow and meet future customer demand,” says Jamie Hall, executive vice president and COO of EAB.

The new technology also provides a powerful and scaleable platform that allows EAB to grow its customer base and revenues. Supporting the speedy development and unveiling of new financial products and services achieve this. One of which is the impending launch of a new internet banking system.

EAB is satisfied with the implementation. That sentiment is echoed by HP, which recognises that customers in the banking industry require high levels of performance and flexibility to run critical applications. This in turn ultimately leads to enhanced customer service, as Rudi Schmickl, vice president and general manager of enterprise storage and servers at HP Middle East and Africa notes. “HP Integrity servers deliver the performance, high availability and scalability that customers such as EAB need to minimise downtime and adapt quickly and easily to meet their business needs,” he says.

Egyptian American Bank’s experience is a positive one. The centrally managed enterprise solution, hosting EAB’s Flexcube banking application, is improving overall customer service. Enhanced server performance has also facilitated the organisation to improve customer service, as well as providing a launch pad for future growth and laying the foundations to extend their leadership.
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