Trading for success

Emirates Bank is putting the final touches to its new online brokerage system, bringing the company to the forefront of customer service.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  October 9, 2005

|~|Ali-Sajwani---Emirates-Bank.jpg|~|"The IT department of Emirates Bank is considered to be one of the pioneers in technology." - Ali Sajwani, IT project manager at Emirates Bank|~|Emirates International Brokerage (EIB), the share-trading division of Emirates Bank, is poised to release its online brokerage system. This system will allow its customers to buy and sell shares, and track the progress of their portfolios, through the internet. But this is only the high-profile front end of a much deeper revamp of the bank’s brokerage service; Emirates Bank has fundamentally changed the link between its core systems and the trading division. EIB has brought in the TradeNet system from KnowledgeNet, a Saudi software company specialising in brokerage systems, which has been running at Arab National Bank (ANB), and Emirates Bank International, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for four years. The TradeNet product provides a link between a customer’s account and the brokerage system, allowing direct allocation of funds to share deals. It also provides more comprehensive options for customers to keep track of their portfolios and allows much faster transaction times; with this system in place, EIB was then able to develop an online interface for share trading. Before this overhaul, EIB had two main problems with its brokerage service. First, because all customer transactions were being handled by a manned contact centre, EIB’s capacity for taking orders had not kept pace with customer demand, and the company was losing out on potential deals. Second, the brokerage system had no direct link to customers’ bank accounts, meaning brokers had to manually allocate, or "block", the money needed for transactions, potentially causing problems with insufficient funds and similar issues. Ali Sajwani, IT project manager of the implementation at Emirates Bank, says, “We were unhappy with our existing system; it was very hard for our brokers to access customers’ account details and block funds for transactions, and it was not able to cope with the volume of transactions we wanted to process. In order to do a trade, the broker would have to go back and forth between the banking system and the market system, to check the customer’s details, block the money, process the trade, and so forth; it put a lot of pressure on the traders. “In addition, we wanted to bring in an online interface for the brokerage. We looked at a number of solutions from different companies. In the end we chose the TradeNet system, because it has been going for several years in Saudi Arabia now, and has been processing around 50,000 transactions a day. This gave us a degree of comfort, and we felt it was the most appropriate solution for us to implement as it was robust enough and reliable enough to allow our business to develop.” EIB has been working on the new system since April of this year, with extensive checking and testing along the way. The brokerage has brought in new IBM hardware to run the system, and has installed an entirely new, separate infrastructure for the internet trading side. Hamoud Abdulla Al Yasi, general manager of EIB, makes it clear the company takes security and integrity very seriously, and says the system won’t go live until every detail has been checked. “We’re testing and retesting and retesting; we don’t want any problems when we offer this to our customers,” he says. “With our online trading system we will initially be offering it to only selected customers and then bring it in gradually for everyone, to make sure there are no surprises. We want to make sure the system is working perfectly before we launch it, so we won’t tie ourselves to a specific date for making it fully available to the public.” Because the system is still in the final stages of testing, EIB has been giving training to its staff, but end users have not yet been specifically educated; when the time comes to launch the new system fully, though, the company will be working to inform all its brokerage customers. Al Yasi says the system is just being used within the IT department at the moment, but it will be rolled out throughout EIB soon, and the benefits will be quick to come. “We expect to achieve a return on our investment very quickly,” he says. “This new system will be much more efficient and we will be able to process a lot more transactions, both through the telephone brokerage and the online brokerage. We will continue to offer our customers the telephone brokerage service, so those who prefer to use it will not be disadvantaged.” “Our new system is much more efficient; it’s capable of handling tens of thousands of transactions a day,” says Sajwani. “In addition, the process of purchasing shares is much more straight forward. When customers place an order, the system checks their account and blocks the funds needed. It then goes to the market and places the order; when the confirmation comes back that the order has been completed, the system unblocks the funds and debits the customer’s account automatically.” Now, EIB is able to offer very accurate, timely market information, so its customers have the latest prices of shares. It is also able to process transactions in a very short space of time. Sajwani says his team are targeting five seconds for online deals; for that speed, though, there are a lot of external variables, such as the customer’s internet connection, which ideally should be a high-bandwidth ADSL-type connection. The other benefits of the TradeNet system are the sheer number of transactions it can now handle, and the increased accuracy of transactions, as well as out-of-hours trading; altogether EIB expects to see the number of trades it does increase two to three times. It has also been able to eliminate a lot of manual work, and so there may be some labour savings in the future for the bank. Emirates Bank intends to make use of this new technology across all of its divisions over time, and it hopes to be able to offer an increased range of markets for its brokerage customers. But, as with this implementation, the company is very concerned to offer only fully-developed, secure and stable products to its customers. Despite this note of caution, though, Emirates Bank firmly intends to remain at the cutting edge of IT in the Middle East. “The IT department of Emirates Bank is considered to be one of the pioneers in technology within the UAE and Middle East banking sector,” says Sajwani. “We always make sure we evaluate the latest developments and technology, and we make sure our team is kept up to date. At Emirates Bank we try to insure we utilise the best and latest products available and make the best use of them, for the benefit of our group, and our customers.” ||**||

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