Clear path to cloud adoption

The banking sector is heavily reliant on technology, but is also usually conservative in its approach to risk

Tags: Banking and financeCloud computingEmirates NBDOracle Corporation
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Clear path to cloud adoption Paul Butres, senior project manager, application management & development group, information technology, Emirates NBD. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  May 9, 2014

Cloud computing has been at the top of many vendor’s agendas for several years now, but despite the ongoing hype around cloud, organisations in the Middle East have not embraced cloud computing, and in particular, public cloud services from third party suppliers have not taken off in the same way that they have been in other markets. Many organisations in the region have been reluctant to host business data with third party providers, or to rely too much on having a stable internet connection to be able to access business applications.

The market is shifting however, in part due to the penetration of local markets by global cloud providers, who bring with them proven reputations, and in part due to greater degrees of confidence overall in end-user organisations in the concept of cloud and the business benefits. Gartner predicts that the Software as a Service (SaaS) market in the MENA region alone will grow 29.1% in 2014 to $126 million.

The market is also gaining in confidence, as some of the leaders in key verticals in the region complete initial cloud projects, and become more vocal about the benefits of cloud. One such is leader is Emirates NBD. The largest bank in the UAE in terms of assets, Emirates NBD was formed by the 2007 merger of Emirates Bank International (EBI) and the National Bank of Dubai (NBD). Today, the Bank is offering corporate, retail, private, Islamic and investment banking across the region.

As a banking leader, Emirates NBD is a major user of IT, with considerable in-house resources dedicated to its systems, including one of the largest IT teams in the region. IT provides competitive advantage to the Bank, and helps to ensure service to customers. With such importance placed on IT, it is no surprise that Emirates NBD also closely watches technology developments for possible opportunities, and cloud is no exception.

Paul Butres, Senior Project Manager, Applications Management & Development, Group Information Technology, Emirates NBD comments: “Being a leading bank, we always try to go with new things in terms of technology, and try to be a pioneer in the market. When we decided that we wanted to implement a new system, we started thinking of testing the cloud.”

The ongoing buzz around cloud had raised the Bank’s interest in cloud solutions, so when the opportunity arose to take a new application from Oracle’s public cloud services, the Bank decided it was time to test the waters with a pilot project.

The solution chosen was an incentive compensation management solution, which calculates sales performance and incentive payments for the Bank’s sales staff. Emirates NBD had an existing application for incentive compensation management, but it was unable to keep up with the sheer volume of transactions that were processed each day and calculate sales staff performance and reward accordingly, meaning reporting for the staff and the management was slow.

The Bank has a long history with Oracle, Butres explains, with Oracle solutions in use in its back office for some 12 years.

“We have been working with Oracle for quite a long time, and we have built trust between us. So we said ‘we have been with Oracle, we are managing all of our back office with Oracle, so if we want to go cloud, Oracle is there’,” he says.

The incentive compensation management system, which is linked to the Bank’s Xceed sales incentive scheme, was identified as a good application for a pilot project — while it is an important system for management and staff, it is not mission critical, and therefore could stand some risk.

Before deploying the application through a public cloud service however, the Bank was keen to ensure the security of the solution. One of the main barriers to cloud deployment in the region has been the prospect of data being processed outside of the region. The proposed solution would use applications hosted in Oracle’s T4 data centre in Scotland, so the team from Emirates NBD and Tanfeeth visited the site to inspect the physical security, which they found to be of  higher standard than most data centers they had seen before.

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