Open source banking

In 2006, when the ten-year licence for its core banking system expired, the UK division of the Bank of East Asia (BoEA) decided it was time to move on. It therefore selected a new system from Swiss software vendor Temenos.

However, having spent 18 months installing the core banking application, it discovered that integrating its existing business intelligence software with the new platform would cost five or six times the original cost of the BI system.

Temenos itself has reporting functionality, but according to applications analyst Leslie Jarrett, it was not up to the bank’s requirements. “It had very much mainframe-style reporting, where if you want a report you have to design it, code it and compile it yourself.”

Jarrett was therefore tasked with scouting the marketplace for a new reporting tool that would work well with Temenos.

One of the key selection criteria was that it had to be quick to implement. Banks are obliged by the UK government to provide detailed reports every month, but even a basic interim solution using spreadsheets to compile data from the Temenos application would have taken longer than a month to set up.

This was one of the reasons why Jarrett selected BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools), an open source BI system from Actuate. Jarrett also used open source software for the data warehouse, installing MySQL, the open source relational database now owned by Oracle.

His knowledge of the system allowed him to set up this business intelligence infrastructure in a short amount of time. “I already knew where the data was coming from, and I knew what the reports needed to look like, so I was able to set BIRT up very quickly,” Jarrett says.

This rapid speed of development also applies to ongoing upgrades to the system following regulatory changes. For example, earlier this year Jarrett had to make changes to reports when the Financial Services Compensation Scheme increased the maximum coverage of its depositor guarantee scheme from £50,000 to £85,000.

“The only development I had to do was to change one value in a parameter table – a five-second change,” he recalls. “BIRT picked up that change and generated the report.”

Using Temenos without BIRT, Jarrett says, would have meant hand-writing programs for report creation. “This code had to be compiled and printed each time a change was made, so a minor task had to go through the same cycle every time.”

Jarrett says that he’ll be getting more data into BIRT faster in future as BoEA sees greater adoption of online banking. “Things can go wrong with Internet banking – the money can go to the wrong account or the account becomes overdrawn,” he says. “The next stage with BIRT is to get a feed from the Internet banking system into a report, dragging in static customer information and triggering an alert.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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