A few days ago, I “rediscovered” a brochure from a museum in Stockholm. It reminded me of an early 17th century warship: The Vasa. She was the most powerful warship of her time — albeit for less than half an hour, as she sank during her maiden voyage. The reasons for this disaster include top management interference, overly sophisticated requirements, weak communication, and overengineering. Why is this relevant today? Because projects have not changed that much: The Vasa story reminds me of a number of interactions I had with Forrester clients about banking platform transformation projects that ran well — or not so well.
A large share of the less-successful projects showed a number of the ingredients of the Vasa story, causing what I like to call the Vasa effect: predictable failure. Examples include:
Off-the-shelf projects that had to manage a burden of business requirements that were so sophisticated that no off-the-shelf system could ever hope to cope with all of them in a cost-effective way. In parallel with the Vasa story, in these cases nobody dared discuss whether the last 15% or even 5% of the requirements were really important enough to justify the additional cost — or whether delivering 85% of the requirements would be good enough.
So-called off-the-shelf solutions that were more custom-built than a real custom-built solution. They had to align with a bank’s off-the-shelf strategy while living up to concretely defined, highly sophisticated, and very individual business requirements, including solitaire business process definitions.
A couple of days ago, global banking platform vendor Temenos announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Odyssey Financial Technologies, which specializes in the private banking, private wealth management, and asset subverticals of financial services. The deal is expected to close around mid October: Temenos will pay more than 60 million euros and take on Odyssey’s existing debt obligations of more than 20 million euros. Here is my initial reaction to the planned acquisition.
On the asset side, Temenos will get the private banking platform Triple’A Plus, portfolio management and decision support solution WealthManager, plus clients such as Banque Cantonale Vaudoise, Delta Lloyd, and RBS Coutts Bank. This will help Temenos accomplish the necessary extension to its private banking footprint: In spite of prominent private banking clients such as EFG Bank, over the past few years Temenos’ T24 has not been as successful in the private banking/wealth management arena as, for example, ERI Bancaire, SunGard, or Tata Consultancy Services Financial Solutions as far as new named customers are concerned — not to mention the various regional private banking pure players.
At the same time, the Odyssey solutions will add additional technologies and architecture to Temenos’ already existing acquired portfolio: Not considering the two “classic” Temenos banking platforms T24 and TCB and the mobile solutions of recently acquired specialist vendor FE-Mobile, Temenos acquired multiple smaller banking platform vendors over the past few years, including Financial Objects in the UK and Viveo in France, plus further firms such as business intelligence and reporting vendor Lydian Associates.