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.
I have discussed questions such as “Which banking platform vendor is the right one for a given financial services firm in its specific requirements context in a given country?” with Forrester clients for some time. Interestingly, the share of these discussions touching on questions such as “How viable is vendor X?” and “Is vendor Y the right one for a bank the size of mine?” is increasing. What is the reason for this?
It is clear that in such a global situation, the reduced deal numbers of many vendors and the economic trouble of some are reason for concern for many delivery teams making or supporting the long-term decision for a new banking platform vendor — particularly when preliminary findings from a Forrester survey show a new thrust for the renewal of the financial service application landscape. At the same time, banking platform vendors’ behavior is changing:
I just returned from a business visit to India, and on the long way back, I had the time to sort out some observations and ideas on the future of the banking backbone that I had discussed with bankers as well as banking platform vendor execs over the past few weeks. But let me start from the beginning.
A few days ago, CSC announced its new Celeriti banking platform, which consists of five products: Celeriti Customer, Celeriti Deposits, Celeriti Loans, Celeriti Cards, and Celeriti Merchant. The solution includes, for example, a strong business process focus, business intelligence, and the so-called Web Portal User Interface. The platform has been built around IBM application infrastructure, runs on multiple operating systems such as z/OS, z/Linux, Linux, and Windows, and has been validated for use with the IBM Banking Industry framework. Here is my initial reaction to Celeriti.
When designing application infrastructure strategy, planning for the renewal of their application landscape, or assessing their overall strategic position, banks and other types of firms in financial services typically like to know the answer to the question: “What are the others doing?” In the past, surveys similar to our newest financial services survey helped application delivery professionals as well as enterprise architects assess their position, for example, regarding application infrastructure strategy as well as broader application renewal initiatives and position their individual initiative in the regional or global IT and business environment.
What matters to financial buyers depends on who they are and what they are buying. Our Technographics data shows that European customers with different profiles — for example, different sociodemographic or attitudinal profiles — care about different things when selecting financial services firms.
The report 'Why Europeans Choose Financial Firms' also shows that the influence of word of mouth on a customer's decision to select a financial services firm declines sharply with age. A striking 37% of customers ages 16 to 24 and 18% of customers ages 25 to 34 were influenced by their friends' or family's recommendations. On the other hand, nearly half of European financial buyers ages 65 or older chose a company for their most recent financial purchase partly because they already had a product or account there.
Early in 2010, my colleague Bill Doyle published a report called 'Customer Advocacy 2010: How Customers Rate US Banks, Investment Firms, And Insurers'. This report includes trended Technographics® data that shows that US consumer trust in financial institutions is returning. One year after the financial crisis that brought the US economy to its knees, customers are more likely to say that their financial institutions do what's best for them, but not all of the financial sectors benefit equally.
Insurers score better than ever compared with other retail financial services firms. Smaller banks also do well, while some of the biggest banks again land at the very bottom of our rankings. And after years of rating higher than banks, investment firms as a group now score worst.
Forrester clients can access the report with the scores for 46 US financial companies here.
A recent report from my colleague Alexander Hesse on 'The State Of Mobile Banking In Europe: 2010' shows that about one in eight European Net users with a mobile phone use mobile banking today — with SMS account alerts being the most common type. Many European banks like Rabobank and Lloyds TSB let customers set up time- and event-triggered text alerts, but currently, only 10% of European online mobile phone users actually use them.
We expect that 39% of European mobile phone users will use the mobile Internet by 2014. Why? Smartphones becoming the norm, more widely available, all-you-can-eat data plans, and more compelling content will drive uptake. Today's iPhone and BlackBerry users are, for example, already nearly three times as likely to use mobile banking as other mobile phone users.
Online banking has shown a fair amount of growth over the years in Europe. Forrester's Technographics® data shows that more than 50% of European Net users bank online today, up from about 35% in 2002. Northern Europe leads in the adoption of online banking, with 90% of Dutch and 87% of Swedish online consumers having used it in the past three months.
Interestingly, the countries that close the list with regards to online banking are actually leading the uptake of mobile banking in Europe. In Spain and Italy, about one in five mobile phone owners uses some kind of mobile banking — for example, to check their account balance, transfer money, or pay bills using text messaging (SMS) or the mobile Internet.