ING overhauls transaction banking software

ING looks to be well positioned to benefit from the surge in corporates looking for new providers with the likes of RBS leaving the transaction banking market. ING has invested heavily in its technology and operations overhaul – ‘Think Forward’ – with key pieces either completed or nearing go-live.

‘We are receiving tremendous numbers of RFPs: just in the last three months we have received five to six times more requests that we experience in a full year,’ states Mark Buitenhek, global head of transaction services at ING. ‘These corporates are forced into transition as a number of banking players, such as RBS and Standard Chartered are leaving the market, making it even more irritating and complex for the corporates.’ ING, of course, hopes to ease the transition pains, he is quick to add. 

Mark Buitenhek, ING

The continuity of the cash management business is a key priority for the corporates at the moment, but the possibilities for netting more business (e.g. lending, trade, FX) in due course are vast, Buitenhek muses.

To address the growing demand, ING has accelerated its plans to become a ‘truly digital bank’ as part of the ‘Think Forward’ strategy that it embarked on a few years ago. ‘We have devised a new target operated model [TOM] of working from outside in,’ he says. As the bank’s main focus is on the customers, it made sense to start from customer facing solutions and then work its way to the back office, he explains.

The priority was placed on the new portal, InsideBusiness, that is aimed to become ultimately a single point of entry for every product and service ING offers to its corporate clients. The portal is developed in-house (with the exception of the security aspect, which involves third parties) and comprises ‘hundreds of developers’.

The portal has five major functions: payments, cash management, FX, lending and a service centre for things like confirmations and agreements. At present, customers can manage mass payments, see a total liquidity view based on all their accounts and fund flows housed at ING, do basic hedging and monitor bilateral borrowing with the bank.

InsideBusiness is now in a testing phase with 60 customers in the Netherlands and will be extended to Belgium over the next couple of weeks. ‘We are targeting the end of the summer for all of Europe, and the full launch is scheduled for the spring 2016,’ says Buitenhek. The bank opted for a gradual approach, and the expectation by the end of this year, the single sign-on functionality will be completed, and that the following year ‘we’ll move everything and everyone on to the portal’.

Another recent milestone has been the InsideBusiness mobile app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, launched on 1st July. This padds complexity to the security of transactions and requires a completely new set-up. ‘Imagine wiring $1 billion from your iPhone,’ Buitenhek says.

Customers can get real-time insights, use order management and connect to Swiftnet payment files on their mobile devices. Buitenhek notes that customer feedback is welcome as it will be used to develop the app further. Functionality under development includes FX spot, forward and swap transactions, remote authorisations for order management and accessing reports from the download centre.

‘This undertaking has required huge cooperation of the IT, business and project teams.’ Modern APIs were developed to connect the portal with the back office software. ‘In the end, it is the interfacing that kills you,’ he notes. The bank uses Tibco for middleware.


What’s at the back office?
There is a lot of modernisation happening at the back-end too. The goal is to standardise, harmonise and centralise as much as possible. ‘Core banking landscape redesign’ is taking place group-wide, which comprises the implementation of Misys’Trade Innovation (TI) for trade finance and Loan-IQ for syndicated lending, Infosys’ Finacle for core operations on the deposits side, SAP for lending and Dovetail for payments. For TI, all activities in Asia have been finalised and the solution offshored to a local centre there, and the work is now moving to Europe, with a country-by-country roll-out.

Dovetail’s payments hub is also a work in progress. The SAP venture is further ahead, with Buitenhek highlighting the ‘incredible discipline’ of the vendor and the project as a significant contributing factor to ‘a very successful result’. The Finacle project has been underway in Belgium for some time now. It has been challenging, admits Buitenhek. However, he feels that the vendor, ‘as a corporation, is moving in the right direction’ (there was a senior management shake-up last year in the Finacle unit, and it is now in the process of being merged with another Infosys entity, Edgeverve). ‘We are making good progress with the implementation.


Challenges and benefits
ING applies the agile scrum methodology in its projects, which comes with its own set of challenges. ‘Communication, connecting all the dots – this is the biggest challenge,’ muses Buitenhek. In an agile approach, it is important to be able to successfully delegate more to lower levels, he adds, to prioritise, and also to ensure that  everyone understands that every development undertaken is for the benefit of the client and the bank. Celebrating successes, even small ones, helps. ‘At this day and age, you cannot wait for five years to celebrate success,’ he comments. The benefit of an agile method is the bank’s ability to cope with unexpected changes, as the latest market developments involving RBS and Standard Chartered have demonstrated, he points out. ‘We are well positioned to benefit ,’ he concludes.


Source: IBS Journal, ©IBSIntelligence2015, by Tanya Andreasyan