News Analysis

Nationwide merger with Dunfermline poses few IT challenges

Bill Goodwin

Nationwide's rescue of Dunfermline Building Society should pose few IT challenges, industry analysts predicted this afternoon.

Nationwide, which has spent millions developing a state-of-the-art IT system, took over Scotland's largest building society in the latest credit crunch rescue deal this morning.

As part of the deal the government will take on £1.5bn in "toxic" commercial property loans and mortgage debt from Dunfrmeline Building Society.

Nationwide is investing £300m in a SAP-based banking platform, dubbed Voyager, which will make it easier to transfer customer records from Dunfermline Building Society to Nationwide's core IT systems, said industry watchers.

Nationwide has a track record of integrating customer records into its core IT systems, following its takeover of the Portman building Society in 2007 and the Derbyshire and Cheshire building societies in September last year.

Nationwide integrated the customer data from the Portman Building Society with few difficulties. The main challenges were more to do with maintaining good customer relationships between customers of building societies with very different demographics, said Chris Skinner, chief executive of Balatro.

However, Dunfermline Building Society's IT record is patchy. The society was forced to write-off £9.5m on £11m profits last year because of a failed IT project.

"It is never easy to take one company's propriety systems and input them into your own, no matter how modernised they are. But Nationwide has been on a massive great change programme. That should make it much easier than if it had legacy systems," said Skinner.

"The challenge will be transferring data in a seamless way so the customer does not see the gaps. Abbey had huge problems [integrating with Santander], with some customers not receiving their bank cards for three months.

"You need rigorous user acceptance testing and training, and further testing before you go live. Ideally you go live over a bank holiday weekend."

Bob McDowall, senior analyst at TowerGroup, said it was likely that Nationwide would need to run Dunfermline's IT alongside its own systems to help the government manage Dunfermline's toxic assets.

"They will need to keep the old systems running alongside Nationwide," he said.

Nationwide's programme to replace its core systems, which were based on Fujitsu and Unisys mainframes, will deliver new systems to manage banking products by 2010, and will replace core systems by 2012.

According to its half-yearly report, Nationwide has completed the migration of all savings and balances from Portman to Nationwide, and plans to migrate mortgages by early 2009 as part of a programme to make cost savings of £90m by 2010.

Nationwide said it was too soon to say what IT integration challenges it would face with Dunfermline Building Society.


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