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Nationwide redevelops online banking platform

Cliff Saran

Nationwide Building Society has redeveloped its internet banking platform to improve usability and provide a flexible architecture for the future,

Nationwide was one of the first financial institutes to go online, but after 14 years, the platform was showing its age, according to Richard Searle, Nationwide's head of channel integration,

"We wanted to provide a new and improved service to continue to help to make our members' lives easier by providing a convenient way of accessing their money while giving them more financial control," he said.

The previous home-grown internet banking platform lacked flexibility, resilience and scalability, says Searle. Developed in partnership with IBM, the new platform integrates with over 30 line-of-business applications and has taken almost three years to develop.

"A lot of work was spent developing web services. We also introduced a content management system to enable us to make changes quicker," he said.

The content management system means Nationwide can improve the dialogue it has with customers who sign in to online banking.

Nationwide recently introduced a new general ledger application, and Searle says the agility offered by the new platform supporting the new general ledger would require a tiny amount of coding, compared to the old online banking system: "It gives us greater flexibility and [faster] development. We have cut the development timelime."

The internet banking platform also integrates with Nationwide's multi-channel customer relationship management (CRM) system, which has been in development for the last eight years. The CRM system enables Nationwide to cross-sell products. "With the CRM we are now able to provide faster ways to connect internet banking customers with products and services," said Searle

A joint Nationwide and IBM design team was responsible for the online platform, which was developed from the ground up using what IBM describes as "standard architecture patterns". Searle says that at its peak 196 people were involved in the project, together with 50 subject-matter experts.

Searle says Nationwide chose to invest in the online service following research which showed the existing web site was not as easy to use or as convenient as it could be.

"We researched 1200 customers and have introduced graphs, charts and a calendar view - which has gone down very well with customers. We have also improved navigation for bill payments, an area that caused confusion for people," he said.

The new platform will also work with Android and iPad tablets. Searle says Nationwide is evaluating smaller devices, such as smartphones, for the future.

IBM used a service-oriented architecture developed on .Net and the Microsoft stack, to connect to appropriate banking services. The new system was designed from scratch as a multi-layered application architecture to provide the business with a maintainable and extensible platform. It has been deployed into Nationwide's new dual-running datacentres.

Performance and availability engineering was key to the design and was included through the whole delivery lifecycle, making the application and infrastructure inherently resilient and scalable.

IBM designed and developed the application in-house and integrated to existing Nationwide IT.

David Terry, nationwide programme director at IBM Global Business Services UK, said, "We want to make sure Nationwide has the flexibility to roll out to other channels. We set out to develop a new flexible platform, a framework developed with the internet application as the first application. We are not using any components of the old online bank."

The component-based architecture was designed to provide a multi-channel platform, which will be used to deliver Nationwide's next set of internal and customer-facing user applications.

IBM's Performance Engineering method was used to build high availability into the service while IBM's AppScan software was used to identify and remove potential security weaknesses in the application code. AppScan is an IBM Rational code analyser. "We used it early in the project to spot potential vulnerability early on," Terry said.

IBM worked with Nationwide from the outset of the programme, helping to develop the strategy through to supporting the rollout to customers. IBM was responsible for overall delivery of the project, providing programme governance, business and technical analysis, technical design and development services. IBM business partner IPL worked on the user interface, while another firm, GamCom, worked on integration services.


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