Egg marks a decade of internet banking revolution

In the 10 years since the successful launch of Egg , it has grown into the world's largest internet-only bank. In the decade since...

In the 10 years since the successful launch of Egg, it has grown into the world's largest internet-only bank. In the decade since the internet revolutionised banking, internal processes, fraud protection and risk management have also been overhauled by technical developments.

Ken Woghiren, head of architecture and innovation at Citigroup UK, which now owns Egg, has worked for the internet bank since it was launched. In this time, there has been a massive change in consumer technology to allow access to banking services online. "From our customers' standpoint, the change has been staggering. When Egg launched, internet banking was moving out of being a 'crazy idea'. We were there at the right time and the company said, 'This year we're going to do it'."

Since the launch, customers' PCs have become much more powerful. And whereas 10 years ago, the more powerful PCs were at work, now they are in the home, Woghiren says. Bandwidth too, has been revolutionised. "This was the age of the 56k modem. It's almost impossible to believe now."

Private computer

Now, people have a private computer - the laptop, Woghiren says. A desktop machine might be for all the family, or the office. But a laptop is private, and this helps online banking, he says.

Inside the banks, too, change has been colossal. In security, the threat is now very different. Ten years ago, hacking was a mischievous sport for "script kiddies", whereas nowadays it is a serious activity for organised criminals. Banks have had to respond with massive investment in security architecture.

According to Woghiren, Egg was a leader in internet banking architecture. "We were 10 years ahead of our time. We decided we were going to build a banking platform around the customer. Since the '50s and '60s all banking applications have been built around accounts, not customers."

To achieve this goal, the advent of service oriented architecture was vital, Woghiren says.

"We needed this architecture to harness existing banking platforms, adding sophisticated middleware to create a service tier, allowing customer centre top tier.

Egg started with a system called Top End, which was bought by BEA. Four years ago, the bank moved onto Microsoft .net and active server pages. Since the firm has been bought by Citigroup, it is moving to a Java platform.

Although 10 years ago, application development teams would have been terrified of mixing Microsoft and Java technologies, the advent of web services has eased compatibility issues. Woghiren says, "The service tier is used to communicate with the back end.

That's the thing that has saved the industry: web services allow you to be technology agnostic. I don't lose sleep over compatibility any more, so long as everything is written to the web services standards."

Flurry of publicity

Last year the bank, launched in a flurry of publicity in 1998, was taken over by Citigroup, a sign that its online business model was working.

Citigroup director of change, Robin Young, says, "The last year has seen gargantuan change, Egg has always been about a great customer experience, but now Citigroup is bringing more resilience and scalability and back-up plans."

Citigroup is now enhancing back office transactional system to support the Egg model in a worldwide roll-out.

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