Barclays Bank is weeks away from completing a two-year IT project to link legacy systems to frontline applications using Java-based web services. The goal is to make all UK customer data available from one place.
The project will cut the cost of processing customer applications, reduce the risks associated with selling additional financial products to existing customers and increase opportunities for cross-selling, said the bank.
Traditionally, customer information in different businesses units was kept separate. For example, the credit card business was not integrated with the retail business, and the mortgage, insurance and brokerage businesses used separate systems.
"The challenge was to find smart ways of linking all the relevant systems, particularly the frontline applications and the product engines," said Olaf Theilmann, Barclays managing director for direct channels in the UK.
He said the use of Java 2.0 Enterprise Edition web technology provided the flexibility the bank required to integrate without a significant impact on the existing infrastructure or high costs.
"All big banks have developed legacy IT architectures over time, and with new products added every year, the architecture becomes pretty complex and not all systems are integrated," said Theilmann. "We could have ripped out the IT infrastructure and started again, but we did not do this because it is costly and time-consuming."
Ralph Silva, an analyst at TowerGroup, said integrating systems through technology such as Java is a good start, but if banks want to take full advantage and automate customer applications they will have to integrate databases. "These web technologies link the front-end applications to the legacy systems but do not automate processing," he said.