Credit Suisse/First Boston (CSFB) is one of the world’s ten largest banking operations specializing in private customers. With a staff of 8,500, CSFB manages privately held assets totaling close to $240 billion (USD).
Depending on customer preference, holdings are managed either by internal asset managers or independent external asset managers. Their task is straightforward: to make the most of the wealth entrusted to them on behalf of their customers. It’s a tough, competitive business.
Until recently, independent asset managers conducted all banking business and transactions via an online service provided through the CSFB IT infrastructure; applications were available as transactions within character-based host screens. But with the advent of the Internet and graphical user interfaces, user expectations have changed. The traditional 3270 user interface of the mainframe-based applications was very functional, but CSFB wanted more ease of use. Plus there were other issues to consider.
Training required a luxury: time
The CSFB applications run on multiple IBM® S/390® mainframes operating in two computer centers. They provide detailed information on portfolio holdings and transactions; investment performance calculations, cash management system for cash transactions, balances, foreign-exchange transactions and money-market holdings, market information, stock-quotes with historical price data and information from different exchanges, and payment handling. All of these required a long period of training and instruction before asset managers could use these applications.
CSFB wanted to modernize the system to make it easier and faster for external asset managers to use. “The functionality of our applications is considered best in class. But we can’t be satisfied with that. Our goal is to achieve a further competitive advantage through ease of use,” explains Stefan Giacomuzzi, IT project manager for the bank.
ETI project launched with Attachmate’s assistance
CSFB undertook a project to make new front-end applications significantly faster, more intuitive, and more convenient to use. Calling it the Electronic Tool for Independent Asset Managers (ETI), they added an Internal Cash Transfer function to allow external asset managers to execute transactions without having to call customer service representatives, a competitive advantage. Other new functions, such as collective transactions, are designed to help the independent asset managers save even more time.
The bank formed a project group to implement the ETI, with Attachmate Consulting Services, IT-Works, and the bank’s internal developers. CSFB selected Attachmate for its ability to deliver short ramp-up times, integrate the Internal Cash Transfer function, and provide a flexible three-level architecture (client-server-host) with the option of subsequent porting to a Java™ environment.
New front-end modernizes asset management
Using Attachmate's mainframe integration products the 3270 mainframe forms are read for the integrated ETI and Internal Cash Transfer. “Here, we mainly want to use a service architecture (CORBA and MQ-Series) for host access instead of the 3270 data stream, to improve performance and functionality further,” explained Giacomuzzi. On the mainframe side, all applications and transactions remain completely unaltered. The Web server only verifies the client applications and refreshes the page as required. A multi-stage security architecture is implemented on all systems to protect them from misuse. The execution of the project was simplified by the fact that the mainframe application already covered a large part of the scope of function.
Early returns indicate success
The application garnered great praise with test users giving it high marks. Training times have been reduced to less than a full day to learn the 36 possible function areas, some of which are highly sophisticated. In addition, the increased plausibility checks and predefined processes in the GUI result in fewer errors. The test version was such a radical improvement over the previous online service that users aren’t returning to the older system. Internally, the bank is hoping to reduce the service overhead, with fewer telephone orders and inquiries.
“Given the fast pace of the Internet age, a right-sized implementation within a short time frame seemed the best way to go. Planning a long-term luxury-class project would have entailed the risk of being unable to leverage new technological developments,” comments Peter Clavadetscher, business project manager. With the new front end application, CSFB lives up to its Lafferty Cyberforum Award for Best Major Internet Bank Website.