New regulations have added to CFO workloads, but capital management is the biggest challenge for banks. IBM promises quick risk insight.
Compared to financial services companies, manufacturers have it easy. Years ago, ERP system vendors started consolidating all the separate applications for inventory management, order management, bill of materials management, shop floor control, and so on. Banks, meanwhile, have siloed systems upon systems and faint dreams of developing the proverbial single source of truth.
"Banking is where manufacturing was 30 years ago," said Rory McClure, partner of risk solutions at IBM Global Business Services (GBS), in a phone interview with InformationWeek. "At international banks, it's typical to see, between lending and capital markets, more than 100 systems where risk is tracked. In big U.S. banks, it may be 20 or 30 systems."
IBM on Wednesday announced IBM Signature Solution - Risk Management, which promises to aggregate and analyze data from all of those systems in order to deliver timely, risk-aware decision support and risk management. Meeting the latest Dodd-Frank and Basel compliance requirements is one payoff, but more important is making the most of available capital, confidently knowing that reserve requirements have been satisfied.
The Signature Solution for risk is based heavily on the technology of Algorithmics, a Toronto-based developer of risk management software that IBM acquired for $380 million in 2011. The new product also incorporates capabilities (as needed) from IBM Cognos (for dashboarding and reporting), FileNet (for imaging and workflow), IBM BigInsights (for news-feed analysis), IBM DB2 (for data warehousing), and DataStage (for data aggregation and integration).
Plenty of financial services are trying, and often failing, to keep up with new regulations and capital-management requirements through boil-the-ocean projects, according to McClure. What the Signature Solution provides is a starting-point blueprint, technology building blocks, and a collection of prepackaged and preformatted data models, frameworks and data integrations. It's a head start on aggregating and analyzing disparate data to give CFOs and others rapid, push-button insight into companywide risk and capital positions.
Putting all of that and technology into play is not a plug-and-play proposition, of course. McClure acknowledged that it involves a GBS services engagement to integrate the required technologies with the systems customers have in place. Deployments typically involve two phases. In the first phase, which aims to deliver value within the first year, the data-aggregation and core Algorithmics analysis technologies are deployed. The deliverable is a complete set of dashboards "that allows the CFO and the chief risk officer on a daily basis to understand their risk positions across the institution," McClure said.
The first phase essentially creates an analytic overlay on the lending, risk and other systems financial institutions have in place. In the second phase of Signature Solution deployment, financial institutions start to replace disparate and siloed legacy systems with optimized workflows running on the business process management engine built into Algorithmics. This is the phase in which inefficiencies are driven out of existing processes and procedures, and where change management comes into play.
"This fundamentally changes how organizations originate credit, and the idea is to integrate the business processes and the data that comes out of them," said McClure. The benefit is that "not only do we have a view of today, we have a view of tomorrow because we're seeing data in process before new loans are originated."
IBM isn't alone in taking on what is a gigantic, ongoing challenge for financial services organizations. Oracle, for one, has focused on the data-aggregation and analysis side of the problem with its Oracle Financial Services Data Warehouse, which was introduced in 2011. That system combines the hardware and database built into the Exadata engineered system with middleware connections to myriad financial applications.
Reference customers are hard to come by in the financial services industry because big banks don't like to talk about such mission-critical matters. IBM has implemented the major components of the Signature Solution - Risk Management at about a dozen big banks, according to McClure, and more than two dozen others have implemented the core Algorithmics risk management applications. At the time of IBM's acquisition, Algorithmics' named customers included Allianz Group, HSBC, Societe General and Scotia Capital.
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