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Page last updated
February 16, 2003




CEO interview: Mike Hart- AFA System's Grand design


Mike Hart is Chairman and Chief Executive of AFA Systems, a FTSE company specialising in the development and sales of advanced software solutions for the global financial markets. They deliver mission critical real-time financial applications using modern technology for treasury, capital markets, risk management, derivatives trading, asset and pensions management and knowledge management.

Musketeer Plus is the latest version of AFA Systems' Musketeer treasury management application. This development has enhanced the flexibility and performance of Musketeer with the techniques developed to provide the speed and accuracy of the innovative DART pricing, risk management and valuation tools. Now, in a single, real-time, modern application, financial institutions can benefit from the greatly enhanced STP power that facilitates, from a single point-of-entry, price discovery through settlement and accounting across a broad spectrum of instruments and markets.

Similarly, AFA Systems' Investment Manage- ment software, AIMS provides an innovative Portfolio Management system for both institutional and private client fund managers as well as the pension fund market.

AFA Systems' latest product is a Knowledge Management/CRM product called Common Knowledge and this forms the basis of a specialised CRM for Financial Markets solution.

Banking 2000: Mike how long has AFA Systems been a main provider of financial systems and could you explain the infrastructure of the group and the products you offer?

Mike Hart: We formed the company 5 years ago having recognised the global potential of the Musketeer treasury and capital markets management system. Our Head Office is in London but much of our development is undertaken in South Africa, which has a highly skilled workforce providing a relatively low cost resource for the sort of high technology work we undertake. In fact costs are about 1/6 of UK costs giving us a distinct competitive advantage.

We were very successful with Musketeer, winning the contract to install it in our first global client, a major North American Investment Bank. This was followed by a very successful flotation on the London Stock Exchange AIMS market, which enabled us to pursue our planned acquisition strategy. The first of these was DART Limited, recognised as one of the leading providers of derivatives pricing and risk management software in the world. This was acquired in April last year.

Banking 2000: I understand that you have undertaken further acquisitions this year?

Mike Hart: Yes, acquisition plays a core objective in our business strategy and in February we acquired leading South African Investment Management software developer, the Smacsoft Group.

They had been extremely successful in their local market with about 40% market share and had identified the need to find a strategic partner to take their products global. They chose AFA as this partner and I am very pleased with how this acquisition has performed as part of AFA Systems. They were also instrumental in our latest acquisition, the IPR of a Knowledge Management application called Common Knowledge. This application forms part of our bespoke CRM solution for the financial markets.

Banking 2000: Isn't this a bit of a departure from your core market?

Mike Hart: At first it might seem so but it introduces a vital diversity within AFA Systems in a complementary arena. Also, it is, I believe the direction that the financial markets are going in general requiring compatible solutions within all areas of operation.

Banking 2000: Can you explain the architecture underpinning AFA Systems' products?

Mike Hart: Given our broad product base there is some diversity but fundamentally they are real-time systems based on central processing using a modern Microsoft based architecture utilising the latest Object Orientated techniques and state of the art communications. In other words they are efficient and flexible enabling seamless integration and quick reaction to market change.

Banking 2000: Are there any special hardware or software requirements necessary to use any of your systems?

Mike Hart: In the main all our systems are designed to operate in Windows environments including Windows 2000 but this does not preclude their use in other environments. Also, they operate over a diverse range of underlying proprietary databases.

Banking 2000: Are there any limitations on the number of users?

Mike Hart: No, so far the systems have been installed in both small and large organisations with very different requirements and they have been up to the task in all cases.

Banking 2000: Do AFA Systems' applications integrate with other systems in the Market place?

Mike Hart: Basically, yes but our intention is to give our customers a complete solution. However, our treasury system can work with most front ends and accounting packages as long as they conform to modern standards similarly our pricing tools can work with other back office systems and so on though our investment and knowledge management software.

Banking 2000: What sort of customer support do AFA Systems offer and from which locations?

Mike Hart: Well, as you might expect we have offices globally and this combined with today's modern communications and the Internet allow effective 24/7 support. In fact, it is one area that all our existing customers rate us very highly.

Banking 2000: How are you addressing STP, T+1 and FAS133?

Mike Hart: Clearly we believe that STP is vitally important in today's financial market not least of which to minimise risk from manual intervention or systems interface failure therefore both our treasury system, Musketeer and our Investment Management solutions offer full STP and are FAS133 compliant.

Banking 2000: With the slowdown and predicted recession in the west no doubt there will be further mergers and acquisitions, what are AFA Systems' view on this and how do you envisage the future for AFA Systems?

Mike Hart: There is no doubt that at one end the market is diminishing through M & A activity but this drags up a whole new market underneath who have a requirement for sophisticated pricing, administration and reporting tools both in terms of traditional banks, the new breed of bank and financial institutions and major Corporate Treasuries. Also, further legislation and market changes will necessitate a constant review of operations. As far as AFA Systems are concerned our modern solutions leave us ideally placed in this market scenario and we continue to diversify our business base thereby minimising the impact of downturns in any one sector of the financial industry. As for the future, I believe our experiences so far this year give a clear indication of our prospects. We have moved onto the main board of the London Stock Exchange as a constituent of the FTSE techMark index.

We have had three major wins for Musketeer in South Africa; IDC of Southern Africa, the Middle East - Industrial Bank of Kuwait and the UK; Royal Bank of Scotland International. And we have enjoyed strong trading performances from our DART products including major gains from Svenska Handelsbanken, Deutsche and UBS and our Investment Management products within South Africa. All of these developments reflect a company with strong management and excellent products underpinned by a commitment to service.

Banking 2000: Mr Hart, thank you for taking the time to speak with Banking 2000.



Mike Hart




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