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Synergy's going dotty


The exponential growth in the distribution of information using ever evolving and faster systems to feed ever-hungry appetites seems to create a scenario, not unlike Disney's Sorcerer's Apprentice, that can appear to be overwhelming. Each new era of technology adds its own terminology to our language, and before you know it we've learnt new buzzwords and acronyms that could seem to transform the technologically challenged into spawning technological gurus.

Understanding what underpins this hunger for more and quicker access to information is easy. "Information is King and knowledge is power" goes the old adage. Though today knowledge isn't necessarily power, its survival. The world has shrunk in communications terms and it is accepted that in very competitive environments such as the banking sector, the next greatest asset, apart from people, is knowledge. Knowledge based on the transfer of timely information can be acted upon immediately and will certainly minimise risk, reduce implementation time and provide new strategic opportunities.

Not so long ago, banks and financial institutions relied on proprietary and heterogeneous back-office and SWIFT interface systems for processing and delivering information. Nowadays the move is towards more homogeneous environments and with acronyms, peppered liberally throughout every banking technology publication, such as STP, EAI, IP, XML, CLS etc. indicates that financial institutions and software vendors eagerly seek high-performance solutions that will allow information to be transferred instantly and with greater security.

There are now a number of software vendors plying their wares to financial institutions across the world as a direct consequence of these recent advances in technology. A whole new industry has recently evolved for example, to provide middleware systems to 'glue' disparate systems together, for RDBMS technologies to provide data warehousing for cross-enterprise access to pooled information and business intelligence. The IT industry is undergoing phenomenal changes and perhaps the most interesting and exciting aspect is the fact that most new development is undertaken with standards-based technologies. This means that closed, proprietary and legacy systems will increasingly become things of the past.

Virtually everyone is aware of the effect of the World Wide Web and how it has transformed the IT marketplace, nearly everyone across the globe is touched by its influence. What started back in the second part of the last century, as a secure communications protocol for the US defense machine is now available for all as the de facto and commonplace communications 'highway'. Its significance for the banking sector is becoming indisputable. The interactivity, interoperability and flexibility of the IP protocol, the foundation stone of Internet communication, has even persuaded S.W.I.F.T. to adopt it for its "New Generation" network.

The Internet will have more impact on a company's business than any other technology before it. It is turning upside down our linear world and the winning financial companies will be those who grasp its potential and are able to launch new services faster and more cost-effectively than the competition. This technology is unique in that it has the potential to start small and scale up to meet demand. It is a widely held view that in the next five to ten years, the Internet will become the dominant delivery channel for financial services.

Success, therefore, in today's fast-paced extremely competitive banking industry depends on the bank's ability to not only utilise the power of IP technology but also the information within its various back-office and SWIFT Interface systems. With the right information in the right hands at the right time, banks can significantly improve business processes, enhance customer service and increase profitability.

Two companies at the forefront of these new technologies are Synergy in the UK and AnaSys in Switzerland. Both players have been involved in the provision of systems support and the development of financial application software in the automated funds transfer and S.W.I.F.T. domain since the beginning of the 90s.

Synergy's particular expertise lies in the development of applications that effectively unlock business-critical data held in proprietary SWIFT Interface systems, such as Alliance, MERVA, Fastwire, ST400 and MINT etc. The company recognised that there were significant shortfalls of functionality in all these interface systems and began to develop solutions to fill the gaps. This development began in 1992 to address these shortfalls and to meet the demands of banks who had hitherto relied on monolithic and expensive flat-file extraction processes to access valuable information residing in these proprietary interface systems. Back then Synergy's approach was clever and innovative. The rationale was to create a system that would virtually behave like another back-office link; communicating directly to the interface using the same protocols, in either batch mode or in real-time. This would allow the transfer of incoming and outgoing SWIFT messages into a relational database where they could be accessed using SQL. Synergy's system, namely "SWIFTObjects", was subsequently unveiled in 1997 at SIBOS in Sydney.

The database is the key element of SWIFTObjects. It is the engine or foundation layer from which banking applications can be quickly and easily built to meet the functional requirements of practically every department within the bank. Its open architecture and easy integration with back office and SWIFT interface systems was a genuine breakthrough; opening up the closed SWIFT message environment once and for all, to wider manipulation.

Today, SWIFTObjects is a web-enabled messaging applications hub that offers powerful integrated solutions in a number of key operational areas such as Payments, Cash Management, Documentary Credits, Foreign Exchange applications ... e.g. Liquidity Management, Intra Day Balances, Netting, Traffic Reconciliation, Routing and Message Flow to name but a few. It also offers unparalleled connectivity using open links such as MQ, TCP/IP and of course other proprietary links such as CASmf, SNA and batch. SWIFTObjects has the scalability to meet the needs of both the small and larger banks. It has the ability to handle from 100 to 1 million plus messages per day, from single workstations to enterprise-class servers running under Windows NT or UNIX. The software takes advantage of XML, Java and RDBMS technologies and is used in some of the world's largest banks to not only provide up-to-the minute information on every aspect of SWIFT operations, but is also used for data aggregation and data warehousing. It supports Oracle, Sybase and SQL Server databases and is easily integrated with the most critical object-oriented, real-time Intranet applications.

Synergy has become the leading player in its niche marketplace with its unique position in value-added applications for the SWIFT Interface market. However, progress has spawned other opportunities in this area, and ever seeking to remain at the cutting edge of technology, Synergy has embarked on the development of a web-enabled SWIFT message entry system with its sister company AnaSys in Zurich. The recent launch of their new product called "MESSAGEMaker", has already proved to be successful with interest coming from not only the UK and European marketplace but also from the USA and the Middle East.

MESSAGEMaker can be used independently of, and complementary to, any other SWIFT Interface System and uses the bank's Intranet browsers, making rollout inexpensive, and distribution easy. Staff can now log into a central server from their desktop browser to check the progress of their messages and display relevant management information in real time. Compared to the antediluvian green screen technologies of the 70s, which in many cases is still in use, this new technology offers outstanding possibilities. This new system appeals to both small and large organisations alike, where it can be configured precisely to meet individual departmental working practices. Control and security is no longer an issue either. High levels of user security, permissions and system controls are inherently built in to the system and security measures such as identity authentication, digital signatures and certification guarantees that messages cannot be tampered with and are always sure to be correct when sent to S.W.I.F.T.

AnaSys, like Synergy, is another S.W.I.F.T. Solutions Partner and has been working in the Swiss banking sector for a number of years. AnaSys has developed its own SWIFT Interface device, namely "Message Manager" which is currently used in a number of banks in the SWIFT, SIC, EuroSIC and SECOM RTGS environments. The company boasts a 96% customer satisfaction score and has gained formidable technical and banking expertise in all facets of SWIFT operations.

Message Manager has proved to be an effective gateway to the network, and like other gateways, its prime function is to deliver and receive SWIFT messages securely and efficiently. The system is extremely easy to use with its Windows interface and is, in reality, a "four-in-one" messaging application, easily handling SWIFT, SIC, EuroSIC and SECOM formats. Message Manager provides message preparation with full controls and security, ready for authentication and approval for transmission to S.W.I.F.T.

However, as both companies had collaborated in the successful development of their web-browser message entry system, the next logical progression led to the creation of their own SWIFT Interface System based on Java and XML technologies. This new system embraces the AnaSys Message Manager gateway, Synergy's SWIFTObjects and the new MESSAGEMaker application, thereby producing the most functionally rich

SWIFT Interface System available in the marketplace.
The new interface system, "CLARITY", has arrived and will be used on S.W.I.F.T.ís current FIN network and will take advantage of SWIFTNet Link in the future. Its functionality surpasses any other SWIFT Interface System. CLARITY provides powerful integrated solutions in a number of key operational areas such as message preparation; routing and work flow, billing analysis, liquidity management, traffic reconciliation, comprehensive message investigation and back-office communications links. It has the power to process millions of S.W.I.F.T. messages daily and offers financial institutions an opportunity to take advantage of the system's flexibility to play a central role in their CLS, STP, Electronic Banking and E-Commerce strategies.

CLARITY will officially be launched at SIBOS 2000 in San Francisco in September, where Synergy and AnaSys have an exhibition stand close to S.W.I.F.T. An open invitation is extended to everyone who will be attending the show to see a demonstration of the new system and it is promised that the profligate use of buzzwords, jargon and acronyms will be kept to the absolute minimum!

Michael Butterworth
Marketing Director
Synergy Financial Systems Ltd



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