Publicerad: 6/12/2011
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ABN AMRO Private Bank ABN AMRO customers gain insight into their financial situation with statements and graphs in the Financial Diary, a completely integrated .NET web application

The Financial Diary is an extra service for customers that allows them to see their expenditure patterns in the form of graphs. And they can record expenditure in a predetermined budget. ABN AMRO decided not to build the Financial Diary in its existing IT environment, but instead opted for a Microsoft .NET application, which can be integrated in the bank’s internet banking environment.

Situation

To distinguish itself from other banks, ABN AMRO wants to continually improve the service it provides to its customers. The switch from telebanking to internet banking was only a part improvement. Sidney Huiskamp, Project Manager Internet with ABN AMRO: "Telebanking once got off the ground with a CD-ROM program that communicated with the bank through a modem connected to a telephone line. The internet simplified all this and now almost all our customers use internet banking."

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* What was special about this case was that it wasn’t thought up by the IT department, but that it came from the business end. In fact, it was a business case supported by multiple BUs, so there was sufficient support for us to submit a proposal to the management. *

Sidney Huiskamp
Project Manager Internet
ABN AMRO

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The CD-ROM program actually had an extra feature that the internet application does not have; you could in fact categorise transactions. So it was possible to divide expenditure into household, car costs etc. and create statements. Sidney Huiskamp: "This wasn’t possible with internet banking and many of our customers lamented this. Our business department Marketing consequently came to us with the request: could we create a platform for our customers, which once again included this feature, so that our customers would have better insight into their finances. To really put the icing on the cake, Marketing also wanted a visual presentation of the expenditure pattern, so that the customer could get an even better picture of his financial situation based on the graphs."

Business Case

Sidney Huiskamp speaks from experience when he says: "To meet all the wishes that Marketing had, a major IT development was necessary. A lot of support needs to be in place before you can make a case that you can present to the Investment Board. So we really needed more than just one request from the business."

The second request came from the business unit responsible for Savings and Loans. Sidney Huiskamp: "They wanted to see their services included in the internet banking. If, for example, a customer has a large sum of money in his current account, he should be alerted to the high rate of interest he would receive if he put this money into a savings account. The other way around, if he is in the red, it costs him a lot of interest and he needs to be alerted to the possibility of arranging a loan to borrow the money at a lower rate of interest."

A third demand from yet another business unit concerned the possibility for the customer of introducing information from other banks. Sidney: "The idea behind this is, while you’re organising your banking on the internet with ABN AMRO, you get a better comprehensive picture of your financial state of affairs, if you can also see the balance from your other bank accounts."

Sidney makes a distinction between phase 1 and phase 2: "In the long term, as a bank, we want to be able to offer our customer the maximum insight into their payment patterns, but that is for phase 2. In the first place, we want to restore the original features the customer was used to, improved with a number of additional new services."

Solution

Challenge

If the IT department wanted to meet the wishes of the various Business Units, the internet banking platform had to be expanded.
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* The popularity of the .NET platform, the many terrific applications, the partner strategy, the enthusiasm of those involved in the project, all together were the most significant arguments for ‘selling’ the new business case to the management. *

Sidney Huiskamp
Project Manager Internet
ABN AMRO

*
Sidney Huiskamp: "What was special about this case was that it wasn’t thought up by the IT department, but that it came from the business end. In fact, it was a business case supported by multiple BUs, so there was sufficient support for us to submit a proposal to the management."

Prior to doing this, Sidney and his colleagues investigated whether or not there was perhaps a ready-made solution on the market. Doing the development in-house was also briefly considered. Sidney Huiskamp: "It all appears very simple, categorise data and then generate graphs from the data, but this actually involves a considerable number of expertises. Just drawing up the requirements eats up almost six months. So developing it ourselves was never really an option."

During the search for a suitable product, ABN AMRO came across countless beautiful applications, which had all been developed by means of the Microsoft .NET platform. Sidney Huiskamp: " .NET was unfamiliar terrain for ABN AMRO. A tremendous number of other organisations and companies, on the other hand, had been working with it for years and this was the argument that, in the end, convinced the management to opt for a solution based on .NET.

Above all, it appeared that there were no existing solutions for the JAVA platform and they already existed for .NET. I was able to show our management and the project team members from the various BUs screens and even a working program, even though that didn’t yet have the ABN AMRO look-and-feel.
Through playing around with the statements and graphs, they got an idea of how it would look and this fostered enthusiasm!" This program was called ViewOnCash and ran on the Figlo website, a Microsoft Certified Partner.

Figlo is a medium-sized independent international software developer with 80 fulltime specialists. Jenze Bosma, president of Figlo: "We’re a supplier of standard products, which our customers can incorporate in their own IT environment. ViewOnCash is such a standard product, which runs completely independently on our http://www.viewoncash.nl website.

ABN AMRO takes over the ViewOnCash technology and explains to us which alterations are necessary. We take care of the features, such as graphs, ABN AMRO provides the house style and the integration in its own environment. We call this the FigloPlatform, an extremely flexible development environment that runs entirely on Microsoft .NET and enables you to furnish an existing internet banking environment with new features rapidly and cost-effectively."

Partner's Strategy

Sidney Huiskamp: "Figlo is a partner with whom we’ve found a strong strategic match. As a bank, we want to remain close to our customers, Figlo understands this perfectly. They are masters at transforming difficult material into something easy to understand, helping the customer to take the plunge and helping him at every stage of the way.

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* Our customers think it’s terrific: they send emails, tweets, all of them praising our Financial Diary. We’ve never experienced anything like this before. The application is more popular than we could have imagined. *

Sidney Huiskamp
Project Manager Internet
ABN AMRO

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Figlo previously developed the Personal Financial Plan for us: the customer completes the first part, the bank does the second part, and together with the customer we look at his financial possibilities. Figlo demonstrated here that its objectives are on a par with ours, we speak the same language, the language of the customer. We have the same strategy: serving the customer."

Sidney Huiskamp presented the plans to the management: "The popularity of the .NET platform, the many terrific applications, the partner strategy, the enthusiasm of those involved in the project, all together were the most significant arguments for ‘selling’ the new business case to the management. Once we received the ‘Go ahead’ at Investment Board level, the Financial Diary got started."

Developments

The example application that Sidney had shown to the management only required a few alterations to details. Sidney: "ViewOnCash was the starting point. In fact, we only needed to change the screens to give them an ABN AMRO look and feel, simply through inserting a few banners and other house style characteristics." However, it wasn’t really that simple at all…

The basic Figlo application runs in Microsoft Silverlight, an add-on for Internet Explorer. Silverlight gives the browser calculation abilities, which for example allows graphs to be displayed rapidly. "We had a problem with the fact that an add-on was necessary. Our past experiences had taught us that it was better if the customer didn’t have to install any additional software or add-ons on his computer," according to Sidney Huiskamp. "Figlo solved this with a chart-rendering program, through which the graphs aren’t created locally on the customer’s computer, but they’re rendered by the server and sent as pictures to the customer’s computer. No add-on is required to display the pictures, any browser can do that."

Jenze Bosma: "ABN AMRO is very strict about usability and design. The business doesn’t just accept what the technical guys produce. The involvement of Sidney’s IT team and the bank was enormous and has resulted in a high degree of usability, benefiting the consumer and both we and ABN AMRO are very proud of this."

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* Many existing IT environments are so rigid that innovation is very difficult. With the Financial Diary application, we’ve delivered proof that it’s possible to expand a rigid IT environment seamlessly adding a modern .NET web application. And in a very short time frame: we completed the job inside 9 months. *

Jenze Bosma
President of Microsoft Certified Partner Figlo

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Another challenge was related to the databases, in which the customer transactions had to be saved. Sidney Huiskamp: "Banks do everything in real time databases either in DB2 or Oracle. In Microsoft .NET, information is saved in SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition, an entirely new database environment for us. We had absolutely no idea how an SQL Server would perform, if our customers all started to use the Financial Diary en masse. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have dared to do this five years ago, but now I could base my decision on countless good references about the high degree of scalability and reliability of SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition. Therefore, I could trust that the performance would be up to the mark."

Benefits

ABN AMRO now knows that the performance was indeed good. The entire development took just 9 months and the Financial Diary went live on the 28th of February. A television campaign resulted in intensive 'loads' on the system. Sidney Huiskamp: "Initially, we experienced some performance issues with the databases. They were connected with the fine-tuning of the hardware and software. Nothing unusual, we’re used to this from DB2 and Oracle as well. We now have 32 processors running on the Wintel platform and that’s doing the job nicely. More importantly: I see that the environment can cope with a higher work load. And this is essential, because our customers think it’s terrific: they send emails, tweets, all of them praising our Financial Diary. We’ve never experienced anything like this before. The applica-tion is more popular than we could have imagined. We had counted on a couple of thousand graphs per day, but already over 10,000 graphs are created per hour! In relation to the average of 80,000 clients signing in an hour, that’s a very high figure." What Sidney Huiskamp likes best is that customers now reserve more time for banking matters: "Until recently, we saw a peak during the lunch break. Sign in quickly, transfer funds and sign out again, all within 5 minutes. Now you see a lot more banking activity in the evening, after dinner and in the weekend. Visits of 10 to 30 minutes are not unusual. Customers have the possibility of reviewing their financial position and really take the time to do this. And that is exactly the intention of the Financial Diary."

Sidney Huiskamp: "What I see as especially interesting is that the customer does not even notice that the Financial Diary is in fact a separate program, which shows how well this Microsoft .NET application is integrated in our internet banking environment."

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* One of the successes of the project is the introduction of the .NET platform within the ABN Amro Internet Banking environment. For us, the real eye-opener was how well the platform works: you take an application from an external supplier, you add a few banners and some other house style elements to the screens and you’re ready to go. *

Sidney Huiskamp
Project Manager Internet
ABN AMRO

*
According to Sidney Huiskamp, one of the successes of the project is the introduction of the .NET platform within the ABN AMRO Internet Banking environment. "For us, the real eye-opener was how well the platform works: you take an application from an external supplier, you add a few banners and some other house style elements to the screens and you’re ready to go. In the past, you had to create a separate URL and link to it from a main application. As a user, you noticed that you were entering another application, but thanks to the .NET platform in combination with a home-grown application for User Security Integration, you don’t leave the environment."

Jenze Bosma: "Many existing IT environments are so rigid that innovation is very difficult. With the Financial Diary application, we’ve delivered proof that it’s possible to expand a rigid IT environment seamlessly adding a modern .NET web application. And in a very short time frame: we completed the job inside 9 months."

The Future

The Financial Diary is clearly more than just another money manager program. Sidney Huiskamp: "Financial Diary is a platform where customers can manage their daily finances, which is called a 'diary'. We want to do a whole lot more on this platform in the future. The Microsoft technology facilitates this. There are countless small and medium-sized IT businesses that develop so many brilliant applications for the Microsoft platform, which developments are taking place very rapidly. Many of the developments would fit splendidly into our business, so I fully expect that we’ll be expanding our .NET platform in the future with many more applications."

Additions like this do cost money, as does their maintenance. Sidney Huiskamp: "We expect that 10% of our customers will use the Financial Diary intensively. If they pay for this, we can earn back the running costs and this frees up budget to expand the environment."

Jenze Bosma is also focusing abroad: "Our model isn’t exclusively for the Netherlands, but it’s very special for other countries too, which is why we’re positioning these solutions internationally now through our global partner network. For example, a market like Russia where we are now active with about 1300 banks, makes it especially interesting for us."

Finally, Sidney Huiskamp concludes: "We’ve gained a tremendous amount of experience in building the Financial Diary environment. We now know how to draw the transaction information easily into the .NET platform, how to synchronise with our systems etc. This knowledge will allow us to offer many more new products in the future, both to our customers and to our internal business."


For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400 . In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495 . Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Figlo products and services, visit the Web site at:
www.figlo.com/nl

For more information about ABN AMRO products and services, visit the Web site at:
www.abnamro.nl
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Företagsstorlek
100 anställda

Företagsinformation
The ABN AMRO bank dates back to 1720, when the first office was opened under the name Cordelois, De Vrijer & Mees (predecessor of Mees & Hope and MeesPierson). Today, ABN AMRO has 28,000 employees represented in 27 countries and dependencies. The bank looks after the financial interests of more than 6,800,000 private customers and 400,000 commercial customers.

Utgångsläge

Requirements:

  • Platform to provide rigid IT environment with modern web applications
  • Flexible and cost-efficient platform
  • Good support from partner

Lösning
  • Applications developed on .NET platform

Fördelar
  • Automatic categorisation of expenditure
  • Depiction in graphs of income and expenditure
  • Comparisons with others
  • Adding other banks to the Financial Diary
  • Monthly budgeting, but also for longer periods
  • Simple integration of external applications in the internet banking environment
  • Good performance, even under high work pressure
  • Rapid and low-cost development of new services for customers and own business

Program & tjänster
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Enterprise
  • Microsoft .NET

Industri(er)
Banking

Land
Netherlands

Språk
English

Partner
Figlo