Infosys’ Finacle is Ratnakar Bank’s new centralised core platform that, the bank believes, ‘will take it to the next level’. Finacle has replaced the decentralised IT set-up based on the TC4 core banking offering from CMC, a subsidiary of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

India-based Ratnakar Bank has completed conversion to a new banking system, Finacle from Infosys. The switch-over took place in December, and the bank is now fully operational on new software, says Sujatha Mohan, Ratnakar’s senior vice-president and core banking system implementation lead. The bank’s IT infrastructure, systems and applications, including Finacle, are hosted and managed by Netmagic Solutions, a local subsidiary of Japan-based NTT Communications.

The project started in early 2012, following a major refresh of the senior management team at the bank (most of whom arrived from multinational banks), as part of an enterprise-wide transformation of Ratnakar. There is a three-year strategy now in place, which includes trebling the bank’s branch network (to 300 branches), expanding the product set and becoming actively involved in the financial inclusion programmes promoted by India’s government.

A modern technology platform, open for integration with auxiliary solutions, was deemed crucial for the planned growth and improving customer service, says Mohan, but this was something the bank lacked. It had been running the TC4 retail banking system, acquired in early 2006 from CMC, a wholly-owned local subsidiary of TCS (at the time, Ratnakar Bank became the second taker of TC4 in India).

Besides Finacle, Ratnakar closely evaluated upgrading the existing system, TC4, plus two other options: Bancs from TCS Financial Solutions and Oracle FSS’s Flexcube. The latter is Mohan’s area of expertise, as her background is with this vendor and its predecessor, I-flex Solutions. ‘Local knowledge was very important to us,’ observes Mohan. Also, the bank wanted to implement the new system ‘in the shortest time possible’, so was looking for a vendor with well-established, proven methodology and track-record of working with banks that have large branch networks in India.

It was concluded that Infosys offered ‘good, robust software and reasonably latest technology’. The decision from the outset was to manage the project and implement the solution directly with the provider, rather than via a system integrator, states Mohan. She joined the bank in the middle of the system evaluation process and led the management of the project throughout the rest of the selection and the entire implementation. A number of partners were recruited for specific tasks, including the aforementioned Netmagic, IBM and Gieom (India-based testing and training specialist). There were other senior executives from Ratnakar who, alongside Mohan, managed the project between them.

Prior to starting the implementation, the bank ‘got to know the Finacle system very well’. The core team, which included representatives of the bank’s partners in this venture, spent nearly two months in training and learning the system, and only then did the bank move to drawing up the system customisation requirements.

Customisation was kept to a minimum. The team didn’t want to extend the timeline beyond what it already was, explains Mohan, and also it was keen to adopt best practices that the system offered. ‘From the outset, we were willing to change.’

Following the customisation stage, nearly five months were spent in testing. This caused the project to overrun by around two months, as the bank felt it needed more time for testing and getting the issues fixed. ‘Whenever we encountered a problem we took a step back, resolved it and only then moved on. We did not compromise on testing,’ states Mohan. Then, prior to the cutover, around three weeks were dedicated to the ‘business simulation’ phase, checking the readiness of the branches and personnel there. The bank was moving from a highly decentralised environment to a centralised one, so the pending changes for the staff and their day-to-day operations were drastic, she observes. ‘Everything was changing: processes, systems and the underlying technology. We had to teach people everything, starting from how to log into the system, as the bank was moving to a completely virtualised environment.’ She is complimentary of the work done by Gieom in this area, with its established methodology and user-friendly visual presentation and material (click here for more details about this project).

by Darshana Adanwale