by Zabeen Moser-Mawji
As implementation partner to the wealth management unit of a large German bank, Orbium drew on its vast experience of Avaloq core banking transformations to help achieve demanding business goals. Zabeen Moser- Mawji discusses this successful project.
The wealth management unit of a large German bank is at the end of a five-year global transformation that has seen it move from running expensive, complex and limiting legacy core systems to having an Avaloq-hosted digital platform fit for 21st-century banking, with the majority of back-office operations delivered by Avaloq Sourcing.
Its new system has cut risk and allowed the unit to implement common processes across the entire bank to pave the way for cost-effective growth. For the past two years, Orbium has supported that transformation in three key European centres: Zurich, London and Luxembourg.
Core banking transformations are never simple and this was more demanding than most. The scale of change was massive, involving complex systems and processes, tight timelines, regulatory compliance constraints and adaptations to both IT systems and the unit’s business model.
In mid 2016 the bank, highly experienced in big projects, realised it didn’t have the capacity to finish the transformation on time. Three years into its journey, it needed specialist help on the ground.
Key to any successful transformation is good change management. Post go-live, users have to work differently and in the build-up there is often resistance. This can divert the programme off-course, adding to costs and delays.
Strong project governance and ensuring early user buy-in were critical to the unit achieving its business goals: lowering IT costs and cutting risk while having the ability to scale and develop new products and services.
Over time, individual locations had developed workflows and processes to suit their own markets. The unit wanted them to adopt uniform practices, with every location working as a group and non-core functions contracted out to Avaloq Sourcing. This meant installing new software and developing systems and workflows, and preparing users to know how to – and want to – work in new ways.
This demanded change-management specialists with expertise in Avaloq systems and detailed knowledge of the specific regulation and practices of three separate financial centres – which might require different support technology and protocols. Only then could it be sure that exactly the right consideration had been given to each element as part of the design.
The project had the added complication that the three locations were at different stages of transformation, yet all were expected to go live almost simultaneously.
The final challenge was finding an implementation partner that could thoroughly test the systems. The unit invited two specialists to pitch and appointed Orbium in September 2016.
As project manager and technical partner, Orbium had three main roles: to help prepare the users; to test the software; and to ensure the unit’s interests were always met. This last point involved liaising with all parties working on the transformation, including Avaloq and Avaloq Sourcing, to ensure the programme stuck to its objectives and was delivered efficiently. As such, Orbium was at the heart of the project.
The unit had learnt from experience that change boards were a great tool for getting user buy-in. However, it didn’t have all the required data. One of Orbium’s major contributions was to help collect the appropriate data to prepare the case for change and create the right momentum for change. This included making accurate assessments about the amount of time required to complete the transformation, its impact and overall feasibility.
Orbium also helped prepare uniform working practices. While compliance and legal must always come first, it was then a case of prioritising the respective business cases – a difficult task made more complicated by constant lobbying from diverse parts of the business.
Conflict is inevitable in a multi-party implementation, even though everyone has the same objectives. Orbium’s experts acted as arbitrators, bringing practical solutions to difficult situations, often involving on-site and off-site parties.
Orbium was also in situ at each of the three locations to support training. Drawing on experience from more than 40 Avaloq implementation projects, it was able to provide on-the-ground help as queries arose. This accelerated the adoption process and reassured users. Furthermore, it oversaw the testing of the new software, insisting on an end-to-end approach rather than relying on testing narrow areas of functionality – a method that can easily miss bugs.
Today, the unit is a high-performing wealth manager fully enabled for business growth. Where once it was an isolated business unit of its parent, it is now fully integrated, simplifying the business and helping to cut costs and risk.
It can truly scale thanks to common, harmonised processes across different regions and benefits from enhanced governance and oversight. Straight-through processing accounts for more than 90 per cent of regulatory and operational tasks and provides a vastly improved customer service.
The new Avaloq system has also made cross-selling and the introduction of products and services easier. Costs have been reduced significantly and non-core operations have been successfully outsourced. Its staff are confident users of the new system.
By having experts in Avaloq and wealth management on the ground, Orbium was able to offer pragmatic solutions throughout the process. The result: an ongoing relationship built on trust that delivers real value.