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Johannesburg, 20 Feb 2020
Read time 5min 00sec
Jennifer Mbesa, General Manager, RDB Consulting.
Jennifer Mbesa, General Manager, RDB Consulting.

The only way to realise competitive advantage in this digital age that offers banking consumers a plethora of products and services, is to get closer to the customer, understanding customer attrition, segmentation and lifetime value. Profitability pressures are driving financial institutions to seek new sources of differentiation and growth, especially considering that the commoditisation of retail banking products and services makes it hard to differentiate.

Creating high-end solutions means coupling technology with specialist skills. 

When Ubank first approached Rivonia, Gauteng-based RDB Consulting with the requirement to install and implement Oracle’s WebLogic, RDB contacted Oracle technical implementation specialist, Slobodan Vujinovic, with whom it has worked on other very successful projects, here and in Europe.

RDB provides consulting and outsourcing solutions to a variety of clients, managing their databases and operating systems. It also provides monitoring, hybrid cloud and digital transformation services and access to expert technical skills, such as those of Vujinovic.

Oracle WebLogic Server is used for building and deploying enterprise Java Enterprise Edition (EE) applications with support for new features for lowering cost of operations, improving performance, enhancing scalability and supporting the Oracle applications portfolio. Vujinovic documented everything required for this first implementation with RDB and set the system up for the future.

In 2019, RDB’s general manager, Jennifer Mbesa, contacted Vujinovic to implement Flexcube, a particular Oracle business intelligence product intended for banks which it needed to implement, again for Ubank.

“Flexcube enables the channelling and viewing of data from every conceivable angle – it is like business intelligence on steroids. We have implemented a piece of software that communicates from A to Z and synchronises everything in-between using a private cloud platform,” says Vujinovic.

This data-driven framework uses machine learning algorithms and data sets to focus on real-world banking use cases and business issues while offering quantifiable value. It is designed to work in tandem with implemented Oracle installations and leverages existing data structures, data generation routines and ready integration with the Oracle database.

Flexcube's embedded machine learning framework enables a bank to unlock the potential of data to drive competitive advantages with capabilities that enable enhanced insights, better predictability and consistency of outcomes.

Flexcube also has a pre-integrated machine learning adapter which unlocks intelligent decisioning from any data source, be it from within a bank’s own data sources or mining data from other sources, such as loyalty card data, to unveil purchasing patterns.

The first step taken by Vujinovic was to design the solution prior to implementation and configuration, with the last step document being educating the Ubank team.

Continues Vujinovic: “Part of good business is conducting comprehensive knowledge transfer. It is absolutely essential. We want our clients to be able to run their own product. What really helped towards the successful implementation is that the Ubank team were extremely helpful and skillful and I am always grateful when working with people like that.

“It was a perfect sized team of six people. All the education was done remotely from wherever in the world I happened to be and covering the most important steps meant that they can replicate what they need to.

“Through various workshops and interactive question and answer sessions, I have explained architecture, implementation and maintenance tasks to the client’s IT staff, who at the same time were exposed to new technologies. Right now they are able to manage the environment themselves.

“Into the future, Ubank’s technical staff will be able to fulfil its business requirements, regardless of whatever future from an idea arises from within the business. The bank is fortunate to have some bright young sparks who can bring new ideas into the business mix.”

Apart from its analytical power, the option to use this product was due to Ubank already having a pool of licences with Oracle, and Flexcube is purely Oracle.

“Using an active-passive architecture configuration we managed to cut licencing by half the usual cost, which equated to savings amounting to hundreds of thousands of US dollars. While an active-active or 100% uptime configuration was also an option, it would have come at a premium price, doubling the current licence cost,” continues Vujinovic.

“Another objective successfully achieved is having fully satisfied Ubank’s business needs through using the Oracle middleware infrastructure as the basis to Oracle Flexcube universal banking, including the disaster-recovery option.”

Vuinovic says the project came in on time and on target, with the additional implementation of best-practices using the experiences gleaned from previous similar projects, such as savings on licences.

“We have made high-availability possible, with the desired 95% target uptime, coupled to the fail-safe environment,” he continues, “and there is real flexibility as each data centre instance can be used separately in case maintenance tasks, such as applying patches or upgrades, thus minimising down-time. The bank can plan for something bigger in its data centre because this has been designed to to be flexible to accommodate the future.

“The platform is extremely secure. While it can mine data from its Web browser base and create reports, it does not allow for downloads. This is coupled to password protection which confirms what can be seen and what not, depending on the level of the person’s authority.

“Today it is one thing, tomorrow another. It is always a moving goal and a natural progression. While this is planned to run for up to 10 years, there are already new thoughts and ideas,” concludes Vujinovic.

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