Ecobank has implemented Oracle FLEXCUBE solutions across
30 African countries, the vendor’s largest multi-country
implementation in Africa, allowing Ecobank to serve over 7m users
through a standardised processing platform. Pradeep Dwary, group
head, Ecobank Technology Applications, and Kishore Kapoor, global
head of consulting and services, Oracle FLEXCUBE, discusses the
deal with Meghna Mukerjee.

 

Bar chart showing Ecobank net profit, 2007-2010Togo-headquartered Ecobank Transnational (Ecobank) has
updated its core banking software and implemented new solutions
from Oracle with the aim of standardising its processing platform
across its affiliates in 30 sub-Saharan African
countries. 

Ecobank – present in more countries in Africa
than any other bank in the world – has implemented Oracle’s
FLEXCUBE Universal Banking and Direct Banking platforms, as well as
Oracle’s risk analytics solutions.

The Ecobank tie up is Oracle FLEXCUBE’s
largest multi-country implementation in Africa to date enabling the
lender to serve over 7m customers via more than 1,100 bank
branches.

The Oracle FLEXCUBE suite of analytical
applications also aims to enable a successful multi-jurisdictional
compliance between Ecobank and the Central Bank requirements.

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By GlobalData

According to Pradeep Dwary, group head for
Ecobank Technology, the deployment of Oracle FLEXCUBE products
enables Ecobank to align its network to provide “superior service
and a consistent experience” for customers across the African
continent.

The “superiority of the products and
flexibility that FLEXCUBE brings” is key for Ecobank, says
Dwary.

“The whole migration actually started in 2007
but it was halted because we were doing other projects and
application deployments. So five countries were deployed in 2007
and then in 2010 Ecobank came under new management and we took this
up again in a much more planned way.

“We planned out from scratch what a
sustainable model would be in terms of architecture. Rolling out to
30 countries and making all platforms standard was a mammoth task,”
adds Dwary.

The first phase of the deployment project
involved creating “world-class parameterisation templates” which
show the complete product range under each module – “because each
country has different products, different styles of banking,
different processes”.

“The templates capture details of each
product, the description, how it is defined, what are its nuances.
After that we did mapping for each country, so we analysed all the
products and identified generic ones that needed to fit into the
standard template.

“We have grown both organically and
inorganically at Ecobank. We had different core banking platforms –
mainly because of the acquired banks – so there were some contracts
to transfer the existing legacy systems to new FLEXCUBE systems. We
created new scripts and carried out good quality control,” explains
Dwary.

Bar chart showing Ecobank total assets, 2007-2010The lesson learnt, says Dwary, is that the project had to
be a collaborative effort and every department had to be involved
to facilitate smooth migration.

According to the global head of consulting and
services for Oracle FLEXCUBE, Kishore Kapoor, Ecobank faces a
situation “unique to Africa”, where the minimum infrastructure is
not as well developed as the rest of the world and the lender is
required to “put in extra effort and have extra thought process” to
ensure the ability to work on a centralised platform across the
region, “despite the telco challenges”.

The implementation of FLEXCUBE solutions and
standardisation of operations, says Kapoor, enables Ecobank to
benefit in terms of customers and business operations.

“For retail customers the main touch points
are internet banking, cards, ATM points, and branches. When the
system is seamless with standardised platforms on the backend side
as well the speed and performance improves a lot.

“A world class standardises platform has
best-practice processes embedded in its systems so retail customers
will get very seamless experience across channels,” says Dwary.

According to Dwary, standard roll out is the
“name of the game” for multi-country banks.

“Even the Ecobank strategy says that one bank
should give one feel. A customer from Sierra Leone who visits a
branch in Tanzania should see the same Ecobank, and that is driven
by the standard FLEXCUBE roll out,” says Dwary.

Kapoor adds that, more importantly, one
platform also means not incurring repeated costs for adding
different platforms in different markets.

Lessening expenses is a key factor behind
Ecobank’s FLEXCUBE 30-country deployment, confirms Dwary, as a
centralised roll out helps Ecobank “save a lot of costs”, says
Dwary.

Approximately 85 banks in North Africa use
some part of Oracle’s FLEXCUBE portfolio of products.

Dwary says the FLEXCUBE deployment is a “great
differentiator” for Ecobank in the African market, as “there are
very few banks in Africa or even globally who are investing in such
IT platforms”.

“The world is changing very fast, especially
in this part, in terms of telecommunication. Lot of things have
improved and telecommunication is much more stable than it was even
two years ago. Mobile is the area that is very dominant as a
channel for customers in Middle Africa,” says Dwary.

Branch banking is still active, the African
market is slowly moving towards branchless banking and alternative
channels are becoming more important, leading Ecobank to be “very
active in this direction”, informs Dwary.

Oracle has been able to carry out the
multi-country FLEXCUBE deployment project successfully as the
company has previously executed similar projects in other parts of
the world, says Kapoor.

Oracle launched the first version of its
FLEXCUBE suite of products in 1997, that now has a portfolio
ranging from core banking to universal banking, and more.

Currently, over 400 banks worldwide have
adopted the FLEXCUBE software in some form – Citibank being one of
the first lenders to get on board and implement it
internationally.

In terms of vendor competition, Kapoor says
there are “about half a dozen companies that are players” in the
core banking industry and competition changes depending upon the
scenario and the market.

“In Africa then I would say the names we come
across include Temenos, Infosys, Misys – it changes depending on
the situation.

“There are companies offering a product. But
oracle is offering a whole lot of other technology areas as a
larger organisation and I think that itself becomes a
differentiator. Equally important is the experience that Oracle
brings to customers,” says Kapoor.

As for Ecobank, the lender benchmarks itself
with global banks over regional ones because of its “unique
geography and different customer base”.

“You will not find big banks in the market in
all the places where we operate, so there cannot be direct
competition. We are here to help Africa reach world class banking
levels,” says Dwary.