Robert Hazboun, Managing Director at ICSFS, tells IFM that technology is increasingly becoming a differentiator for banks due to tough competition and the tight economic climate
May 05, 2015
When you started in the 70s, how did you convince companies about the advantages of embracing technology?
|International Computer Systems (London) Ltd., or ICS (London), was established in 1978, as a system integrator and turn-key solutions provider by pioneers of the technology industry. To convince companies about the various advantages of implementing technology at that time, the company targeted international markets, providing IT services to a wide range of countries and regions, engaging in many vertical markets such as Financial Institutions, Healthcare, Education, Oil & Gas and Police & National Security Solutions with projects completed in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It was only in 1992 that ICS (London) explored changing its business model to become an Independent Software Vendor (ISV).|
The vision was to develop standard off-the-shelf (OTS) software applications for real-time business processing. Capitalising on previous expertise, ICS (London) launched a strategic project for developing a universal banking software application, which resulted in the creation of ICS BANKS®. The first version of ICS BANKS® was in 1995 and within a decade, ICS (London) was able to penetrate new markets, win new clients and strengthen its position among the major players in the financial technology industry.
ICS BANKS® comprehensively continues enhancing features such as Straight-Through-Processing (STP) and Real-Time-Gross-Settlement (RTGS), to keep up with the agility of the financial sector and to reduce risks of electronic payment settlement systems. A proven key feature of ICS BANKS® is the high parameterisation design, which constructs a solid pavement for multi-country, multi-language, multi-currency and global banking solution. Built on a highly parameterised platform and latest technology, ICS BANKS® fast deployment is attributed to minimum or no customisation. As our deployment experience for turn-key banking solution proves completion of projects, bringing financial customers to total automation in record time.
Moreover, as the economic climate and regulations tighten profits and shrink bottom-lines, deployment and investment on solutions must yield highest Return on Investment (ROI). ICS BANKS® scalability and architecture go hand-in-hand with such constraints. ICS BANKS® has a flexible structure that is designed to follow clients’ solution function in matching clients’ budget cuts and business needs.
The history of ICS (London) also adds value to ICSFS’ strategy. As ICSFS has positioned itself as a turnkey solution provider and system integrator, the ICS (London)’s brand legacy gives ICSFS an edge to embrace clients of all sizes.
|You are primarily a software vendor and deliver banking solutions. What made you focus on just the banking industry?
As mentioned previously, ICS London is engaged in Financial Institutions, Healthcare, Education, Oil & Gas and Police & National Security Solutions. We chose the banking and financial industry for being a dynamic, aggressive and a demanding market. This industry has high opportunities for innovative banking solution and is in need of new banking technology. As the universal and retail banking industry is restructuring, producing a rich supply of information and services for customers, the relationship between banks and customers is changing rapidly, requiring innovative solutions.
With increasing competition and unstable economic returns, financial institutions are now looking beyond existing traditional business models to identify profitable opportunities for the future. In 2004, ICS Financial Systems Ltd. (ICSFS) emerged from ICS (London) as a leading provider of universal banking software systems to focus on the financial industry upon the rapid growth, demand, and maturity of the ICS BANKS® software.
Technology keeps upgrading every year. How forthcoming are banks when it comes to upgrading their technology system periodically?
Nowadays, the current competitive environment coupled with increasingly demanding customers is forcing banks, regardless of size, to use the latest banking technology and to upgrade or replace its legacy system. This core banking replacement process can either result in the bank leapfrogging to a high degree of differentiation, enabling it to compete on the customer experience and new product offering, or it can create huge risks for the bank if the transition is not managed properly.
In order to compete in today’s financial marketplace, once implemented, a core banking solution should be robust, scalable, efficient, flexible and serve for a long time. This is so banks can avoid an entire core replacement, which can take years and cost millions of dollars. Bank customers are also becoming increasingly demanding. Many expect all information to be in real-time and integrated, regardless of the channel being used. That is why ICSFS invests in its products to meet all current and future needs of the banks and financial institutions.
What differentiates ICS Banks from others?
ICS BANKS® is a state-of-the-art software that delivers maximum value to banking clients of all sizes. This universal software is a complete suite of banking business modules with a rich sweep of functionality and features addressing business needs foremost, and automating accounting processes as needed according to international accounting standards, to enhance a customer’s business performance.
ICS BANKS® uses the latest technologies to cover all business areas such as Core banking, Remittances, Trade Finance, Lending, Credit Facilities & Risk Groups, Finance Leasing, Investment and Islamic Banking. The use of the latest technology to provide availability, scalability and best performance is one of the goals achieved by implementing ICS BANKS®.
ICS BANKS® is scalable and modular; each of its modules is parameterised to quickly support a client’s unique workflow, as many of its modules are designed to stand-alone, implementation of any module can be separately accomplished. Therefore, each module can be integrated seamlessly with other business modules, on any platform, and can quickly interface with legacy system, as well as its open architecture capabilities to quickly interface with third-party applications. This design of the ICS BANKS® system modules eliminates the need for any additional interface between modules and the core system, and streamlines data flow within our system, providing faster and easy–to-use software and ensuring real STP.
Finally, ICS BANKS® gives the user the facility to deploy modules at any level, whether head office, branch or external delivery channels, such as Internet Banking or Kiosks.
Do you collaborate with government banks as well?
Yes. We have many banks and financial institutions that are owned by governments in different regions, where some are retail, corporate or wholesale banks.
You have clients in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Which country has the most technologically advanced banking system?
Through our experience with our clients, we cannot specify the most technologically advanced banking system by country, as there are number of clients in developed countries that do not run or request advanced banking system. On the other hand, there are number of clients in developing or less-developed countries that request and are always the first to opt for the latest and advanced banking systems.