Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Is the US core banking sector finally saying yes to outsiders?

Statue of Liberty. Source: featherboa
The US core banking software sector has always been notoriously difficult to gain a foothold in for the non-domestic vendors. The local heavyweights – FIS, Jack Henry and Fiserv – have over the years acquired smaller players and have ended up with numerous systems under their corporate umbrellas. These companies have also been traditionally close to the regulators, making the case for a bank or credit union to select a non-US vendor difficult to justify.

The international vendors have tried, nevertheless, and some, such as Temenos, have been quite persistent. When an earlier joint development with a local vendor Metavante (now part of FIS) did not work out, Temenos found it problematic to work by itself (Texas-based Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, for example, sent an RFP to Temenos a few years back and was told the vendor was not ready to undertake the project of such size and complexity – RBFCU has over $4 billion in assets, is one of the top 25 credit unions in the US and was aiming to replace a 35-year old in-house development). Temenos then tried the acquisition route. Its purchase of Trinovus, a small local SaaS solutions vendor, has proved to be successful so far. Temenos is keen to draw the attention of the analysts and the market in general to it, making it the highlight of the conference call discussing its latest financial results. David Arnott, Temenos’ CEO, spoke at length about the US subsidiary (although in terms of financial contribution, it forms a small part of Temenos’ overall business). The T24 US Model Bank is being delivered, and the first go-live among the early adopters (including Clare Bank and Famers Exchange Bank) are expected in H1 2015. These small banks are converts from Trinovus' own legacy core system, Trinisys.

Temenos’ argument for the US is that it is only T24 which has a real-time architecture – unlike systems of Jack Henry, Fiserv and FIS. Temenos also contends that other vendors have lots of disparate systems and no plan to consolidate them, and so these vendors cannot have adequate R&D for all of these.

It would be interesting to know what FIS thinks of this, as it has always maintained that its Profile core system is real-time.

It is worth noting that Temenos’ rival Infosys has also pondered an acquisition, evaluating Open Solutions before it was acquired by Fiserv. Infosys, however, is a step ahead, with the recent announcement that it has finally gained a live site, at a large domestic entity, Discover Financial Services. A welcome announcement for Infosys, no doubt, following a lengthy, challenging implementation (the project started in 2010) and an earlier scrapping of a flagship Finacle project at Union Bank in California. Discovery Financial Services was gearing up for a go-live in early 2014 (according to the vendor at last year's BAI Retail Delivery conference), but it would seem the timeline slipped. However, the eventual successful go-live of Finacle here gives Infosys the upper hand in its US market rivalry with a fellow Indian vendor TCS. TCS continues to work on the much publicised Zions Bank project (where Infosys lost out at the final stage of the selection), but is yet to report a go-live. Meanwhile, another venture of TCS in the American market, to offer its Bancs system to small and mid-sized entities via a partnership with a SaaS specialist, Savvis, is yet to produce results.

And what of another major supplier on the international arena, Oracle FSS? It has a Flexcube user in California, a niche bank that specialises in lending to technology and life science companies, Silicon Valley Bank. It is yet to gain a domestic retail banking customer for Flexcube, but it has recently sold a loan origination module of its new banking solution, Oracle Banking Platform (OBP), to a large regional bank, Keybank.

More deals to follow, it would be safe to assume.

By Tanya Andreasyan.

Follow Tanya on twitter.

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