I recently attended The Payments Knowledge Forum (PKF) in London. This annual gathering of users, suppliers and consultants in the transaction switching business has a 30-year history. It started as EBUG – The European BASE24 Users Group – before becoming a supplier-agnostic event after BASE24 owner ACI ended its involvement.
The result is a highly focused event where the industry can compare and contrast the messages from all of the key suppliers of switching solutions, ATM software and supporting solutions for connectivity, monitoring and testing. The event is unlike a typical trade show because it hosts roundtable events where competing vendors debate key issues raised by the audience. These sessions are very effective at establishing the vendors’ positions regarding the issues and they allow the users to compare those positions directly.
According to PKF Operations director Denys Whitely, “This blend of user experience and vendor expertise showcased in a highly interactive set of short presentations and discussions works to the advantage of all parties. It is a neutral, informative, lively and engaging way for us to meet our information-sharing objectives." This years’ event included such roundtables on a number of topics. Having participated in one myself (on the topic of cloud-based testing) I can confirm that they are challenging for participants.
As an audience member, I found the ATM Smart Client Roundtable particularly interesting. The format of the ATM Smart Client round table was slightly different in that it involved two different tier one banks presenting their respective projects together with their chosen vendors. This gave the audience a clear side-by-side comparison of two very different approaches to the ATM Smart Client proposition. As Wincor Nixdorf and Auriga, the two vendors involved, have the largest global installations of Smart Client solutions, this comparison can be considered a valid survey of the market.
I wasn’t alone in my interest – the audience feedback rated the Smart Client session as one of the most interesting of the conference. It appears that the PKF committee has found a winning formula for showcasing leading technology – I expect other events will adopt this approach in time.
During the session, a Barclays Bank representative described how Barclays had first embarked on a multi-vendor software solution project in 2009. In 2014 they had reviewed this strategy as at that time they still managed multiple different software stacks in their ATM fleet. In order to accelerate their momentum towards the benefits of a multi-vendor solution, Barclays reported that they picked Auriga due to its proven vendor independent ATM solution and its willingness to provide onsite development resources for the duration of the project. Although ATM software is considered “Off The Shelf Product”, the level of integration required at each site often demands development support to make a deployment successful, regardless of the vendor selected.
Barclays described how they identified the legacy NDC+ protocol and its aging implementation in their BASE24 switch as the biggest obstacle to progress. So they started by deploying Auriga’s WWS ATM solution with a Smart Client loaded on the ATM connecting to a Channel Manager component in the data center. Then the bank was able to replace their BASE24 NDC device drivers with a standard, maintainable ISO8583 connection to Auriga’s WWS Channel Manager. In Barclays’ view this has been an easy, low risk step that allows Barclays to have a single Smart Client version running on all of their self-service fleet, managed by a single channel manager which handles the relationship with the transaction switch for host and card scheme connectivity. In turn their customers will enjoy a radically enhanced experience with a modernized look and feel and a rich transaction set. The Bank reports that the project has gone very smoothly and the first machines are scheduled for go-live before year end.
By contrast, HSBC stated that it had decided to first convert all ATM clients to ProFlex4, leaving their legacy (NDC) infrastructure intact. In this way, HSBC is taking advantage of the ProFlex4 GUI tools to quickly change the ATM workflows and to create an enriched customer experience without making any infrastructural improvements to their ATM environment in the short to medium term. HSBC will attempt to address the Channel Manager opportunity at a later date, but have no committed timetable in mind.
The fundamental difference in these two approaches is in their attention to the approach to the Channel Manager role in their projects. In the second installment in this series, I will discuss how I interpret the two different approaches used by these leading financial institutions.