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World-class operational risk management is crucial for financial institutions. So, when the National Bank of Abu Dhabi chose to centralise its core banking applications, of chief concern to Hossam Elkobrosy was the bank’s wide area network.
Now an overlay infrastructure based on a BT IP Connect global platform provides the resilience and performance needed by branches and ATMs in 18 countries on four continents. And Elkobrosy can rest easy that the bank offers a consistently excellent customer experience wherever on the planet its customers may be.
The National Bank of Abu Dhabi has a vision to be recognised as the world’s best Arab bank. To realise this vision, we’re committed to understanding our customers’ needs, provide the best services, and dedicate all our energies to serving them.”
- Hossam Elkobrosy, Head, IT Infrastructure, National Bank of Abu Dhabi
The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) is one of the largest financial services players in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 125 branches and 585 ATMs across the seven emirates. Offering a wide range of banking products and services, NBAD provides 24-hour internet banking through NBAD Online, while the NBAD Arrow app allows SMS-based mobile payment services. NBAD Direct gives current account and savings account support through a 24-hour contact centre.
That comprehensive, state-of-the-art local banking infrastructure is complemented by global operations extending to over 50 branches and offices in 17 countries across five continents, from the Far East to North America, making it the largest UAE-based global banking network. Since 2009, NBAD has been consistently ranked one of the World’s 50 Safest Banks and the Safest Bank in the Emerging Markets by the prestigious Global Finance magazine.
Hossam Elkobrosy, Head, IT Infrastructure at NBAD, says: “Our reputation for safety comes not only from our strong ratings and industry-leading banking practices but also from careful management of market and operational risk. Our strategic approach to IT and telecoms is a crucial element in the mitigation of operational risk.”
The Bank decided to move away from a distributed IT architecture and centralise its core banking application at its UAE headquarters. Business continuity would be assured through fully-redundant data centres. “Standardisation was one of the key elements for us,” explains Elkobrosy. “We wanted to provide an identical look and feel whether a customer is in the UAE or elsewhere in the world. We could achieve those goals through standardisation and centralisation.”
However, that strategy would make NBAD international operations more dependent on its global wide area network (WAN) to serve day-to-day operations. Meanwhile the resulting increase in data traffic would require a substantial hike in network capacity. With an existing infrastructure provided by a Europe-based service provider, the time had come to think anew.
NBAD chose to retain its legacy WAN, while BT Global Services was asked to build a high-performance overlay infrastructure. “Communications are vital in our industry,” says Elkobrosy. “We considered various risks, such as a service provider technology failure, and opted for a solution that would combine robustness with the most up-to-date technology.”
Based on the BT IP Connect global platform, the solution would give the bank the capacity and resilience it needed, along with the ability to load-balance traffic between the two networks. Elkobrosy says: “We liked the BT technology roadmap and BT had the right project management, account management and service capabilities in place. That offered a one-stop-shop to support our expansion plans.”
Supporting Ethernet access speeds up to 10Mbps, the BT IP Connect global solution provides always-on data transmission between international locations including Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Kuwait, London, Paris, Washington, Malaysia and China.
Wael El Kabbany, general manager of BT Middle East and North Africa, confirms: “Our network uses diverse fibre-optic technology and undersea cable routes, making it resilient in the face of normal day-to-day difficulties as well as natural disasters. That’s been proven in major events like the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.”
The rollout was organised in three phases over a 12-month period, starting at the NBAD headquarters in Abu Dhabi before moving on to encompass all international locations. Majed Salah El-Deen Moustafa, senior group leader for network services in the NBAD IT Department, says: “The BT project manager was the key person to co-ordinate all activities with our network team, as well as co-ordinating other service providers internationally and locally.”
For compliance and risk reasons, security is an essential discipline for NBAD at the physical, network and application layers. “BT Assure provides us with an optimum solution to secure our network,” confirms Salah El-Deen. “A very good SLA supports us twenty-four by seven, with network monitoring and support for all our branches.”
BT IP Connect global has enabled NBAD to connect its expanding regional and global banking operations with a resilient, higher-performance worldwide WAN. The BT hybrid virtual private network (hVPN) service allows internet-based access to the WAN from smaller sites using DSL, Ethernet, cable, 3G mobile or Wi-Fi techniques.
NBAD is building, with BT Global Services, a private cloud to serve its international footprint. Already, from its centralised redundant data centres, NBAD is providing cloud-based applications such as core banking, corporate and internet banking, and email to nine countries over the BT IP Connect global network.
As a managed network service, BT IP Connect global features worldwide support including a multilingual helpdesk, together with the attention of a UAE-based team should anything ever go wrong. “With our expansion, imagine 18 countries to deal with, each one with its own issues,” says Elkobrosy. “Now I have one BT service account manager to call and he makes sure I get the service I’m looking for.”
Telecoms technology connects the customer to the bank in many different ways. In the UAE, internet banking is one of the main customer and corporate interaction channels enabling bill payment, and money transfers from one account to another and one bank to another, both inside and outside the UAE.
Mobile banking is also gaining momentum, particularly for foreign workers sending remittances back to their home country. With over seven million such people in the UAE, there’s a substantial market for those payments. NBAD provides its own Swift-based mobile payments service in the UAE, called Arrow. It lets users transfer money through a mobile phone even if the recipient doesn’t have an account at the bank. Once it has received the information from the sender, NBAD sends a PIN code to the recipient via SMS. The customer can withdraw the cash from an ATM.
“Many people don’t have an account,” says Salah El-Deen, “and Arrow helps solve everyday problems. Husband and wife can send each other money, parents can send funds to their children, and employers can pay their workers’ wages.”
The BT IP Connect global solution deal comes on top of an earlier BT Radianz Cloud contract serving the NBAD trading floor in the UAE. Connecting thousands of locations around the world, BT Radianz Cloud makes more than 3,000 financial services applications from more than 400 service providers available to traders in more than 170 countries.
Elkobrosy concludes: “We want to continue to be the bank of choice for our customers around the world. By adding multiple routes for information to travel between different parts of the business, we’ve reduced risk and increased network availability. The contract with BT will cement our position as a leading global bank with the best and most secure connectivity for our operations, which means better and more consistent customer service.”
- BT IP Connect global with BT hVPN
- BT Assure
- BT Service Management
- BT Radianz Cloud