Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Back Office

Much thought is being given on how an end-user will interact with a mobile banking system. Many a debate hinges on the channel required, how the system will be distributed and how the functionality would work. What is sadly lacking though, is a quality debate on what happens in the back. This is often the most important element in insuring a workable (and legal) deployment - one that can be backed-up by reputable companies and that can deliver sustainable solutions to customers.

In evaluating back office functionality, a number of factors should be considered without which a solution would not be viable. We at Fundamo and our partners pride ourselves in our experience in many of these aspects. It is critical to work with experienced professionals to ensure that a sound, auditable and legal service is delivered to end customers. Operators should select solution providers with suitable experience and systems that are able to provide solutions that can be deployed in commercially viable instances:

Integration considerations
Unfortunately no solution is an island, and neither can mobile banking be deployed without due consideration of many different integrations that can be required. Some of the key integrations that are often required are: integration to existing bank accounts or credit cards, integration to clearing streams or switches, integration into infrastructure (like ATM's or POS's), integration into mobile infrastructure and integration into third party service providers (like bill providers or ticket vendors). Each of these integrations are often complex on their own, but to ensure a consistent integration architecture can be quite challenging. Fundamo technology ships with many pre-packaged integration tools.

Regulatory
Banking laws are different from one country to another and are often strictly enforced. A keen understanding of the implications and the options possible to cater for deposit taking, KYC and conformance to clearing and settlement regulations are important. Some of the deployments that we have been involved with can be quite challenging as one will have to consider novel schema's like push clearing and aggregated settlement. In instances where deployments span more than one regulatory domains (like in the case of money transfers), regulatory conformance is even more difficult.

Scalability and Recovery after disruptions
The banking world and telecommunications are very different in many ways. The typical transaction volumes experienced in the telecommunication industry is of an order of magnitude bigger than what is typically expected in banking. This in itself is a major challenge. It is just not possible to plug a phone into a banking system. This is almost like connecting a fire hydrant to a hosepipe. Something is going to break somewhere. The design required to ensure that transaction peaks can be managed should be built into the system from the start, but more important, functionality and capability to deal with disruptions and to be able to recover from disruptions where tens of thousands of pending mobile payment transactions must be resolved should be available.

Support for administrative staff
Back office business processes must be supplied with a working system to ensure an effective deployment. Administrative staff must have the ability to authenticate a customer (in a call center environment) and must have the ability to serve his/her requests. Financial staff must be able to evaluate performance, profitability and be able to post journals or raise interest or subscription fees (if applicable). All of this must be done in such a way that fraud is limited by means of role management and security mechanisms like dual authorisation etc. Systems without support for functionality like this is just not good enough. Systems should also generate suitable audit trails.

Commercial support
The importance of billing engines for mobile banking is often ignored. I have seen production deployments that do not have the ability to charge the customer (or merchant) for transactions that is being performed on the system. Capability like fee management, risk management and least cost management are critical to ensure a successful commercial deployment of a mobile banking system

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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