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Two Implementation Phases Down, Four More to go at ABN Amro, Says PaceMetrics’ Giblin

After six months of implementation time, EDM vendor PaceMetrics has completed the first two phases of ABN Amro’s data management project, which it began as a follow up to the acquisition of a portion of its business by a consortium last year. According to Gerry Giblin, CEO of PaceMetrics, the firms started talking back in the second quarter of 2009 and the implementation of the Assure solution began in September. There are now a further four phases to be completed in order to bring Fortis’ systems onto the solution, following its merger with ABN Amro in July this year.

ABN Amro was prompted to buy in a data management solution in order to make up for the loss of its existing internal data management system as part of the acquisition of some of its business by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) led consortium (to see the other side of the coin – RBS’ trials and tribulations with ABN Amro’s entity data). The first two phases of implementation were therefore part of the separation project to replace the data cleansing and management systems that were lost as part of the RBS consortium deal. ABN Amro’s previous system was provided by PaceMetrics’ EDM rival Asset Control.

“The first phase took four months to complete, until the end of last year, and was aimed at getting as many mission critical systems onto the Assure solution as possible,” explains Giblin. This involved around four or five main systems at the firm’s headquarters in Amsterdam and was tackled in an incremental manner, with the systems release and testing procedures taking place before each downstream system went live on the solution.

The initial phase was fairly challenging as the vendor had to match the delivery of cleansed prices from the previous system, for example, without having access to the behind the scenes data within that system due to the consortium buy out, according to Giblin. The legal separation of the business therefore threw a number of obstacles in the way of the project, much like the challenges faced by RBS and the other consortium members on the other side of the fence.

The second phase, which involved a further seven or eight systems, saw the rollout extend to the majority of ABN Amro’s downstream processes. Giblin indicates that although this was more of the same in terms of having the environment already set up and having defined the process, it was a challenging phase as it involved a number of more complex data items. For example, the phase involved the movement of the firm’s yield curve generation and testing systems onto the Assure platform.

Assure now provides a full audit trail of all data cleansing activity and data quality indicators for foreign exchange, interest rates, curves, volatilities and inflation products. This group will also soon be expanded to include bonds, derivatives, commodities, futures and Basel II information, according to the vendor.

The next part of the project will see the move of the Dutch part of Fortis’ systems onto the Assure platform. The integration of the business has been mandated by the Dutch government and work has already begun on the first phase of the new four phase project, which is due to be completed in December. The second phase is scheduled to be completed in March of next year but the timetable for the final two phases has yet to be articulated. This new project will involve more than a dozen systems being moved onto Assure.

However, Giblin indicates that the Fortis project will be less pressurised than the previous project, as it is not being driven by the strict deadlines involved in the latter’s legal entity separation.

Giblin reckons that PaceMetrics’ solution stood out from the crowd during the request for proposal process due to its lean data model, which models and monitors only the data being used by a firm. ABN Amro looked at the “standard list” of vendors in the space, he says, but Assure was the only one that could facilitate the speed of implementation in the manner required by the firm. Due to the fact the systems were being replaced in their entirety, the firm also had something of a green field site to work with and could therefore adopt a process centric approach, he adds.

The vendor has been keenly touting its lean data model this year as a solution to the pressures faced by data managers in a tough economic climate. The theory is that by looking at a firm’s downstream consuming systems, rather than building a monolithic centralised data management platform, the vendor is able to implement the solution faster and more efficiently.

To this end, Giblin believes ABN Amro has benefited from the speed of implementation but has also received the promised deliverables of greater data transparency, auditability and efficiency. “There is much more transparency about the source of the data that feeds these downstream systems and our data governance approach is much more business oriented than the more traditional centralised solutions. It has also provided ABN Amro with a single system to monitor the provision of data feeds and data vendor relationships,” he explains.

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