Elders Rural Bank , a joint venture between Bendigo Bank and Elders , has started using its new A$3 million (US$2.17 million) AgriBank System (ABS) allowing remote workers to conduct loan application and management, according to the company's IT resources manager Brenton Parham.
Parham said with the bank's IT infrastructure being "leveraged" from that of its partners, the time had come to develop their own system.
"Our banking system is Bendigo's and we use Elders' WAN and branch network," he said. "We looked at using Bendigo's Retail Finance System (RFS) across our branches but it was becoming increasingly difficult to use and would be too costly to roll out."
The bank's key objective was to deliver a loans system to its network of 300 branches and 60 mobile lenders in a "point-and-click" interface rather than the "green screen" of RFS, Parham said.
"We started this project three years ago when the bank was established," he said. "The initial challenge was to integrate the Elders' AS/400 system with Bendigo's RFS which runs on a Hitachi mainframe. The integration work was done by Essential Computer Systems who had to work with a lot of duplicate member data present in RFS."
Essential performed the evaluation for the AgriBank System and chose Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise for the central database and application server, and developed a client application with Sybase's PowerBuilder on top of the Adaptive Server Anywhere database.
An Intel-based Stratus fault tolerant server running Windows 2000 Advanced Server was the chosen platform.
ERB systems administrator Chris Kirkwood said the live system has been well received by staff, which hadn't previously had central access to this amount of information.
"Field staff can use the system offline at the farm and changes are synchronized with the main database when they get back online," Kirkwood said. "Although customers don't have access to the system they benefit through better service. ABS is fully automated and includes client and workflow systems."
The database is still small at 1.5G bytes but Kirkwood expects this to grow to 4G bytes by the end of next year.
Parham said that, at A$3 million, the project was completed "fairly cheaply" and included all the development and testing work.
"The big four banks would be pleased with a project outcome like this," Parham said.
Sybase's Australia and New Zealand managing director Peter Fletcher said with all the talk of offshore outsourcing, it's great to see a locally developed banking system being used at Elders. "This design works well in geographically dispersed rural Australia where Internet access is not always available. That's the benefit of a distributed database architecture."