Printer Friendly


Melbourne-based National Australia Bank - the largest financial institution in Australia and part of the National Australia Bank group, one of the world's largest financial services groups - has launched a FICS-developed transactional Internet banking suite for its retail customers. Developed as an "Australianized" version of FICS Group's standard FICS - Retail Internet Banking product, the new system leverages the Java programming language to offer a range of on-line banking services to the Bank's customers. The product is currently undergoing a trial with staff members and selected customers. National Australia Bank plans to make a full launch of the product later this year.

National Australia Bank began working with FICS Group at the end of 1997, following a search for a secure medium for offering Internet-based banking services to its customers. The Bank chose the FICS - Electronic Services Delivery Server, running under an AIX platform, to handle transaction processing and the links to the Bank's existing back-office systems. On the customer side, the Bank chose a customized version of the standard FICS - Retail Internet Banking product. Customization and `Australianization' of the FICS - Retail Internet Banking product was handled by FICS Australia, FICS Group's Sydney-based subsidiary.

"We were insistent that the Internet banking solution we presented to our customers was one in which we could all have confidence," said Glenn Barnes, executive general manager, Business and Personal Financial Services at National Australia Bank. "After an exhaustive global search, we have launched an Internet banking service that meets all of our criteria."

Standard FICS functionality, with an Australian twist

National Australia Bank's product is based around the standard functionality of the FICS - Retail Internet Banking: account reporting, transaction initiation, and customer messaging. It also integrates Australia-specific customizations, developed for the Bank by FICS Australia. These include BPAY payments (the nationwide standard for electronic bill payments launched in 1997) and Australian accounting standards. Direct Payroll payments and Import of Direct Entry files conforming to the APCA (Australian Payments Clearing Association) standard will be added.

"National Australia Bank's service will go far beyond simply replicating functions offered by telephone banking," adds Mark Hartley, country manager of FICS Australia. "The system offers customers the ability to configure information to their own needs."

The new service will offer such advanced functions as the following:

* the ability to purchase a term deposit

* support for reporting the last 100 transactions

* the ability to sort transactions into an order determined by each individual customer

* email transmission and receipt

* activation of same day and future dated payments including BPAY

* Periodic Payments and Inter Bank transfers

* Import/Export to other local PC applications such as Excel

Java: the long-term solution

National Australia Bank's product is the first Internet banking product on the Australian market to be developed in the Java programming language. The FICS - Retail Internet Banking product on which it is based is written in pure Java code. As such, it can be run on any computer with latest generation Internet browser software.

"When it came to developing our international Internet banking offering, Java offered many benefits over a simple HTML-based solution," explained Etienne Castiaux, director, Products Unit at FICS Group in Brussels. "For example, local storage of processing functions mean that a bank's customers only need to download essential data from the bank's server. And as Java offers Object Oriented development - i.e. the possibility to scale, upgrade and re-use components - new functions can be integrated in an incremental way."

The National Australia Bank product can thus evolve to include extended functionality in future. Possibilities include the recharging and interfacing with electronic purses (e.g. Proton or Mondex): this option is already available within the FICS - Retail Internet Banking offering.

Strong security

One of National Australia Bank's priorities in choosing a developer for their Internet banking product was to guarantee security. FICS Group's solution provides 168bit 3DES channel encryption, as opposed to just 128 bit SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology. It also uses client and server authentication (`dual authentication') with 1024bit RSA, maintains data integrity via the SHA1 (Secure Hash Algorithm) algorithm, and provides for non-repudiation through the signing of Java applets. National Australia Bank also chose to implement the use of a digital certificate stored on the clients hard drive. This is another first on the Australian market, and adds to the matrix of security solutions within the FICS - Retail Internet Banking product.

"The FICS - Retail Internet Banking product is designed to accommodate the security preferences of the bank," continues Etienne Castiaux. "As well as locally stored digital certificates - the choice made by National Australia Bank - smart card support is also available."

Another security feature of the National Australia Bank project is the use of `floating keypads': these are windows containing numbers which appear on the screen. The customer clicks on the numbers to enter his/her password.

These avoid the need for customers to use their keyboard to enter a password. Floating keypads are an effective way of avoiding a "trojan horse" attack. A trojan horse attack is where a virus downloaded off the Internet is programmed to 'sniff' all the keystrokes on the local computer, and send the information to a third party. The third party is thus able to find a password entered through the keyboard by checking what the virus has "sniffed."

Behind the scenes: the ESD Server and the Virtual Banking Gateway

Links to the Bank's back-office processing systems, and the interface with bank staff, is achieved through the FICS - Electronic Services Delivery Server (also a standard FICS Group product) which for Internet banking products integrates an added component, the Virtual Banking Gateway.

The Virtual Banking Gateway performs the dual authentication with the client, handling encryption and the linkage to FICS Group's Electronic Services Delivery Server. It supports the use of the system by high volumes of users by serializing the calls made to the server, thus ensuring that the server receives a steady stream of calls, rather than any surges. This traffic regulation guards against bottlenecks, improves performance, and guarantees the scalability of the solution should the market demand it.

The FICS - Electronic Services Delivery Server, running under the AIX platform, acts as the interface to the Bank's back office. It features an administration module, enabling the operator to conduct customer administration (audit trails, password management, user creation, etc.), and automated transaction processing functions. For the National Australia Bank product, enhancements were made to the system to enable seamless linkage to local Australian messaging standards, such as BPAY. The server is also able to store information on a temporary basis; for example, if a customer makes a future payment, it retains information about the transaction until the due date of the payment before sending it to the Bank's back office.

Growth for FICS Group Down Under

The launch of the National Australia Bank product is the latest in a series of successes for FICS Group's Australian subsidiary. In the past, FICS Australia has developed remote electronic banking applications for Westpac ("Business Deskbank") and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. FICS Australia is currently active on a range of local customizations of FICS Group's standard products for the Australian market, including an Australian payments warehouse.


National Australia Bank is one of the world's largest and most successful financial services groups. In the Fortune 500 survey of August 1997, it was ranked 53rd biggest bank in the world and the 9th most profitable. It is Australia's largest financial institution, providing financial services to a broad range of market segments, including retail customers and commercial services.

The National Australia Bank group has grown into a global organization in recent years through the establishment of local branches and through a series of mergers and acquisitions. Banks within the group include Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank, Northern Bank (United Kingdom), National Irish Bank (Republic of Ireland), Bank of New Zealand (New Zealand), and Michigan Financial Corporation (United States). In 1997, the bank recorded an asset base of around $202 billion and 9 million customers.


FICS Group, founded in Belgium in 1989, focuses on two core business activities: Electronic Services Delivery and Financial Reporting Systems. The products and services of the Electronic Services Delivery (ESD) division range from Windows-based and Internet-enabled electronic banking solutions for retail and corporate banking to electronic commerce and electronic purse solutions.

ESD activities are based on a series of products, including the FICS Electronic Services Delivery Server. This Server has been developed to support all forms of electronic banking, from traditional electronic delivery systems to Internet, phone, fax, PDA and mobile phone banking services. The Financial Reporting Systems (FRS) offering addresses the regulatory, financial and management reporting needs of banks, insurance companies, pension funds, mutual funds and brokers.

Since its foundation the company has grown to more than 580 people, with subsidiaries in 10 countries including the United States, Australia, Singapore, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. More than 600 financial institutions world-wide rely on its products and services, including ABN-AMRO, BNP, Bank of America, Barclays Bank, Citibank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Deutsche Bank, ING Bank, Lloyds Bank, Nomura Bank and Sumitomo Bank. FICS Group generated revenues of more than USD 40 million in 1997.

For more information, call 704/332-2030.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Worldwide Videotex
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Worldwide Telecom
Article Type:Article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 1, 1998

Related Articles
Loan processor from FICS.
Security First Acquires FICS and Edify for $1.43bn.
M&A Impact: S1 a First for Online Financials M&A.
Security First Renegotiates Deal for FICS Group.
Security First Pays $166m for VerticalOne.
Mortgage technology specialists: Financial Industry Computer Systems, Inc.
Credit union implements FICS systems.
Charlotte Metro Credit Union upgrades to FICS solutions.
FICS announces more flexible architecture for iNetAp.
NorthMarq Capital shreds paper statements with FICS.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters