Published October 29, 2012

Has a new paradigm for business intelligence emerged?

Vivek Subramanyam,CEO of iCreate discusses the organisation’s aim to create a new paradigm for business intelligence solution - “Business Intelligence in a Box”.

Date: Oct 29, 2012
Author: Carol Wheatcroft
Categories: Data & Analytics, Data Management, Innovation, Technology & Operations
Keywords: iCreate, Vivek Subramanyam, BI, Biz$Score, Data Governance, BNP Paribas, ABN Amro, Bank Mandiri, HDFC Bank

According to iCreate chief executive officer Vivek Subramanyam, as banks’ increasingly advanced technological capabilities see their transaction systems begin to multiply, it is not uncommon for small banks to possess 10 transaction systems, with 30-40 similar systems for mid-sized banks, and 80-100 for large banks. It was against this backdrop that iCreate’s founders decided that the next level of banking technology investment would be in extracting value from the data held by these systems, posing the question “what sort of information would stakeholders within banks require?” They concluded that although there appeared to be multiple requirements from different stakeholders, most of the information required came from the data held by transactional systems and could be classified under five pillars:

- Management solutions (MIS): Information required for planning decisions around profitability and forecasting.
- Regulation and compliance: Information for central bank reporting, satisfying Basel III requirements and stress testing.
- Revenue and profitability: Information needed to increase banks’ bottom lines that in turn depended on information about the customers’ wallet (e.g. how much does the bank control; what is the potential customer lifetime value?).
- Customer engagement: Information creating a single view of customers’ activities with banks that can be used to create relationship loyalty programmes.
- Productivity and efficiency: Information around channel efficiency.

In iCreate’s view, banks engage system integrators to assess their information requirements and then design, develop, test and deploy solutions that extracted the required data from banks’ transaction systems, presenting it in customised formats agreed with their banking clients.

Recognising what they perceived as inefficiencies within the business intelligence (BI) arena, especially in the way solutions are packaged, iCreate set out to come up with a new approach that turned conventional thinking on its head. By using pre-built components, iCreate’s Biz$Score solution helps banks’ decision makers solve different problems swiftly - within seven months is not unusual – and at a total cost of ownership that is 50- 80% less than the customised approaches normally taken by their competitors.

Explaining iCreate’s approach to BI, compared to other players in market space, Subramanyam said that the organisation aimed to provide an out-of-the-box solution, which thanks to pre-packaged content, can be rapidly deployed with a little customisation.

But surely such an approach to BI borders on utopian? When challenged about customisation needs to suit individual banks within different markets, Subramanyam remained unfazed, claiming that although there are nuances, many of the requirements were the same irrespective of geography. Although Subramanyam acknowledged that certain areas, such as banks’ central bank reporting function, require a higher level of customisation, he claimed that 60-80% of information requirements were standard, and since iCreate’s underlying data model is all encompassing and able to satisfy standard requirements, it is mainly the front end screens and dashboards that required modification.

To adopt iCreate’s Biz$Score solution, banks still needed to define their data governance model. While iCreate is able to provide support and guidance about the best practices, banks must police their own data governance rules. As Subramanyam puts it, “We can support the back end with master data solutions, profile the data and give them (the customer) screens to clean it up. But unless banks see data governance as a problem and want to fix it, technology can only clean it up later.”

This approach has proved successful, with iCreate experiencing explosive growth in excess of 100% per year with most new client acquisition occurring over the past year to 18 months. Today, the company is working with over 25 banks. Well known global banks such as BNP Paribas and ABN Amro are already customers, as are regional banks such as India’s HDFC Bank and Indonesia’s Bank Mandir. The company hopes to enter both European and US markets in the near future.

But why has no one adopted iCreate’s approach before? Subramanyam opined that it might be down to the way iCreate’s competitors are structured. “In terms of large competitors, technically there is nothing stopping them as they already control a large portion of the value chain. They have databases where the data is stored, they have appliances optimised for analytical applications, they have the ability to integrate data, they have the front end capability, and the consulting practices to put it all together but each one is an independent channel focused on increasing sales in that area,” Subramanyam said.

While iCreate’s approach to BI is refreshing, it is too soon to determine if it is sufficiently innovative to lead to a flurry of copycat activity from competitors. The Asian Banker’s view is that banks should take note when considering new investments in business intelligence systems.