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CITIC Bank International is a Hong Kong-based commercial bank offering a range of financial services, including wealth management, personal banking, and wholesale banking, as well as serving global markets and providing treasury solutions. The bank has 30 branches in Hong Kong, and a branch in Macau. It also has a wholly owned subsidiary, CITIC Bank International (China) Limited, which is headquartered in Shenzhen with branches in Shanghai and Beijing. The bank’s overseas operations include branches in New York, Los Angeles, and Singapore.
CITIC Bank International implemented Oracle Database and Oracle Financials in 2006. Between 2006 and 2010, the bank’s database, containing critical information, such as customers’ transactions, payments, and account details, expanded by around 40%. The expansion impacted on the availability and speed of the bank’s online financial transactions and reporting functions. It also increased the time it took to create daily batch reports, such as transaction figures for regulatory bodies, from one hour to two-and-a-half hours. The longer batch window posed a particular problem for the finance department during periods of heavy system activity, as it lengthened the time to generate financial reports before the start of the business day.
To address these problems and take advantage of new product features, such as improved user interfaces and form customization, in November 2010 CITIC Bank International engaged Oracle Advanced Customer Services (ACS) to assist with an upgrade to Oracle Financials Release 12 and Oracle Database 11g.
“Upgrading to Oracle Financials Release 12 and Oracle Database 11g has improved the speed and availability of our online financial functions and provided us with a stable, scalable database platform,” said Thomas Poon, vice president, IT Division, CITIC Bank International. “By engaging Oracle ACS to provide end-to-end implementation support and guidance, we ensured the entire upgrade was completed within our tight timeframe.”
Originally incorporated in 1924 as Ka Wah Savings Bank Limited, a number of mergers and acquisitions over the past 10 years contributed to CITIC Bank International’s rapid expansion. In May 2010, the bank changed its name from CITIC Ka Wah Bank to CITIC Bank International, as the final stage of CITIC Group’s restructuring strategy to align its onshore and offshore commercial banking businesses.
CITIC Bank International’s financial department runs nightly batch reports, containing accounts payable and fixed asset information, such as account bookings, currency depreciations, bill payments, and achieved savings. Many of these batch reports are sent to the bank’s parent company or are used to create reports for banking regulatory bodies, such as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. It is therefore important that they are produced in an accurate and timely manner.
Due to the bank’s expansion, the size of its database had increased by 40%, which lengthened the time taken to complete overnight batch reports.
“Previously, to get batch reports completed by 6.30 a.m., we had to start running them at 4.00 a.m.,” said Poon. “As our database grew, the batch processing window was getting longer and longer, which put extra pressure on the financial department and our enterprise resource planning system. By upgrading to Oracle Database 11g, we have reduced the processing window by 30% and can complete our batch reports in an hour, despite the continuous increase in data. It also means we can produce and submit business and regulatory reports on time.
CITIC Bank International’s finance department enters a significant amount of banking, accounting, and transaction information into the bank’s accounting journal every day. Some of this data has to be entered manually, and some is generated automatically. The data is often merged to generate batch or regulatory reports.
“Once the financial data is merged or uploaded to our general ledger, our staff can see any discrepancies in, for example, the ledger balance,” said Poon. “They then need to go back through the journal entries to look for errors. In the past, it took several minutes for the system to compare data entries and check for mistakes.”
Upgrading to Oracle Database 11g enabled CITIC Bank International to decrease system response times for checking accounting journal entry discrepancies. “Previously, it could take up to three minutes; now it only takes around five seconds,” said Poon. “By reducing the time taken to correct errors, financial staff has more time to focus on higher value accounting processes.”
Upgrading to Oracle Financials Release 12 has enabled CITIC Bank International to take advantage of new or improved functions and features.
“One of the advantages of Oracle Financials Release 12 is the ability to bring up multiple ledger books on one screen when comparing data,” said Poon. “Our finance team has commented on the improved efficiency, as they no longer have to log out from one ledger and log in to another book to review data such as banking processes, accounts payable, and subsidiary banks’ performances.”
CITIC Bank International has also used Oracle Financials to develop four new customized financial forms and update previously customized forms, such as those used by different departments for paying invoices.
CITIC Bank International was using in-house IT resources to maintain its database and financial system. The declining performance of the expanding database prompted the bank to consider an upgrade, and at that time it also decided to seek external maintenance assistance.
The bank had a three-person team working on development and supporting the business. It engaged Oracle ACS to provide backup support and service to this team during the upgrade to Oracle Database 11g and Oracle Financials Release 12.
“At the time of the upgrade, we wanted a helping hand on the maintenance as the financial system is highly important to our business, since it handles the bank’s ledgers and a significant portion of our business and regulatory reports is dependent on the system,” said Poon.
“Maintaining healthy systems requires a range of skill sets on the database and application layers,” he added. “Oracle ACS had the people with the right skill sets available when we needed them―it was very helpful to have people on board who were familiar with the database and the Oracle Financials application. We saw an immediate improvement in performance after we engaged Oracle ACS to retune our systems, which included indexing tables in the database.”
According to Poon, the Oracle team was very responsive when the bank encountered problems during the upgrade. “They looked up the Oracle knowledge base and helped our internal team when the workload became demanding,” he said. “Oracle ACS was also very attentive to our needs; they organized regular phone and face-to-face meetings to discuss the project’s progress. We really appreciated that.”
The positive experience during the upgrade led CITIC Bank International to engage Oracle ACS on a permanent basis to ensure the stability of the production application. The bank has subscribed to Oracle’s Advanced Support Assistance to ensure technical guidance and support is available when needed. “This service means we can access Oracle technicians who can complete customizations and other minor projects as our business grows, as well as provide maintenance,” said Poon.
CITIC Bank International has used Oracle Database and Oracle Financials since 2006, and saw no reason to switch to another vendor’s products. “Both Oracle Database and Oracle Financials have served us well for many years,” said Poon. “Our staff is also highly familiar and satisfied with the performance of the products, so there was no logical reason to change.”
To conduct the upgrade, the bank went out to tender for a technical migration partner. “We invited a number of professional services firms to pitch for the project, which included hardware replacement,” said Poon. “In the end, we decided we were more comfortable working directly with Oracle in this case and chose Oracle ACS to assist with the implementation.
“The experience and comprehensive skill sets of Oracle ACS stood out from the other candidates,” he said. “The professionalism, product knowledge, and proactive and timely response of the team gave us confidence that the implementation would be completed on time and with minimal disruption to our business. Another important consideration was Oracle’s mature and integrated support and maintenance infrastructure, which extends from databases to applications. This was extremely crucial in case we ran into any complications during our Oracle Database and Oracle Financials upgrade.”
The Oracle upgrade began in November 2010. While the database and Oracle Financials upgrade was completed by Oracle ACS, CITIC Bank International was responsible for revising around 160 customized reports and migrating scripts. To assist the bank’s IT team in these two tasks, Oracle ACS provided technical briefings and upskilling on Oracle Database 11g and Oracle Financials Release 12. Oracle ACS was on hand throughout the development phase to provide assistance and advice.