AIK Banka

As one of the leading banks in Serbia, AIK Banka focuses on building lasting relationships based on safety and trust. Every minute of system unavailability presents a risk to income realization, productivity, and reputation among the clients. The management of AIK Banka has recognized the necessity of improving and optimizing the existing disaster recovery plan.

Goals

  • Establishing a reliable disaster recovery plan that will provide business continuity and replace the existing equipment
  • AIK Banka and Jubanka system integration
  • Platform modernization without changing technologies and topology already in use
  • Optimizing the licensing program
  • A better solution, but a lower TCO (total costs of ownership)

Approach

  • Improving the system following already defined technologies and business processes
  • Analyzing current and future needs, presenting alternative solutions, and proposing an optimal migration plan
  • Executing solutions with efficient cooperation and communication with existing partners and associates
  • Taking responsibility for functionality and availability of the server itself within the agreed SLA

Results

  • Reliable and optimal disaster recovery plan in tune with existing work processes, technology, and partners
  • 40% lower IT infrastructure costs compared to the in-house solution
  • Virtualized Jubanka system integrated into the AIK Banka system
  • Flexibility and customer satisfaction, both from a technical and business angle

AIK Banka is one of the leading banks in Serbia that has built a good reputation as a reliable financial institution thanks to its stable business tactics tailored to its clients’ needs. In its efforts to keep up to date, the bank has been investing in developing digital services and safety solutions in the field of electronic and mobile banking.

As one of its strategic goals, AIK Banka dove into improving its position on both the domestic and regional market via capital investment in Gorenjska Banka a.d., and since April 2017, it has been the sole owner of Alpha Bank Srbija (later renamed Jubanka a.d.).

In collaboration, the two banks have defined new market goals, primarily in improving the number and quality of its services, optimizing operational costs, and raising the overall business to a higher level.

However, AIK Banka had to simultaneously focus on improving the IT infrastructure and integrating the two banks’ different IT systems.

The Start of Cooperation With AIK Banka

AIK Banka has gone through several cycles of refurbishing IT equipment and adjusting its practices to suit the regulatory framework, as well as looking for a reliable partner with the necessary experience, professionalism, and capacity to realize the best IT solutions.

In February 2017, we suggested two initiatives to AIK Banka, which would become the basis of the bank’s digital transformation process:

  • Improving the infrastructure through consolidating and hosting the disaster recovery system
  • Outsourcing work stations and the service desk via VDI technology

During this initial phase of cooperation, an agreement was reached to pursue further solutions to fully adapt to the specific situation that AIK Banka was in at that time, i.e., in the complicated process of acquiring Alpha Banka. After all, they were two institutions with different ways of handling costs and opposite approaches to IT infrastructure and expenses.

The IT Challenges and AIK Banka’s Specific Requirements

At the beginning of the cooperation, AIK Banka already had a fully operational disaster recovery plan. However, the lack of storage space and the insufficient safety of the system posed quite a few problems.

It was necessary to improve the existing method. Some of the main problems were:

  • Inadequate data center for disaster recovery and the burden of in-house system maintenance
  • The lack of resources to expand the IT infrastructure
  • Out-of-date equipment — 2018 was the year when the equipment was coming out of amortization (VMware 5), and there was a need to upgrade (VMware 6)

On the other hand, Jubanka didn’t have a virtualized system, employing rather numerous older-generation physical servers. One of AIK Banka’s main requests was to keep hold of Jubanka’s data history, which wasn’t a simple task since this information was held both locally and in Athens.

AIK Banka wanted a better disaster recovery plan that would be more scalable even with optimized expenses.

It was necessary to:

  • Modernize the present platform without violating the existing technologies and topologies
  • Completely integrate IT systems of the two banks
  • Implement a reliable and effective disaster recovery plan
  • Optimize the licensing program
  • Provide a better solution for a lower TCO

Defining and Implementing an Optimal DR Solution

Since AIK Banka’s case was complicated and there was a need to include several other parties, the whole cooperation process lasted fourteen months. It was an unusually long process, but the circumstances were peculiar too.

The process was divided into three phases:

  • Analysis and proposal of an alternative solution
  • Choosing the best solution and migration plan
  • Implementing and testing the DR solution

Analyzing the most efficient solution took the majority of the time so that all participating parties would understand the benefits of the implementation. Led by their IT executive Biljana Atanasković, AIK Banka’s IT team showed that they understood the importance and possibilities that new technologies could bring to the bank’s future businesses and professionalism and commitment to the realization of highly demanding IT projects and changes.

During the first phase, Mainstream analyzed the IT infrastructures of both banks and put forward their conclusions and suggestions in a detailed business case. According to that, an optimal disaster plan hosted in a Mainstream Enterprise Cloud environment was suggested as a way to upgrade the infrastructure and optimize costs. After the presentation and the management’s approval, it was time for the migration and solution realization phase. In this case, the system migration itself was performed efficiently and according to a detailed plan, lasting only four months.

Implementing solutions came with several challenges, many of them directly linked to current activities of merging Jubanka with AIK Banka and technical migration, which was necessary to accomplish without disturbing the rhythm of the business.

Besides that, the project of externalization required time. It was necessary to prepare documentation for AIK Banka’s IT team regulator, who had to manage numerous activities in a short period.

AIK Banka’s DR Solution Efficiency

The hosting solution we implemented showed to be ideal in the AIK Banka case. With a comparative analysis of both the in-house and the Mainstream’s hosting solutions, we concluded that five-year cumulative savings amounted to 42%, which was a great result.

The Project Also Brought Several Unquantifiable Benefits

1. Improvement of Efficiency and Effectiveness of IT Operations

  • Proactive support and early detection and response to HW and SW problems
  • Single point of contact — reducing the number of partners needing communication
  • The possibility of greater focus on other IT activities that would bring a higher value to the bank
  • Predictable IT expenses
  • Flexibility in further growth

2. Risk Reduction in IT Operations

  • Guaranteed level of availability and service delivery according to signed SLA
  • An isolated infrastructural environment in TIER 3 data center
  • Quick recovery in case of partial or complete data center failure
  • Regular equipment renewal
  • Maintaining the quality of provided services through continual technical education of employees

With Mainstream Enterprise Cloud (private cloud), the optimization of IT costs was made possible, mainly due to switching from CAPEX to OPEX. Such flexibility allowed better management of resources and an unburdened investment into the development of other business segments, which was one of AIK Banka’s primary requests.

Since the bank operates with classified and sensitive data, it is necessary to have a high level of security. Even in the worst-case scenarios, such as a partial or complete loss of the data center, the information is safe thanks to the mutual copying of the data center.

By signing the SLA (Service-Level Agreement) contract with AIK Banka, Mainstream company had overtaken the complete care of infrastructure and all adjustments, providing high-end support alongside vouching for permanent 24/7 system availability. Thus, a single point of contact was established, which greatly simplified communication and eased all the processes.


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