Bank of America (BofA), its
subsidiary Merrill Lynch and payments software developer Fundtech
have joined forces to build an online payments hub that borrows
heavily from courier giant Federal Express’ (Fedex) philosophies of
tracking and consumer choice.
Just as Fedex allows the shipper to choose from a variety of tiered
shipping options, then easily follow the package online from
doorstep to doorstep, Bank of America’s new portal harnesses
service-oriented architecture (SOA) to allow clients to choose the
most advantageous route for payments, then append transaction
details to email alerts notifying the recipient of the incoming
The payments hub will handle transactions for a wide range of
cash-management customers, from small and mid-size businesses to
large corporate and trust clients all over the world Cindy Murray,
global banking and wealth management e-commerce executive for Bank
of America’s Global Corporate & Investment Banking division,
Murray said the hub will allow BofA to consolidate multiple
platforms that the bank operates from, including those of Merrill
Lynch, but also LaSalle Bank, which Bank of America bought from
Dutch bank ABN AMRO Holding in 2007. LaSalle had a portal similar
to the one BofA is now launching, she said, but it was not built to
handle the volume that the bank’s payments business
“In 18 months we’ll have gone from seven different applications
handling payments to a single portal,” she said. “This will allow
customers to personalise their payments dashboards, provide them
with a single repository of payment information, and alerts for
payments awaiting approval. It’s a huge step forward for us.”
Bank of America will use the hub to streamline its internal
systems, including those of Merrill Lynch, which it acquired this
year. The hub is designed to support consistent processing for all
payments regardless of channel, including payments initiated online
or by telephone, Murray said.
Bank of America is building its payments hub using the Global
Platform from Fundtech of Jersey City, New Jersey. George Ravich,
Fundtech executive vice-president and chief marketing officer, said
that Global PAYplus allows the hub to provide incredibly detailed
reports of transaction details to BofA clients through
“This is picking up on a huge new trend out there, which is taking
a lot of information from the back office and bringing it to the
front office and monetising it,” Ravich said.
“This is the type of product that fulfills the promise of
service-oriented architecture, and it demonstrates that payments
are not commoditised, and that you can differentiate the payments
Murray said that one of the strengths of the new payments hub will
be the aggregated remittance data, which will allow Bank of America
to provide advisory services to clients.
The hub from Fundtech is part of a company-wide evolution to a
services-based approach that transforms all of Fundtech’s
transaction banking products into an integrated suite of SOA
services including payments, cash management, financial messaging,
and financial supply chain, Ravich said.
Fundtech has developed a single shared-services framework that is
platform-independent, based on an open architecture and XML-based
data model, ensuring compatibility with bank-developed and
third-party SOA-based services.
In what Fundtech calls STP@Source, clients are engaged in the
validation and enrichment of payment transactions, resulting in
fewer exceptions and lower cost. Clients are empowered to make
routing and pricing decisions resulting in a faster and more
The online hub would be available in the first half of 2010, Murray
said, adding that the rollout would begin with large-value
international payments, then low-value payments outside the US,
before moving to domestic payments.
The hub will support consistent processing for all payments
regardless of channel, provide faster and lower-cost payment
processing, enhance flexibility and improve response times to new
opportunities, and allow other advanced functions.
“We will be able to drive integration among common payments
processes, react more swiftly to evolving standards and regulatory
changes, and leverage our payments capabilities to gain
efficiencies for both clients and the bank,” Murray said. “Online
clients will be able to monitor payment status in real time, and
the new system will be able to select the best way to process
payments based on pricing and urgency,” she said.
Citi joins the trend
Cash management and electronic payments were also the focus of
Citigroup this month, as the other US banking giant announced its
CitiDirect BE (for ‘banking evolution’) cash management platform,
which includes such advanced online capabilities as user-generated
content and a video channel.
The portal is available now to more than 300,000 users worldwide,
mostly multinational corporations, along with government agencies
and small and mid-size businesses in some markets.
Citi’s Global Transaction Services announced a multiyear initiative
with Microsoft to support CitiDirect BE, which will serve its
corporate, financial institution and public sector clients and also
will be optimised for the white-label business model.
Building on the CitiDirect Online Banking platform first introduced
in 1999, CitiDirect BE will provide a new diverse set of
functionality beyond traditional transaction management and
reporting. It will include capabilities for sophisticated analytics
and user-generated content, a media/video channel as well as Citi’s
innovative Electronic Bank Account Management offering.
CitiDirect BE said that in addition to the new features it will
make these tools available via multiple delivery channels that
corporate clients require, including a web portal, à la carte web
services, straight-through connectivity via SWIFT or the Internet,
as well as mobile devices.
In addition to enhanced online training and user support,
CitiDirect BE features extensive video-based content created by
experts across Citi’s 100-plus country network which provides users
with a central repository of unique, insightful and relevant
information on critical topics in treasury and trade