Firms find their way in unfamiliar terrain

Although all financial services firms have their customers in mind, and credit unions in particular claim to strive to serve their owner members, few go so far as the Kootenay Savings Credit Union whose voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) investment may expedite high-speed Internet access to residents of several B.C. communities.

With corporate offices in Trail, B.C., Kootenay Savings is a member-owned financial institution with thirteen branches throughout the Kootenay region, $542 million in assets, 40,000 members and over 200 employees. It also owns insurance and financial management subsidiaries and operates a Community Foundation.

Earlier this year the firm partnered with telecommunications company Telus with the goal of improving communication between the credit union’s branches stretched across about 400 kilometres.

The original business intent was to address the speed of connectivity between branches and gain the benefits of merging voice and data such as reduced long distance charges and travel expenses, increased productivity with the faster Internet access, less maintenance, plus functionality such as safe access for mobile executives.

It also puts in place a platform for video conferencing for training issues and corporate meetings, adds Dario Cescon, Kootenay Savings’ vice-president of marketing. “It gives us a new face-to-face communication medium to explore.”

He says those benefits have been calculated to provide a six-year return on investment. In addition, the joint investment by Telus and Kootenay Savings, (details of which Cescon declined to reveal), brings high-speed fibre connectivity for both data and voice that much closer to residents of the region’s communities.

“One of the things we struggle with in the B.C. Interior is getting fibre optics and high-speed Internet access and this will maybe help communities who would not have received it for a year or two more,” says Cescon. “It means the line truncates at a new point now where Telus can develop the actual connection to the businesses and residences.

“We’re just glad that something that made a sound business decision will have some impact to the communities that is positive,” he stresses. The project is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2004.


In a bid to make their SWIFT connectivity always available, Desjardins Group, the largest financial institution in Quebec, is the first organization to implement the SWIFTNet Monitoring solution from Expertus Technologies Inc.

Desjardins sends and receives approximately 2,000 messages per day over the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network. In the past, a problem with the local connection to the network would require the user to engage technical support for help. Now, warnings and alerts are routed directly to designated experts with Desjardins or Expertus.

With offices in Montreal and Toronto, consulting firm Expertus provides financial institutions and large corporations with end-to-end STP Payment Solutions. An accredited SWIFT Service Partner, Expertus offers SWIFTNet Services and Monetis Payment Solution.

According to an announcement from Computer Associates International, Inc. (CA), Expertus is using CA’s Unicenter technology as the cornerstone for the monitoring service said to deliver maximum network uptime and connectivity to financial institutions across North America. Unicenter Network and Systems Management (Unicenter NSM) provides alerts to improve performance and ensure the maximum uptime of payment applications over the SWIFT network.

“As a financial institution we must ensure that our connection to the SWIFT financial network is flawless,” the release attributes to Claude Girard, manager, development and maintenance of information systems, Desjardins.

“Every day, we handle billions of dollars of transactions with financial institutions over the SWIFT network, so we must be connected constantly. Ensuring more than 99 per cent uptime is crucial to our financial well-being and instrumental in maintaining our credibility and reputation.”


Steven Sheinheit, senior vice president and chief technology officer at MetLife Inc., spent much of 2003 creating a data utility — the first component in an ambitious utility computing environment planned for the New York-based financial services company.

The shared environment for database servers established a repeatable process for acquiring database resources and offers a pay-for-use model, allowing MetLife to decrease its number of stand-alone servers and reduce operating expenses.

Because utility computing is wild-blue-yonder territory, Sheinheit says he approached the project by breaking it down into other more manageable endeavours. “There are certain things you have to do to succeed at any demanding project,” he says. “The first is to grab people’s minds and imaginations and sell the concept” to senior management and the company as a whole.

Once the concept is sold and the initial investment made, Sheinheit says, it’s critical to maintain the momentum by building a prototype as soon as possible — especially when the project is difficult to grasp, as utility computing is for many. “You’re spending money here,” he says. “You’ve got to show quick results.”

— with file from Steve Ulfelder, Computerworld (U.S.)

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