Morgan Stanley goes SOA

Morgan Stanley was recently talking about its major SOA investment spanning the last 18 months.

Implemented in its Global Wealth Management division , the justification for SOA was to give advisors and clients an integrated view of more accurate information, more quickly.  As with most SOA projects of this scale, SOA isn’t the whole story.  Morgan Stanley had to first upgrade the network infrastructure to give its branch network the bandwidth required, then implement SOA on top and finally use ETL to convert the data flowing through their service bus into the dashboards the advisors look at (and a customer portal).

Interesting aspects of the coverage include:

  • The programme was a strategic initiative to make this division competitive now and into the future.  Technology is simply the enabler to that goal.
  • A best of breed approach was taken to the technology: IBM for the SOA layer, Informatica for the ETL.
  • Web Services were used extensively (In the drive to distinguish between SOA and Web Services, it is easy to dismiss Web Services.  They can and often are part of the SOA technology stack)
  • The project included major rewrites of existing applications – to consolidate where possible and also to update so that they could be plugged into the SOA framework.
  • The common problem of changing the development culture away from write-it-all-ourselves was stressed.


Examples of SOA successes in smaller banks

Two stories that demonstrate success with SOA in smaller financial service organisations show how it can be used to support very different business objectives.

Obviously, SOA is not a certain or easy win and require a degree of organisational and technological change to be successful.  However, it is nice to see some success with SOA emerging in organisations apart from the usual suspects of Wachovia or HSBC.

The first is EBS, a firm with 10% of the Irish home loan market that wanted to automate its relationship with its network of brokers.   EBS recognised that its mortgage products were actually made up of a set of different products (core loan, home insurance, life policy, legals etc), each of which potentially required separate systems to complete processing.  The final SOA system is able to integrate across all of these systems and across to the brokers.  The biggest change/benefit highlighted by David Yeates, the senior manager of IT architecture at EBS, is actually the mythical alignment of business with IT – although he says it a little differently:

“A huge amount of business knowledge exists in the IT department, but that tacit knowledge remained there,” Yeates says of the old way of working. “It [SOA] turns the IT department on its head: suddenly, from being in the back room, you have to be at the front. The issues for IT departments are absolutely enormous. IT isn’t a thing that’s holding people back anymore.”

Yeates also mentions another benefit of their SOA deployment – not only does it reduce time to market for new products, it also allow them to white label other providers’ products.  Which neatly leads onto the second example of SOA success: Webster Bank,  profiled by IBS Publishing.  Webster came to SOA from a very different direction:  It wanted to move away from its own core banking systems – which were under strain – and outsource to use Fidelity’s systems.

The CTO, John Kershner states that the decision was whether to spend ‘x million dollars’ on point-to-point interfaces that would be difficult to support and maintain or take that money and invest it in new technology, to create an SOA infrastructure with the associated lower maintenance costs.

Again, the article claims that Webster has had pretty much unlimited success with the project.  Reflecting what is a common experience, Kershner highlights the biggest challenge as managing and coordinating as many as 30 different project teams over 15 to 18 months.