JP Morgan Chase has embarked on a four-year development of an integrated, global financial accounting system built around Oracle's E-Business suite. When completed, the system will serve as the hub of Chase's accounting information network, tying together some 2,500 product systems throughout the world.
JP Morgan Chase will leverage Oracle's Web capabilities to allow access from all of its locations throughout the Americas, Europe/Middle East and Asia.
"We've taken a strategic decision to leverage the Oracle financials platform for our global finance function," said Mark Coughlan, chief information officer for corporate business services at JP Morgan Chase. "The big win from this new platform is the ability to pull everything together, from the inception of an accounting event through to detailed general ledger postings, reg reporting entries, and management information."
The Oracle choice culminates a search that began shortly after the 2000 merger of JP Morgan and Chase Manhattan Bank. Late last year, the company began an exploration of financial systems capable of handling transaction volumes on a massive scale. It decided on Oracle within the past two months.
Topping the list of requirements for the new system were scale, simplicity and ease of integration.
"We have a broad set of products and locations," said Coughlan. "The system needed to be a global platform that's capable of handling the volumes we have."
Tampering with source code will be kept to a minimum. "We don't want to have to do lots of customizations," said Coughlan. "Our plan is to take the Oracle products off the shelf."
"That's something of a culture change," he noted. "A lot of firms try to customize everything, particularly financial services firms. We've decided to work with the technology, rather than reinvent it."
Central to Chase's deployment strategy is the notion of "single instance," a method for reducing IT overhead by installing a platform at one location, from where it can be accessed from any site around the world. "We don't intend to deploy 50 versions in each country," Coughlan said. "Our goal is to deploy a global hub."
"We may end up creating regional hubs for various reasons," he continued. "But essentially one code base, and one version in production."
The E-Business suite is an integrated set of applications that automate critical business processes. An open architecture and single data model allow applications to be deployed as individual modules, business flows or as an entire platform.
Prior to the merger, both JP Morgan and Chase maintained their own accounting systems, which then had to be combined. "The first challenge was to bring the companies together from a consolidated reporting perspective," said Coughlan. Bridging two Goliath organizations proved to be an even greater challenge than appeared at first. "It wasn't an optimal environment. The priority was to integrate the two sets of books."
The merger left financial professionals with the task of tracking the flow of data as it wound its way from individual systems through the division level on up to corporate. "As part of the merger, we had to figure out these flows," Coughlan said.
The Corporate Business Services group, which manages enterprise-wide systems such as finance, HR and procurement, has been able to function with a minimum of outside support, according to Coughlan.
"We've been self-sufficient in terms of analyzing information flows. We're planning to leverage Oracle's consultants to understand specific products. But we have a strong team internally, and it's our intention to drive this ourselves."