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08:51 PM
Judy Ward
Judy Ward
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Sterling Helps Wachovia Manage SWIFTNet Migration

Bank gets its FileAct together with new SWIFT messaging system

Last year, Wachovia Corp. found itself with a challenge in the bank's bulk payments area.

Wachovia (Charlotte, N.C.; $389 billion in assets) partners with European banks to provide payment services in North America and Latin America. For example, the bank receives pension payments through the FileAct system via its SWIFTNet Gateway and passes them to its back-end systems for processing.

The bank had been using the SWIFT Integrated File Transfer (IFT) software for receiving bulk payment data over the SWIFT X.25 network. But Belgium-based SWIFT, which supplies messaging services and interface software to 7,500 institutions in 200 countries, announced that it planned to phase out the IFT software. Its goal was to migrate to the IP-based SWIFTNet system and its SWIFT FileAct Service. Banks had until December 19, 2003 to get ready for the change.

So Wachovia had to search for software that would act as a middleman between the new SWIFT FileAct Service and the bank's own back-office operations. "SWIFT was doing away with the IFT product, so we were mandated to get off of the application by December and replace it with a new product" for bulk file messages, says Olivia Durocher, a vice president at Wachovia, who manages the SWIFT and offshore team within the bank's international division. "We needed file-transfer software to work with FileAct, integrating these files with our back-end applications," she says.

The bank decided on Connect:Direct for SWIFTNet software, from Sterling Commerce, Inc. (Columbus, Ohio), a subsidiary of SBC Communications Inc. In early December, Wachovia made the switch to the new software, which will send and receive bulk payment files from customers to the bank's own back-end applications. "Files come into the gateway, and Connect:Direct [for SWIFTNet] pushes (them) out to the back-end applications," Durocher says.

Wachovia started planning for the transition to SWIFTNet in the fall of 2002. Faced with the need for new file-transfer software, the company looked to Sterling Commerce. Wachovia already used Sterling's Connect:Direct in other areas of the bank for file transfers, which turned out to be important in making a decision. Connect:Direct "was working really well for us," Durocher says.

So deciding to go with Connect:Direct for SWIFTNet "was kind of a no-brainer for us." She declines to disclose how much Wachovia paid for the software.

By early 2003 Wachovia had a plan for the overall transition to SWIFTNet, and the company installed Connect:Direct for SwiftNET mid-year on Sun Unix hardware. "It was very straightforward to set up," Durocher says.

In the third quarter Wachovia started testing the new software with clients who had been using the IFT system. That process aimed to double-check that Connect:Direct for SWIFTNet could handle lots of different scenarios that might come up, including getting duplicate files.

While installing Connect:Direct for SWIFTNet did not prove too complex for Wachovia, Durocher says, the bigger challenge was that the overall transition to SWIFTNet turned out to be a multidimensional undertaking. However, the software has worked well for Wachovia, Durocher says. "It has been very flexible," she says.

At press time Sterling Commerce had plans to introduce the next release of Connect:Direct, and Durocher says that Wachovia will use it.


INSTITUTION: Wachovia (Charlotte, N.C.)

ASSETS: $389 billion

BUSINESS CHALLEGE: Standardize bulk payments file transfers.

SOLUTION: SWIFTNet upgrade using Connect:Direct for SWIFTNet, from Sterling Commerce, Inc. (Columbus, Ohio).

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