Automated data reconciliation implemented at a major Canadian bank.
When Oscar Peterson (who died in 2007) wrote the song “My Personal Touch,” most people probably thought the title was referring to the piano keys he so skillfully caressed. But that’s far off the mark: The world famous jazz pianist dedicated this piece to the “personal touch banking machines” of Canada’s largest bank. They were highly advanced even back in 1981. Complex technology hidden beneath a user-friendly interface – in order to implement this objective, the bank relies on products from Beta Systems that help it keep data center processes up and running. This is among our largest Beta 91 installations in North America, and it has been upgraded and extended ever since its introduction in the early 90s.
Beta 91 is utilized for automatic data reconciliation of target and actual data for a wide range of z/OS-based banking and financial applications. This provides the bank with a standardized method that enables it to automatically verify all data and logs processed on the z/OS platform. Beta 91 also allows the mainframe team to automate and extend reconciliation and checking procedures already in place.
A total of approximately 400 applications are executed on the bank’s data center mainframe. About 100 of them require permanent balancing – i.e., at various stages the actual values generated in the applications need to be compared with predefined control values or historic data. If all data matches, the process can continue. If a process continues with wrong numbers or is delayed, the erroneous/outdated data can lead to incorrect calculation results or to wrong information being provided to the customer.
Automatic Process Beats Manual Checking
Previously, this data comparison was performed fully manually. Operations were processed and, where necessary, reconciled manually before production was allowed to commence. Beta 91 then allowed the bank to gradually shift the workflow to automatic data reconciliation. This process is implemented as an automatic data reconciliation routine embedded in the batch run. Beta 91 scans the control reports and extracts the totals. In other words, it checks whether the number of records is equal before and after a processing run. If this is the case, all records were processed.
This check is generally performed at night and currently involves approx. 1,000 jobs. Notifications about deviations are delivered to the IT team either via e-mail, the console, Tivoli or as log files. The bank can implement all checking algorithms into its existing processes and then call them up from the JCL in a dedicated step or directly from the application’s program code.
The Result: Improved Data Quality and Fewer Errors
The bank benefits from this technology in two ways: First, automatic data reconciliation is much less prone to errors than manual comparisons, and second, the process is speeded up significantly. “The current automated process is up to ten times as fast as the old one. Without Beta 91, we’d be in dire straits. Our IT department would need about 20-30 additional people simply to manually reconcile all processes,” explains a member of the bank’s IT team. What did the process look like without Beta 91? Expensive specialists had to screen individual job logs for inconsistencies, thus increasingly delaying batch runs. In addition to the manual workload involved, the old approach also bore financial risk as it was never fully certain whether current figures were accurate. This was also an impediment to sound financial planning. Moreover, there was always the danger of violating legal compliance regulations (SOX).
Banking IT Infrastructure Is Getting more Complex
This is no exaggeration if you take a close look at the changing IT infrastructure in the financial services sector.
Both with the Canadian bank and throughout our customer network, we have witnessed that new products and tools were continuously added to the portfolio over the years to implement the underlying processes. Also, individual applications themselves are growing because they need to keep up with new requirements. For example, the number of application batch jobs, and with it the number of reconciliations, is growing steadily.
As regards the bank discussed in this article, the number of routine checks in the POS system has risen to 20, which is nearly twice as many as 15 years ago. The same holds true for other representative applications supported by Beta 91: generating and managing service reference files and processes for controlling the personal touch banking machines, to name but a few examples.
The bank’s customers, on the other hand, generally do not care much how data is processed in the background. Yet they benefit from the professional work of the mainframe department, which ensures seamless, error-free corporate processes. Cash withdrawals at the PTB work like a charm and double account postings are just as unheard of as are erroneous automated payment reminders.
This ease of use and quality of service is a result of a system that minimizes errors throughout all applications by detecting deviations at a very early stage and then correcting them to prevent cascading incidents. For many years now, these control procedures have been executed in the development, testing and live systems, thus ensuring reliable and smooth mainframe application processes at the bank.
Preparing for Upgrade to Beta 91 Discovery
The change-over from the existing Agility solution to the Beta 91 Discovery product generation is scheduled for 2017. It will bring further improvements and better usability. For example, thanks to XCF support, the mainframe team will be able to launch the control software from any logical partition. Beta 91 Discovery also supplies the IT experts with a backout procedure for undoing jobs with faulty production workflows while retaining the original field values.