By Ronan Hughes
Note: This is a guest-contributed article by Ronan Hughes. He is the Core Banking Principal Architect for the Bank of Ireland which this year celebrates its 240-year anniversary.
Discussions about mainframe simplification at the Bank of Ireland may sound familiar to IT leaders at other banks and financial institutions.
The business is increasing investment in digital experiences that will enhance our relationships with customers. Cloud and generative AI have won everyone’s attention. There’s a desire to move workloads to the cloud for the speed and agility advantages it would offer. But there’s also a lack of understanding about why we can’t just move right away.
Beneath all this, we have a sprawling IT estate that needs attention, because it’s built on aging infrastructure. Some of it is at, or even past, what would be considered end-of-life.
To move forward and support the Bank of Ireland’s strategic growth pillars, we’re pursuing what can be described as a mainframe simplification agenda. The approach is characterized by three ways of working that I believe any bank technology leader would want to keep in mind:
- Protect the crown jewels
- Find and assemble your brain trust
- Insist on collaboration
Protect the crown jewels
The essence of banking is the ledger—the balances, the book of record that for the Bank of Ireland goes back 240 years. That’s what holds the truth. It’s the crown jewels.
The purist view of our mainframe simplification is to restore a core system of record that is reliable, sustainable, hugely efficient, and easily maintained going forward.
We have decades of development that have seen fraud detection, customer authentication, payment initiation and more added to the platform. If we remove those and run them more efficiently in middleware services, that leaves us with a system of record that is exactly what the bank needs as a general ledger. And that’s what it should be.
When we have a system of record that is known, trusted, understood, and efficient, we then have the option to replace it or put that code base into a new, secure, sustainable and future-proof platform that does what the mainframe did. The platform functions in a way that we can handle moving forward--without limitations of skill set, knowledge, age or retention.
However, for example, if we were to force what we have today onto another platform without fully understanding all the underlying security measures, massive throughput and retro-fits, it would be doomed to fail. It wouldn’t work. You can’t debug anything. You can’t change anything. You can’t amend it in any way. You’d be stuck.