Investment group eyes mainframe migration

With some 65 unit trusts and 70,000 members, Australian Unity Investments (AUI) has embarked on an application modernization project that will decommission its existing mainframe-based system.

Newly appointed chief operating officer, Mark Pratt, said AUI will evaluate technologies to help improve its services to customers and the company registry system.

AUI has reviewed the capability of its customer-facing systems and the impact the group's infrastructure will have in the future, Pratt said, adding AUI relies on the infrastructure of the group funds, but from its own business perspective that's not a primary focus.

AUI's bond and unit trusts record-keeping system is based on the Atlas mainframe application by Lumley Technology located onsite.

Program manager Brett Harrison said a primary objective is to migrate off the mainframe in favour of Web applications. The timeframe is to have the unit trust products implemented next year, and AUI's customizations for bonds in the second half of 2006.

"We don't have any Web applications from an administration point of view," Harrison said, adding the company's direction is to get its applications on the Web to improve customer and partner accessibility.

Although AUI is still working with vendors to decide on a migration path, Harrison said Dell is the hardware vendor of choice among the group companies and Windows is used for desktops and servers.

AUI is working with consulting firm Cstim to assess potential solutions for the unit registry system and wider technology infrastructure.

Pratt said the Atlas system is "proprietary" and while AUI can extract, or run, anything from the system in-house, development work is done by Lumley.

"Primary project in technology is flexibility and supporting the growth prospects of the business," he said. Because Atlas has been around for "a number of years" it is appropriate to review its ongoing ability to support the business.

"We don't have specific growth rates, but have a strategy of product-based growth. We need to be in position operationally to support that growth and provide customers with information in a timely manner."

In addition to the registry system, AUI is also looking at how it can make better use of workflow technology and Web services.

"We're considering the concept of a data warehouse to help provide information to product teams to understand customers better," he said. "We have a CRM [system] and see the data warehouse as being able to develop that. We see the registry system as the core of our information base [and] understanding our core client base and providing them the information they need."

While still in the process of determining the most appropriate solution for its business, AUI is not committed to any budget for the transformation project until it determines right vendor solutions.

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