St George pilots scalable e-payment system

St George Bank is piloting a new transaction server to boost the processing capacity of its online card transaction operations.

According to the then St George project manager for the bank's Internet Payment Gateway project, Rex Selwood, the bank was pressured by the need to replace its existing e-payment infrastructure because it would not scale for future business growth.

The bank's previous transaction processing system was based on a distributed solution that required software and hardware at merchants' locations.

The shortfall was that as business grew, it reached the stage where is could not manage any further growth, according to St George Bank's chief manager for electronic solutions Martin Eltoft.

Also, it was too costly in the long term to continue using several third-party solution providers due to mismatching and sometimes overlapping skill sets.

The bank needed a centralised solution; one which would enable it to "push and grow" its e-commerce business further -- a major business imperative as its online commerce functions covered the processing of credit card payments by consumers and businesses trading goods and services over the Web, as well as call centre or interactive voice response systems.

For the past few months St George has been trialling a Webpay Transaction Server by Australian provider of financial transaction processing solutions, eFunds, to increase the processing capability for electronic and online transactions. The bank was unwilling to disclose its investment in the pilot.

Selwood, now an independent consultant, said the server is an alternative to the bank's existing online card verification payment solution under which member merchants or partners needed to pay for a special terminal and dedicated bank communication lines to verify card transactions.

Migrating to the transaction server has also let the bank centralise the upgrade function of its processing software to one location, thus reducing the software distribution nightmare.

"Card providers periodically make changes to their systems which previously required software upgrades to all on-site merchant terminals, [but] the Webpay solution has eliminated that problem as its systems are in house at the bank," Eltoft said.

And improving internal and customer productivity as well as reducing administrative costs, the solution has a merchant administration console enabling merchants to log onto the bank's site and get real-time reports on processed transactions or make refunds, leaving administrative control in their hands.

The main challenge of the project was that it required the bank's IT group to change its 'plug and play' approach to implementing to a more collaborative, training-intensive style of project management, Selwood said.

"This was a groundbreaking project for St George's IT group," he said. "Our development team would traditionally buy a product, tie a bow around it; then the production team would untie it, plug it in and build a system that way. But being the first internal system we had with an Internet flavour, the bank had to invest in more training in SQL server skills and hardware skills because the Webpay server solution increased the number of servers to support."

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