Creating an app store for banks

December 16, 2013
Publication: Financial Times

Large banks run thousands of applications, many of which are difficult to integrate. BIAN, the Banking Industry Architecture Network, was founded to solve this problem.

Standards are essential, given the complexity of banking technology. There are so many systems out there, that integration expense can far outweigh the initial technology purchase: in fact, it is common for integration to cost four or five times the purchase price, which is make-or-break for any business case.

When up to 70 per cent of an IT budget is spent simply keeping the lights on, there is not much room for innovation. Many banks feel this has to change.

What we offer

BIAN was formed in 2008, to create standardisation through a service oriented architecture, in order to squeeze out integration costs and improve interoperability. Our members, to name just a few, include ING, ABN Amro, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Société Générale and UBS, and we are constantly adding new members in different countries around the world.

We issue detailed documentation on a set of subjects. One key area is the technology landscape itself, where we detail what is available and how to integrate it. We recently converted all of our files on into HTML format, so that all interested parties can drill down into the information and easily browse it. We have had around 5,000 downloads so far.

In addition to the landscape information, we also have documentation showing members and non-members how to use the landscape, for example how to select a vendor solution, or how to set up merchant acquisition technology.

All of this combines to help banks and suppliers create a more standardised IT landscape. When we finalise our landscape, we can purchase software almost as a consumer would on an app store, with the ensuing straightforward integration.


When BIAN was formed in 2008, just before the financial crash, cost was less of an issue to banks. As you can imagine, cost is now very high up the agenda and banks are looking to slash integration expense.

I think of our development like this: when we began, the application landscape in banks was a mess, like spaghetti on a plate. We are trying to move to more of a ‘lasagne’ style architecture, where there is a layered approach. We are seeing significant progress in this area, with banks using our documents to guide their purchasing and integration decisions, and to guide vendors (re)designing their solutions.

e work closely with IT vendors, and about half of our membership is comprised of these suppliers. It is great to bring them into the discussion and to influence technology development in this way to benefit the whole of the financial industry.

There are major changes in how we all interact with regulators. In July, a report by the Dutch financial regulator stated clearly the importance of a good technology architecture to running a stable bank, and we believe this holds true to the rest of our members around the world.

We encourage central and federal banks to work with BIAN, and by all joining together we end up speaking the same language. The first major goal is that the taxpayer does not have to step in again to rescue banks, and we believe we play an important part in this by improving the transparency of technology in our businesses.

The challenges

Getting all our members to agree is sometimes a challenge. But we regularly meet so that we can discuss all of the issues and work towards a consensus.

Three times a year, we have three day meetings for our 45 members, in which we discuss all of the key strategic issues. We also have technical work groups, which meet every two to three weeks online, to discuss more technical issues, and they have around 120 participants.

In our next board meeting, we will discuss if we are going one step deeper in our guidance, to include physical message definitions. We are working closely with standards bodies, such as IFX Forum and ISO20022, to make sure that we can re-use and improve how things are done in these areas.

Compared to when we began five years ago, there is so much more awareness of how to improve technology and integration. We still have a long way to go, however, and we look forward to continuing advances in the way banks transform their operations with technology.