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Wells Fargo turbocharges internal SOA system

Private bankers can get a real-time, unified view of wealthy customers' accounts

By Eric Lai
May 9, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The private banking division of Wells Fargo & Co. has deployed data grid messaging software that is helping the San Francisco bank answer the eternal customer question: How much am I worth today?

For the high net worth individuals -- those with more than $1 million in investments, not including their home -- typically served by private bankers, answering that question is more complicated than simply adding up a few bank and mutual fund account balances and subtracting the mortgage.

Those individuals often have more than a dozen accounts of different types and complexity with a single institution, according to Tom Mitchell, a systems architect with the Private Client Services (PCS) division of Wells Fargo & Co. The PCS division, Wells' private banking group, is one of the largest in the country and manages $195 billion in assets -- almost 40% of Wells' total assets -- on behalf of 830,000 clients.

Wells installed the first iteration of its service-oriented architecture (SOA) in the early 1990s to better understand customers' financial data, especially for wealthy individuals with multiple accounts whose data was stored in various databases, data marts and other systems. Nobody called it SOA back then.

"We were pushing text messages -- we called them message units, or MUs -- over TCP/IP before it was cool," Mitchell said.

Wells' system eventually evolved into a modern-services tier based around the WebLogic application server from BEA Systems Inc. It could quickly pull down customer financial data in different application windows. But it could not create a unified, real-time view of multiple accounts. That was something that PCS’s bosses wanted to improve service to well-off clients and provide opportunities to sell them relevant products.

"We wanted to change our business model so we could deal with a customer's entire financial picture, but we were relying on systems that were built to access single accounts," Mitchell said. "If I needed to send out SOAP requests or database calls to update a single client's holdings, that could mean making 500 requests."

To speed up the process of gathering data and avoid overloading his databases, Mitchell looked into implementing a Java Message Service (JMS) system that would rely on application servers such as WebLogic. He found JMS reliable but too slow. "I needed something that could execute requests in parallel," he said.

So Mitchell turned last summer to Tangosol Inc., a Somerville, Mass. data management software vendor. Its Coherence in-memory caching software is popular with large corporations, especially financial institutions looking for faster performance. Mutual fund manager Putnam Investments last month confirmed it is deploying Coherence.

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