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LONGREAD: the fintech that’s 40 years old

Not all bank technology is cutting edge. While banks actively pursue fintech, cloud solutions and core rebuilds, some financial services technology dates back to when the Concorde took its maiden flight.  And some of that bank tech is still in the air.

" We bought a software package including forex, money market, general ledger, accounting and regulatory requirements for less than you would spend on a couple of day’s consultancy fees in 2016."
Eamon Veaney, Senior vice president & web coordinator, ANZ Retired Officers Club

In 1976, ANZ gained a license to upgrade its New York presence from a Representative Office to Agency status.

The plan to take a bite of the Big Apple was ambitious: a full service office with dealing room, full payments capability through the NY clearing House Payments System (Chips) and aggressive plans to process Trade Finance re-imbursements. This would allow a float of $US50 million a day to be maintained in ANZ NY rather than at other US Banks.

But ANZ’s technology resources in Australia at the time were stretched. The bank’s headquarters at the time were still based in London. The head of information technology, Dick Milnthorpe, was asked to investigate systems appropriate for the proposed New York Agency along with Warren Taylor.

At the time there were not too many off the shelf banking systems on the market but Milnthorpe became aware of a system under development in London called Midas.

The Midas system was not yet operational anywhere but BIS Banking systems. ANZ agreed to install it in New York in time for the planned opening date of early June 1976.

A further challenge was the system had been designed for the UK and a number of modifications were needed to make it work in the USA. It was also necessary to develop a suite of programs to handle Federal Reserve reporting requirements.

NEW YORK

A small team led by Milnthorpe including the late Barry Fludgate, the late John Gilbert from BIS and myself went to New York in March 1976 to install the system and develop the USA-specific software.

It was also a requirement at the time to have a Bills and Letters of Credit system, which Midas was not designed to handle. We spent three months designing, developing and coding the software in conjunction with Warren Taylor and the late Ed Tanner’s specification.

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Yet the system was installed on IBM System 32 on schedule on June 6 1976. The software cost was $US13,000. Milnthorpe negotiated a deal later to purchase a global license including the source code in exchange for ANZ-developed letters-of-credit software.

Tanner and Wheeler installed the system in Australia and NZ and Tanner added the program written for NY to calculate overdraft interest on the London Vostro account which included provision for sending overdraft statements.

A combination of this coupled with the ability to operate multi-currency accounts gave the bank a big advantage over the other Australian banks when the Australian Dollar was floated. Tanner also had a big hand in connecting the system to Chips and the branch payments-input system.

We bought a software package including forex, money market, general ledger, accounting and regulatory requirements for less than you would spend on a couple of day’s consultancy fees in 2016.

A decision was taken to modify the system in house rather than stay with scheduled vendor updates. ANZ wanted to control our own destiny given more offshore installations were being planned and we didn’t want to be constrained by other bank priorities. Midas was becoming a popular package for foreign banks.

Over the next four years the system was installed into Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore on system 32, and later system 34, computers by a joint London/ Melbourne team.

A standard chart of accounts established by the bank within the Midas system enabled consistent reporting across all the ANZ International operations.

There was a need for a system to manage state transactions in Australia and NZ which were then connected to Midas to update dealers’ positions, so the STI system was developed in Melbourne.

Midas was also installed in Australia and NZ to process multi-currency accounts as well as all dealing room transactions as Hogan, the existing system at the time, was only developed to handle Australian dollar transactions.

For all the advances in financial services technology, that still remains the case today.

LONDON

Over in London, the old IBM 360 mainframe which had been installed in the 1960s’ needed a serious upgrade. It was decided Midas (now renamed MIDANZ by Mike Tong, Head of Treasury) would be an appropriate solution.

The latest IBM hardware, System 38 which contained a unique relational database was selected as the preferred platform and many months were spent upgrading the software to run on System 38 in 1980.

ANZ was also one of the pioneer banks in the development of the payments interface to the Society for Worldwide International Funds Transfer (SWIFT) both in Europe and Australia – without MIDANZ, SWIFT connection would have been difficult and very costly.

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Meanwhile MIDANZ continued to be installed in a number of new countries. When ANZ purchased Grindlay’s Bank in 1984 it was discovered their Asian operations used the vanilla version of the Midas system.

Joint London/ Melbourne teams were sent to Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo to convert the Grindlay’s operations to the ANZ system which all went smoothly, apart from Tokyo, where the change of base currency caused a few issues. Within a matter of months all ANZ and Grindlay’s operations were running off the same software.

In Australia, for historical reasons, there were two versions of MIDANZ running, one on System 36 (International Services) with Global Treasury on System 38. A decision was made to consolidate onto one common platform using the System 38 software on new AS400 hardware and was eventually installed at all sites.

The original model for MIDANZ was a separate installation in each offshore site but a telecommunications improved the processing was consolidated to Melbourne.

Ironically when first installed in New York the only communication software we had was a little known piece of hardware called a 3740 for which Milnthorpe wrote a program to send accounting entries and letter-of-credit details back to Melbourne at a line speed of 1200bps.

There were further challenges when trying to install in India as IBM hardware was not allowed to be imported. Chris Norton from London had an innovative solution and converted the software to run off a PC server. Much of what we did would not have been possible without the ability to access the source code.

Support for the system moved from London to Melbourne and then Bangalore with a small team remaining in Melbourne. System support was also provided by Regional centres in Singapore and New York for many years.

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TOO OLD, TOO GOOD

So has MIDANZ survived so long in a world of new and developing fintech?

• We can create an instance of MIDANZ for a country or site in a matter of days.

• We can implement a site in a matter of a couple of weeks, including basic training

• The system design is such that the largest overnight batch run only takes 45 minutes...this processes 10,000’s deals and 100,000’s accounting entries.

• The batch run also re-values deals/positions and attends to accounting posting, statements, interest accruals and the like.

• Most of the batch run activities are also available on a real time basis during the business day

Given the number of instances of MIDANZ we have (50+) it is relatively inexpensive to support.

MIDANZ THROUGH THE YEARS

1991 MIDANZ becomes real time/online accounting in UK/EU sites.

1999 Introduction of EURO and migration of legacy currencies

1999 Y2K Project although MIDANZ was already compliant!

2002 Introduction of Single Entity Global FX Book

2006 NBNZ Integration

2010 RBS Migrations to MIDANZ in 5 countries

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MIDANZ IMPLEMENTATION CHRONOLOGY

1976 New York USA

1977 Los Angeles USA

1978 Hong Kong

1979 Melbourne Australia

1979 Wellington NZ

1979 Singapore

1980 London UK

1980 Taipei Taiwan

1981 Chicago USA

1983 Guernsey GB

1984 Tokyo Japan

1984 Toronto Canada

1984 Seoul Korea

1985 Suva Fiji

1985 Port Moresby PNG

1985 Zurich Switzerland

1985 Frankfurt Germany

1987 Manama Bahrain

1988 Paris France

1988 Mumbai India

1992 Athens Greece

1993 Shanghai China

1993 Jakarta Indonesia

1995 Manila Philippines

1997 Beijing China

2009 Guangzhou, China

2010 Chongqing, China

2011 Mumbai (again)

2011 Labuan, Malaysia

2011 Hangzhou, China

2014 Chengdu, China

2014 Shanghai Free trade Zone, China

2015 Paris, France (again)

2015 Qingdao, China

2015 Bangkok, Thailand

2015 Yangon, Myanmar

BIG ADVANTAGE

MIDANZ gave ANZ a big advantage over many other banks at the time of its implementation. Other major banks subsequently adopted the same software package, notably Chase who first saw it in ANZ’s New York office and still operate using Chase Midas. Up to that time few banks had the ability to operate multi-currency accounting on computer.

Ironically I first heard about the development of this system when attending a cocktail reception at the Bank of New South Wales (later Westpac) where I got talking to a software developer working for a small company (later taken over by BIS). He had been commissioned to develop a banking package for the then Bank of London and South America.

I became interested because I had an FX background and was familiar with the programming language used. A year later I was tasked to investigate putting a computer system into the proposed ANZ NY Branch and spent a week there looking at what could be done.

I found little if any suitable software available and also rejected the possibility of using the London System online because of system differences and communications issues.

We had a tight deadline to meet (three months!) and there seemed no easy solution. It was then I remembered the conversation I had had at BNSW and I contacted the developers to review their progress since our discussion.

The prototype system had advanced to a rudimentary demo stage and this was sufficient to assess its potential for NY. The developers agreed to amend the system to permit installation in NY instead of UK and an intense period of development began for installation live in June, 1976.

It was in NY I realised the adoption of the system could have global implications for the then International Division. We received tremendous support from the then General Manager John Holberton in Melbourne and the NY chief Tom Williams.

We subsequently installed the system in Los Angeles (1977) under Rupe Thomas, and Hong Kong (1980) under the late Roly Isherwood. Throughout this period Warren Taylor was a tower of strength.

Dick Milnthorpe

PROFITABLE

ANZ set up a Representative office in New York in 1969 and when Mac Brunckhorst became managing director in 1974, he decreed all operations should be profitable. This could not be achieved by a Representative Office.

Knowing the bank wished to establish a banking presence in New York as the bulk of Australia’s trade (imports and exports) were now invoiced in $US (invoicing had always been in English pounds until 1966 when England devalued and Australia didn’t follow, switching to $US) we needed a banking presence in NY to do the same work London Office had always provided for Australia’s English-currency transactions.

Establishment of a branch in New York was not possible due to Australia’s reciprocity rules (not allowing any new foreign banks to operate in Australia), Rod McLeod and I investigated our options and found a loophole whereby we could establish an Agency under NY State Law enabling provision of all of the basic services we needed, except for the raising of USD deposits from local residents.

During 1974 Rod and I compiled a proposal for the establishment of a New York agency based around three principle activities of:

 • Foreign-exchange dealing - focused on the $A and $NZ with an objective of being the market setter for our currencies – eliminate Citibank, Bankers Trust and Bank of America from that role within six months.

• Handle all of the ANZ $US Pay and Receive transactions (T/T’s); seeking membership of the New York Clearing House Interbank Payment System (CHIPS) – the USD Pay and Receive transactions were currently being handled by over 300 US banks. Also drafts and mail transfers were to be centralised through a NYA.

• Be the reimbursing point for all USD denominated Documentary Letters of Credit issued by our branches worldwide. Financing of such was handled from float funds generated or borrowings in the Interbank Money Markets or other sources/means yet to be determined.

Warren Taylor

LONG LIVE MIDANZ

There have been several investigations on how to de-commission MIDANZ but to date the time and cost has been prohibitive, particularly given the small support and development budget required to keep MIDANZ going.

For example, installation of the system in Thailand cost just $A25,000 and in Myanmar it was only $A14,000.

There are also certain features in MIDANZ newly acquired systems don’t accommodate to the same extent. It turns out when it comes to fintech, sometimes the oldies are the goodies.

Eamon Veaney is senior vice president and web coordinator at the ANZ Retired Officers Club

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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