NEW YORK – Being in the middle has proven to be the sweet spot for qbt Systems Inc., whose middleware solutions have quietly gained traction connecting core systems and key third-party applications at some big credit unions and technology providers across the country. New York-based qbt’s first client was Credit Union Services Corp., and the eight-year-old company now connects applications for such vendors as EPL, Open Solutions Inc., Service Centers Corp., Share One and Fidelity’s Mercury division. Credit unions using qbt’s flagship MultiPoint Integrator solution include Boeing Employees Credit Union, South Carolina State Credit Union and Desert Schools FCU, a recent contract win. The $2 billion Arizona credit union is now in the testing phase of connecting its Corillian home banking platform with its core processing platform from Summit Information Systems, says Stephen Anderson, qbt’s vice president of product management. Gary Lieski, senior director of technology for Desert Schools FCU, says, “The Desert Schools IT organization is focused on providing the best tools to the credit union so we can in turn serve our members quickly and efficiently. It was clear that we needed a flexible middleware solution that has a proven track record to meet our objectives.” Meanwhile, at $4.6 billion BECU, the qbt middleware is connecting a wide range of processes, including home banking from Corillian, an ATM/debit card solution from Fiserv EFT/CNS, shared branching from FSCC, the IVR/VRU system from Maxxar, loan origination from APPRO, auto loan applications through CU Direct Lending and a core system from OSI. The qbt solution was a key part of the big CU’s core conversion project in 2002 because of that ability to integrate applications using a wide variety of data transfer and communication protocols and standards. That translates to improved service to members and co-workers, says Kyle Welsh, an IT integration architect at Seattle-based BECU. “Products and services are easier to deploy across our multiple delivery channels,” Welsh says. “The design, development and testing phases of projects also can be more accurately be estimated and executed. That allows us to run more projects concurrently and complete more projects for our internal customers.” BECU has four staffers maintaining the qbt servers and developing adapters between applications, after an initial investment and software and professional services of about $250,000, Welsh says. The return on that investment? “The ROI is beyond measure,” Welsh says, “as it radically improved our ability to integrate solutions from different companies quickly.” Anderson at qbt says deployment costs vary by size and function, ranging from “the low five figures to the mid six figures.” He also maintains that his company is “the low-cost provider by far” compared with industry giants such as BEA and IBM and that a typical deployment takes from three weeks to three months. He says qbt now has about 150 clients and that there are some differences, both in what banks and credit unions do in the technology area, and in what middleware itself is. As for the latter, for instance, Anderson says he sees a core processor’s application programming interface referred to sometimes as middleware, which he says “can be a bit of a stretch, especially if the transactions supported are very limited. “For instance, if a loan origination system and a home banking application were purchased from different vendors, the core’s API would not be involved in getting loan applications from the Web site to the loan origination system. qbt’s MultiPoint gathers information from multiple systems and delivers the aggregated bundle of data back to one application.” His company’s MultiPoint Integrator middleware typically uses those APIs to communicate with the core system, as well as “any application, system or network in whichever language the systems prefer, whether it is a legacy format like ISO8583, a newer Web-services based format, or a hybrid. As for the culture of technology, Anderson says, “Banks and credit unions do, in general, have very different missions, and their goals and methods also are often quite different. “Credit unions are always thinking first about how to effectively serve their members, and they have been very innovative and typically more focused on real-time systems than their bank counterparts. “However, in some ways their information technology decision process is becoming more similar. Credit unions are now gaining more experience with handling many different applications from different vendors and many are starting to write their own applications,” Anderson says. “Most banks have been doing this for years.” That growing need to innovate, and word of mouth, is what’s driven qbt’s growth in the CU market, Anderson says. “The main reason for our traction in the credit union space over the last couple of years has more to do with the growing needs of credit unions themselves,” he says. “In order to best serve their members, many credit unions have demanded the flexibility to pick the best-in-class solutions from multiple vendors. To efficiently meet this objective, credit unions have had to develop faster, more flexible and more sophisticated architectures,” the qbt executive says. -

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