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Suzanne McLaughlin
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Century Bank, the latest addition to the Century Holdings Group of companies, has selected Midas-Kapiti International’s (MKI) Equation DBA universal banking solution to support its unique brand of in-store banking services. These are now being made available nationwide through OK and Bon Marché stores, Zimbabwe’s leading chain of supermarkets. Equation will enable the bank to minimise the cost of providing affordable banking, as well as offering all the advantages of an on-line banking service, with all transactions being carried out and updated in real time.

Century Bank, which was established in December 2000 and commenced operations on 1st January 2001, has its Head Office and computer centre in Harare, together with a second regional headquarters and corporate branch in Bulawayo. In addition to its two main branches, the bank is in the process of establishing an extensive distribution channel via outlets based within the OK and Bon Marché supermarket chain. OK is Zimbabwe’s leading retail network and a division of Delta Corporation, one of the largest companies listed on the ZSE.

In preparation for the anticipated growth in its banking operations, Century Bank’s Board of Directors stipulated that its core banking systems should be consolidated on a single, integrated platform to ensure the provision of a uniform, high quality level of service throughout the bank’s network. Before taking the final decision on which system to take forward as its chosen core banking solution, Century Bank undertook a rigorous assessment of four products sourced from both Europe and Asia, with IBM acting as consultants.

Having completed its evaluation, Century Bank selected MKI’s Equation DBA as the platform of choice for its core banking operations, with contracts being signed in June 2000. Willard Chiinze, appointed Head of Century Bank’s Information Technology division, explains the factors that influenced the bank’s choice of Equation. He says, "We were already familiar with the many systems used by other banks in Zimbabwe and the problems they were facing. We were therefore, particularly impressed with the flexibility and ease of integration offered by Equation."

"The combination of Equation’s APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and its Integrators Technical Package, together with MKI’s Meridian Middleware, will enable us to link the system to a wide variety of other specialised developments and third-party applications. These are planned for implementation in the future, to enhance our IT delivery platform," he continues.

Equation includes a full set of retail banking applications to support the bank’s extensive consumer banking business and process the range of transactions involved in maintaining a variety of current, savings, deposit and consumer loan accounts. The bank has also contracted for Cashier System, MKI’s branch automation platform, which is based on a client/server architecture, running on Microsoft Windows NT. The Cashier System is fully integrated with Equation and offers a local database, plus store and forward facilities, enabling the system to run off-line if required. The bank’s in-store branches will be linked to the main processor using spare capacity on Delta Corporation’s Wide Area Network, a dedicated data carrier network.

Equation will also function as the core banking operations server for additional specialised departmental solutions planned for implementation by the bank in the future. These include Electronic Banking and Mobile Banking, and will eventually be integrated with Equation using MKI’s Meridian Middleware. Equation will also process transactions generated by the bank’s planned network of ATMs, which will be linked into Zimswitch, Zimbabwe’s national ATM switch. This allows clients of one bank to access their accounts using the ATMs of other banks.

Mr Chiinze comments, "We were reassured by the results of benchmark tests carried out with IBM, confirming that Equation running on the AS/400 has the ability to process the thousands of accounts and daily transactions that will be generated by our retail banking business. Equation running on IBM’s AS/400 platform will also be far easier and more cost-effective to maintain than a mainframe- based system," he adds.

Equation is now installed and fully operational at the bank’s two main branches, in addition to the first six of its in-store outlets. Century Bank is also one of the first banks to go live with MKI’s Retail Lending application, as well as being one of the first to contract for Relationship Manager, Equation’s Customer Relationship Management platform

Mr Chiinze concludes by saying, "The bank’s philosophy is that the highest possible level of service should be available to all customers, through multiple delivery channels and supported by the latest technology. Not only will this help us to continue expanding our market share, it will also make an important contribution to building strong client relationships and increased customer loyalty."