Banks are held to a higher standard

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12 March 2012
Bart Narter
Migrating a core banking system is hard, and the consequences of failing are tremendous. I now realize that banks are held to a higher standard. I am now experiencing the consequences of a failed system migration in another industry, the airline industry. At the end of February, United airlines switched over to a single system with Continental for many of their customer facing applications such as the United.com web page, the frequent flyer system, the reservation system, etc. This is not unlike two banks merging or one acquiring another and moving to a single system. The result of this migration has been a disaster for United and its customers. Customers (such as myself) have new frequent flyer numbers, are unable to log onto United.com to see and change reservations, and can't book flights over the phone due to the extreme delays on the call center. While the airline isn't fully out of business, as a bank would be, there are extreme consequences. This failure is going on for more than a week. I must contrast this to some banking IT failures such as the Wells Fargo outage that lasted a half day, or the TD Commerce outage that happened because of a system switchover not unlike this one. This took a few days, but less than a week for the bank to resolve. As I frequently explain, the IT system of the bank doesn't just support the product. It is the product. A bank account is an entry into a bank's computer system. If the system is down the account is down, and the bank is down. I must tip my hat to all those bankers and IT professionals who have successfully completed a bank merger. This stuff isn't easy, yet most of them are handled exceptionally well. I haven't heard any significant public failures of the Wells Wachovia merger or the Chase WaMu migration, let alone the hundreds of core migrations that happen every year in North America. P.S. I'm on hold with United for over an hour trying to get an password for my new Mileage Plus login. That's more than enough to write this blog.

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