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Habib Bank

"Our customers get the benefit of having one central place to do all their work, that means they can greatly increase their banking efficiencies and cut down costs because, if our costs are reduced, we can pass those savings on to the customer."

Reza S. Habib
Joint President
Habib Bank

Habib Bank AG Zurich (HBZ) developed hPLUS™, the world's first Java banking system using Sybase ASE. The hPLUS™ team believed that interoperability would become the single most important aspect of the architecture. "This bold new approach to transaction processing cured the most fundamental issues plaguing legacy systems, reducing costs and enhancing efficiency to unprecedented levels," stated Reza S. Habib, joint-president. As a result, today hPLUS™ allows HBZ to support all areas of the modern banking enterprise including seamlessly deploying new technologies as they emerge.

Business Advantage

  • Habib Bank's bold new Sybase approach to transaction processing cured the most fundamental issues plaguing legacy systems, reducing costs and enhancing efficiency to unprecedented levels.

Key Benefits

  • Reduces costs through integration of legacy systems and helped to streamline business processes
  • Recognized for performance and service awards, most recently as a finalist for a 21st Century Achievement Award from the Computerworld Honors Program
  • hPLUS™  team created the first integrated JAVA-based banking enterprise in the world.
  • Rated return on investment (ROI) leader for several years among all UAE banks
  • Substantially reduced overhead and lowered total cost of ownership via reduced procurement, maintenance, enhancement, redundancy, implementation, and scalability costs

Sybase Technology


  • Financial Services

Download the full success story in PDF format.

Building for the Future of Banking
As a leader in banking technology as evidenced by its multiple service and performance awards, HBZ continued to anticipate the requirements for their banking customers far into the future.  The hPLUS™ team custom-built the solution believing that interoperability would become the single most important aspect of the architecture. This bold new approach to transaction-processing cured the most fundamental issues plaguing legacy systems: to reduce costs, improve deployment of new solutions and improve efficiency.

The solution utilizes a single secure global log-in that provides an extensive Web and mobile offering to corporations, small –medium enterprises (SMEs) and consumers. This, coupled with its event-based SMS messaging system, created a new push/pull business management methodology far ahead of the curve. The motto of 'service with security' is well demonstrated by the application's unique Web security log-in security authentication system, which was ported to run on cell phones, another first in the world.

With the Sybase database as the only commercially-licensed component, hPLUS™ is truly the most efficient enterprise solution for the banking vertical. Most importantly, by using Java and open-source technologies, the solution has taken an institution with a 160-year banking tradition, along with its legacy systems, and catapulted the bank into the 21st century in terms of performance and the implementation of a leading technology, all in an extremely cost effective and streamlined manner.

This is a major vote of confidence for open source technology. The solution provides tremendous benefit for banks, particularly those banks whose clients demand first-class service. This not only holds true in the developing world, where resources are limited, but also in the developed world, such as the thousands of community banks that also have limited resources.

Over the course of its life, hPLUS™ has won successive performance and service awards while simplifying IT and overall management operations. The application has helped HBZ earn #1 rankings in ROI and liquidity ratios for the last five successive years amongst all banks in United Arab Emirates.

hPLUS™ is a tightly-integrated system that addresses multiple needs. It has dramatically reduced the time IT and management spend on monitoring and making sure the system operates properly, which is often not the case with banks that run disparate systems. Globally, HBZ has only 12 people in IT who support 50 branches in 10 different regulatory environments. This in itself is a tremendous human resources savings. As result, the majority of IT time is spent on development rather than monitoring the existing system.

"Our customers get the benefit of having one central place to do all their work," says Habib. "That means they can greatly increase their banking efficiencies and cut down costs because, if our costs are reduced, we can pass those savings on to the customer.

Other key benefits of hPLUS™ include enhanced security, rationalized traditional channel and product restrictions, easier reconciliation, the highest straight through processing (STP) rate possible, lowered operational risk, higher system performance, and the seamless integration of new products.

Changing the Way Banks Do Business
The implementation of hPLUS™ has fundamentally changed the way HBZ, its staff and its clients interact with each other. Without affecting productivity, processes such as memo routing, online approvals, transaction authentication and risk management have been streamlined while compliance has increased. The technology has allowed the bank to essentially take the functionality available to the bank and give it to the client to use over secure Web and mobile platforms.

As a result, HBZ is now at the forefront of electronic banking and has launched a security feature in order to rule out any possible security risk while logging onto the bank's electronic banking portals – HBZweb and HBZmobile. HBZweb is the bank's highly secure, Internet-mobile banking service that allows everything from paying bills to transferring money worldwide. The launching of HBZweb made HBZ the first bank in the United Arab Emirates to offer e-letters of credit on-line. With HBZweb, the power of more than 80+ transactional and querying options are now in the hands of clients. 

Smart Technology – Better Return on Investment
The advantage of hPLUS™  for its global customer base is an immense number of transactional and querying options including but not limited to features such online trading, secure third party fund transfers, opening letters of credits online, workflow management of the account, etc. over the secure channel of their choice. This coupled with highly competitive fees as well as extraordinary levels of security over the technology delivery channels has made HBZ a leader in the banking technology field. The security feature is called challenge-response-authentication-mechanism (CRAM). It eliminates the need for customers to carry specialized hardware encryption devices since hPLUS™ runs on any JAVA™ enabled mobile phone or handheld device. hPLUS™  gives the bank management the advantages of better decision-making which reduces risk and increases margins. Today, hPLUS™  tools for risk rating, risk management, and compliance have won the approval of the Swiss Banking Commission.

For employees, the advantages are improved real-time transaction-flow management capabilities that allow them to be more productive in fewer hours than before.

Disaster-Proof Availability
To assure customers and internal access to critical systems, Habib Bank wanted to raise the standard and ensure a completely reliable data recovery system in case of disaster.  It set out to find a disaster recovery system with exceptional data recovery capabilities that would help the bank eliminate database downtime – a step that would reduce both the risks and the costs associated with system outages. To overcome these challenges, Habib Bank turned to Sybase Mirror Activator which allowed it to dramatically reduce failover time, and restore availability in seconds with no data loss.  

During the investigation for an appropriate disaster recovery solution, the bank was faced with a choice: select either disk mirroring with the potential for replicating corrupt data, or transaction replication at the risk of in-transit data loss.  Fortunately for Habib Bank, the Sybase team presented the Mirror Activator solution.  Sybase Mirror Activator leverages synchronous disk mirroring to guard against data loss, as well as transaction replication to ensure data integrity by removing the possibility of replicating corrupted data – combining the best of both solutions.  Reza Habib explains, "While disk block replication systems perform a vital function, they stay synchronized by replicating blocks of data -a network-intensive process- particularly for maintaining standby database applications. Sybase Mirror Activator works in conjunction with disk block replication synchronizing systems by replicating only the log of data that has changed and maintains data integrity in the process. Thanks to the live standby database that can support re-routed traffic within minutes, compared with the hours of time-to-recovery required by cold standby systems, the immediate failover is possible." 

The solution also allows the standby system – normally dormant – to be utilized for other applications, such as reporting and decision support, significantly increasing the return on investment for those assets.  "Habib Bank has been leveraging Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise within our IT infrastructure since 1994 due to the database's reliability for mission critical transaction environments. The addition of Mirror Activator enables us to dramatically lower the total cost of ownership of our business continuity infrastructure by reducing failover time, leveraging the normally cold standby database for reporting and decision support, as well cutting network bandwidth requirements," says Habib.


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