Citigroup Inc.


Dimitry Sagalchik, Neil Potter, Jack Lemonik (seated), Sushil Chetal and Olga Bulanov
Citigroup's FX Link provides 24x7 ‘borderless' currency exchange

In the highly competitive world of consumer financial services, even the largest corporations are always looking for an edge. Citigroup Inc., the New York City parent company of Citigroup and Travelers Insurance Group, found its edge with a new Web-based, 24x7 currency exchange system.

APPLICATION
PROFILE

Project: FX Link

Purpose: To increase performance and security in Citigroup's foreign currency trading system by creating an Internet-based application that can connect global customers to currency markets.

Benefits: The new infrastructure provides bulletproof security, lower cost and maintenance, and easy access from the Internet.

Platforms: Windows NT, Solaris

With about 100 million customers, including consumers, corporations, governments and institutions in 100 countries, exchange rate information is an important part of most transactions. Prior to implementing the new system, Citigroup provided this information through three offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia. But exchange rates could only be obtained during each office's eight-hour business day. With the pressures of seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day e-business, Citigroup saw a chance to offer customers a valuable service that would provide real-time currency exchange rates over the Web.

Citigroup's Crossmar division contracted with NetNumina Solutions, a Boston-based systems integration and consulting company, to develop the new system, called FX Link. The first, and largest, obstacle developers faced was how to provide service that was fast enough for Internet-based e-business and safe enough to pass the bullet-proof security requirements, including Citigroup's extremely tight firewall policies. The project called for two-factor authentication, authorization, data encryption, non-repudiation, Single Sign-On and integration with legacy security. Citigroup also demanded extremely high performance with support for large volumes and low download times for clients. NetNumina solved the dilemma by developing a patented technology that embeds Public Key security into the app so it does not have to make calls outside the system, said Imran Sayeed, CEO and co-founder of NetNumina. This keeps security tight without decreasing performance, and also gives Citigroup the necessary speed without sacrificing safety.

TOOLS & TECHNOLOGIES

Java, EJB, XML, CORBA, C++, Entrust PKI security, VeriSign, Gradient, DCE; VisualCafé, Rational Rose and UML for design

Citigroup's foreign exchange currency trading application uses NetNumina's Inter/Intranet Enterprise Architecture (IEA) as a blueprint because it does not lock clients into products or technologies. XML was used to integrate Internet technologies with enterprise technologies. The application resides on NT, but will also be deployed on Solaris.

NetNumina used its own Visual Interactive Enterprise Web methodology to map the best technical solution for the business objectives. They then created an architecture, which was not tied to a particular software/hardware platform, and integrated best-of-breed products such as EJB, XML, CORBA, Entrust PKI and Gradient NetCrusader.

DEVELOPMENT
TEAM

Neil Potter
David Jacobs
Lee Munch
Olga Bulanov
Tony Hsu
Vincent Chiu
Geir Gaseidnes
Amin Ahmed
Vrushali Khatav
Cindy Oliveto

The project was begun in 1998, and the original architecture was a Java application running through CORBA and Entrust PK and firewalls to real-time feeds from the currency markets. The next generation, which is currently underway, will use HTML, XML and Enterprise JavaBeans on the application side to provide even greater transaction speed.

User feedback was obtained through Crossmar product managers and from user group meetings. Several of Citigroup's largest users critiqued the architecture and provided comments throughout the application life cycle.

FX Link is scalable, incorporates a high level of security, and integrates with institutional investors' internal systems, which allows it to be accessed securely over the Internet at any time and from anywhere. There was no disruption to Citigroup's day-to-day operations during development and deployment. The pilot ran parallel to the old system during testing, and the old system was not disconnected until it was clear that the new one was running well. Citigroup's IT staff was trained on the application before it was rolled out to end users.

The greatest value of the new system to Citigroup and its customers is that it provides the ubiquity of 24-hours-a-day, real-time worldwide currency exchange to support international Web commerce, said Jack Lemonik, Citigroup's vice president of product development and technology.

End users of FX Link include corporations doing business around the world. In e-business applications, the system is able to provide prices in the native currency of the purchaser, automatically convert them to the native currency of the seller, and complete the transaction in real time with up-to-the-minute exchange rates. This eliminates confusion and the danger that fluctuating currency prices will change the cost of a deal. This results in what Lemonik calls "borderless e-commerce."

Lemonik offers the example of a stock trader in London who uses the system to quote NASDAQ stocks in pounds sterling. With FX Link, the trader sees the price in pounds and pays in pounds. The system then does the conversion so that the deal is completed in U.S. dollars, as required by the stock exchange.

The FX Link pilot took three months, and the project was delivered on schedule. If the company had to do the project over again, they would require more user feedback during the application life cycle.
— Rich Seeley

KEANE REPORT

This project demonstrated innovation in three ways:

  • Addressed the key issues of security and single sign-on with respect to application integration;
  • Integrated Web-oriented technologies; and
  • Resulted in a U.S. patent award for financial transactions over the Web. This last item swayed the selection team significantly.

This submission was noteworthy in other aspects, such as a system architecture based on open standards and technologies. The project used several "best practices," including software quality metrics, performance benchmarks, design standards and architecture reviews. These are considered critical to implementing and supporting mission- critical systems. Using these project management "best practices," the team was able to redevelop and replace the existing system in a time-critical business with no disruptions to users. At the same time, they reduced deployment and maintenance costs, and accomplished on-time delivery in the face of significant technical challenges.

Some possible improvements to the submission were apparent to the selection team. Because software metrics were used, the submission should have discussed the actual metrics in some detail, and perhaps have included interesting findings from the metrics and measurements. The project team could have benefited from a stronger relationship with the user community. Inclusion of a diagram or two would have improved the submission. However, these criticisms were not significant enough to alter the outcome.

Team Leader: Joseph Kirpes, senior national enterprise architect Team Members: Vincent D'Amico, solution development practice manager; Shirish Jamthe, account manager and chairman of the Architecture Review Board; Naia Kirkpatrick, security architect; and John Varga, principal consultant

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