FX Link provides 24x7 ‘borderless' currency exchange
Dimitry Sagalchik, Neil Potter, Jack Lemonik (seated), Sushil Chetal and Olga Bulanov
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.
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.
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.
new infrastructure provides bulletproof security, lower cost and
maintenance, and easy access from the Internet.
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.
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
Java, EJB, XML, CORBA, C++, Entrust
PKI security, VeriSign, Gradient, DCE; VisualCafé, Rational Rose
and UML for design
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
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
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
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
project demonstrated innovation in three ways:
- Addressed the key issues
of security and single sign-on with respect to application integration;
- Integrated Web-oriented
- 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
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