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Polaris unveils $10m financial technology design centre in Chennai

21 March, 2013 Written by David Bannister
Source: Banking Technology

Polaris Financial Technology has today opened a $10 million financial application design centre at its headquarters in Chennai, India, where customers will be able to work collaboratively with the vendor’s development teams on applications and systems.The 8012 facility is designed to encourage good design

Called the 8012 FT Design Center – the name comes from the latitude and longtitude of Chennai – the facility is based around Polaris’s concept of good design being at the heart of better application development, said Arun Jain, chairman and chief executive of the company. “In most applications, 98% of the functionality can be done by anyone; it’s the last 2% that makes the difference,” he said, adding that the company has spent much of the last two years developing the concept behind the 8012 environment, studying examples of good design and best practice. “We spent 400 days planning it and 164 days on execution.”

At the heart of the centre are seven design labs, covering what the firm considers to be the elements essential to all financial technology developments: customer experience, operations efficiency, performance, analytics, risk management, integration and security. Within these, developers work in teams of between five and seven people – not a random number, but based on research carried out at Harvard University, showing that this is the optimum number for collaborative working. Customers will be able to work alongside these teams to develop and customise applications

Jain said that the centre marks a fourth phase in the development of Polaris, which has focussed on financial technology since its beginnings in services and outsourcing in 1993.

imageThe second phase stems from its acquisition of products formerly owned by Citi, which saw it increase in scale and move to become more intellectual property-oriented as part of a deliberate plan to have products across all aspects of banking systems. “To improve time-to-market and implementation, you need to have intellectual property so that you can re-use code,” said Jain. The main undertaking at this time was to break down the products into a service-oriented architecture model, a five year task involving 800 developers – something Jain said could only really have been done in India: “4,000 man-hours of development in the US would have cost us $400 million.”

Behind this approach was the belief that the next generation of products would be cross-market, and this led to further simplification of the product components into “apps”. At the same time, the financial crisis was at its height and this also fuelled the desire for simplicity in design. “We went back to the design table and saw that complexity was high – and we believe that complexity was why the crisis happened,” said Jain. The apps form the basis of Polaris’s Canvas environment, which allows applications to be built and configured on the fly, dramatically reducing both development and implementation

The Chennai facility is likely to be followed by others – albeit on a smaller scale – in London and New York, other company officials said. No location has been decided, but as the company’s London offices are at Canary Wharf, virtually on the Prime Meridian running through Greenwich, a good bet for the name of the London facility would have to be the 0052 FT Design Centre …