Rabobank is the global market leader in financial services for the agricultural and food industry. Founded as a cooperative bank in the Netherlands in 1896, it is today considered as one of the most stable financial institutions worldwide. It is the only private bank that has been given a triple A rating, the top grade for creditworthiness. The company is oriented towards the international market and wants to further build on its leading role in the traditionally agricultural countries of the world.
Rabobank has been active on the New Zealand financial market since 1994. The company decided to also open up an online bank called Raboplus in New Zealand, a country with a traditionally strong agricultural profile, in order to tap important capital resources. It was clear from the beginning that the Internet portal had to offer a consistently high web performance. In order to stand its ground in the highly competitive direct banking market and to successfully compete with local banks, the RaboPlus portal had to convey a local feel to New Zealand customers. Short load times as well as flawless page reproduction and uninterrupted transactions had to be ensured under all circumstances.
Rabobank International Direct Banking works with a centralized IT infrastructure which is operated from Schuberg Philis, an IT outsourcing specialist for mission- critical applications, in The Netherlands. This model has proved valuable for the bank since it ensures maximum synergy and process efficiency. However, this central system architecture was not able to guarantee a consistently high- performance delivery of the Web content from the computer centre in Amsterdam to New Zealand. Together with Schuberg Philis, Rabobank cast around for a solution that would not involve the time-consuming and cost-intensive set- up of a local server park. In order to offer the best possible conditions to the New Zealand RaboPlus customers, high investment and operational costs had to be avoided.
Rabobank wanted to offer its online customers in New Zealand the best possible conditions as well as maximum website performance and web experience.
At the beginning of the project, Rabobank briefly considered the possibility of setting up a local computer centre in New Zealand – but it soon discarded that option. Both the cost and the time factor were strong arguments against this solution. Three months later, it was agreed by Rabobank that the high quality and service requirements of the portal could not be met without external support. Rabobank IDB Shared Services, the department responsible for IT issues, began to look for a suitable web performance solution on the market together with the outsourcing experts of Schuberg Philis. They soon chose Akamai. “We were searching for a partner who would meet both our high performance expectations and our security requirements”, said Hans Klunder, Senior Architect International Direct Banking of Rabobank International. “Akamai is a global player, its network infrastructure is unique all over the world and its customer list speaks volumes. Also, Akamai was able to offer the security certifications that were an absolute prerequisite for us as a bank.”
Akamai convinced Rabobank not only because of its web performance and security, but also because of its fast implementation. “When we asked how much time setup would take, Akamai told us that a few weeks would be enough”, said Klunder. “And Akamai kept its word!” Within eight weeks, the systems were in fact ready for the “go live”– including the testing phase. Akamai has 20,000 content delivery servers spread over 1,000 networks in 70 countries all over the world. Its global load balancing makes sure that content is transmitted on the fastest and most effective path through the Internet.
In addition, Akamai uses specialized technologies for accelerating web applications. Rabobank uses the “Sure-Route” technology which helps speeding the data from Europe to overseas up to 50 percent faster. For example: Akamai managed to reduce the download time of a four-step online transaction in the RaboPlus portal from 14.3 seconds – delivery via the centrally hosted IT infrastructure in the Netherlands – to 7.3 seconds.
Customers and Rabobank staff in New Zealand are highly pleased. Fast page reproduction, constant availability and flawless content delivery ensure optimum customer experience in the portal. “For our customers it feels like using the online service of a local bank”, adds Klunder. “Since we deliver the Web contents via the Akamai network, the pages are just as fast as they are here in Europe.” There are no latency periods or interrupted connections – Akamai guarantees a consistently high Web performance and availability.
Akamai was a convincing choice from the outset because of its fast, reliable and secure web performance. Following setup, a performance test was the decisive ‘proof of concept’ to start the new portal on the net. The portal has been live since February 2006 and Rabobank is drawing a positive balance after one year of operation. “We and the Rabobank team in New Zealand are very pleased with Akamai. Our success on the marketplace shows that our customers appreciate our service too”, said Hans Klunder.
Nearly all contents of the online portal are delivered via the Akamai content delivery network (CDN). This includes the complete marketing performance as well as the online transaction sites that customers access after log-in. Only the personal data of the customers registered during transactions, such as account information and account balance, are still added directly from the Rabobank server. This is because of the strict internal and external compliance guidelines of banks, the adherence to which is regularly audited by external consultants.
Schuberg Philis, a company from Amsterdam, has considerably contributed to the success story of Rabobank’s direct banking. The two companies have been working together in a successful partnership since 2004. Schuberg Philis was in charge of the technical construction of the New Zealand RaboPlus portal and assisted in the integration of the Akamai solution with the system. “The Akamai team’s committed and quick support enabled us to strictly observe the deadlines of our ambitious project schedule during the integration and testing phases”, added Willem-Jan van den Brekel, Technology Officer at Schuberg Philis. Rabobank is already planning on further projects with Akamai. “We aim to develop other overseas markets and whenever we need support we will rely on Akamai”, said Klunder. “Akamai is in any case our first choice.