Shinhan Bank, one of Korea's largest, is replacing its mainframe processing systems with client-server technology, using data base management systems from Informix Software Inc. as its standard.

The $14 billion-asset bank signed a five-year, multimillion-dollar contract to install Informix's entire line of data base server and application development tools for core banking and decision support functions.

The bank - currently operating on Unisys Corp. mainframes and midrange computers from Fujitsu Ltd. - has selected Hewlett-Packard computers running the Unix operating system to be used by staffers in its Seoul headquarters and 200 branches.

Shinhan's decision to entirely replace its mainframe-based operations with Unix-based computers is a radical departure from the way most big U.S. banks currently operate. But it is also indicative of an aggressive trend among large international financial institutions, said Amos Barzilay, director of industry marketing at Informix, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif.

"Shinhan Bank is among a great number of major banks worldwide who are reengineering and moving their business-critical banking functions to open systems," he said. "Banks in North America keep core processing functions on mainframes, and only use client-server for high value applications, such as customer service."

Mr. Barzilay speculated that international banks are more willing to completely convert to client-server technology because they don't have the long history of investment in large-scale systems - or the major influence of mainframe king International Business Machines Corp. - that exists in the U.S. banking market.

Shinhan is installing Informix' flagship data base system - the On-Line Dynamic Server - to handle its growing information warehousing requirements.

The bank's current 450-gigabyte data base is expected to grow to the terabyte level in five years in the new computing environment.

Kim Young Jin, head of management information systems at Shinhan Bank, said that the Informix technology will provide efficient support for the very large data bases the bank will require.

Initiating an aggressive schedule for the conversion, the bank has begun moving key applications to the new environment, including securities trading, credit card processing, foreign currency systems, and reporting.

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