Oracle (ORCL) is flexing new muscles with Flexcube 12.0, the latest version of its core system.
Oracle is including with the new version, to be launched this summer, a software development kit for programmers that want to write their own application code. These software tools should improve Flexcube's appeal among larger banks, which prefer to customize the technology they use in different customer service channels.
"Channels are very important and most U.S. banks are investing in channels, not core," says Bart Narter, a senior vice president at the market research firm Celent.
Flexcube 12.0 also combines elements of Oracle's core system that were previously disconnected. The earlier version of Flexcube, 11.4, had already started to draw together elements of Oracle's product line, experts say. The current version differs by integrating the universal banking, private banking and direct banking components of Flexcube.
"Oracle has assimilated its separate offerings into a complementary offering, so if you want one module, you don't need to go through [integration challenges] to make them all work together," says Don Free, a research director at Gartner.
Flexcube 12.0 also provides bankers with a dashboard that gives them a view of the customer's entire relationship with the bank. This added visibility allows bankers to pay closer attention to customer needs and perform customer-related tasks likely to result in more revenue for the bank, Oracle says.
Bankers can then tailor the dashboards more specifically to the channel, says Vikram Gupta, vice president and head of Flexcube development for Oracle Financial Services. For example, loan officers can set parameters that show them the number of loans that have not been approved after seven days.
"We are looking at customer engagement, rather than transactional banking," Gupta says.
Oracle has also released a new set of open development tools, available through a service oriented architecture layer that will let bankers and third-party developers make changes and modify applications, rather than waiting for Oracle to do the work for them.
"What has tied Oracle down in the past was being saddled with every bit of customization, major or minor, that needed to be done," Free says.
The current version of Flexcube also includes some geo-location targeting tools aimed at mobile, one of the most important emerging channels. The application lets banks send their customers coupons and other offers based on location and transactional history.
"Flexcube is ahead of the game in integrating this," says Karen Massey, a senior research analyst at IDC Financial Insights.
Banks are interested in such tools because they are looking at ways to replace revenues lost to the Durbin amendment and other new regulations, Massey says.
With its latest product enhancements, however, Oracle is somewhat like larger core competitors Fiserv (FISV), Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) and Jack Henry (JKHY), Massey says. These vendors hope to make the most of the banks' desire to consolidate vendor relationships around the core by offering them the most product bang for their buck. As such, they've begun offering things like mobile banking, person-to-person payments and remote deposit capture.
Flexcube runs on Oracle Exadata machines, its Exalogic Elastic Cloud, and its SPARC T4 servers, as well as Oracle's standard stack of database and middleware products, Oracle says.
By integrating Flexcube so closely with Oracle's own technology banks, which run many different kinds of system hardware, could encounter difficulties, experts say.
"Flexcube is optimized to run on Oracle," Narter says.