Grand Central Makes Inroads In Financial Services Market

Although still a new concept to many, Web services are becoming increasingly popular with overburdened and underfunded IT departments. Recent customers wins by Web services provider Grand Central underscores the industry's nascent advances.

GC, which provides an IP network dedicated to establishing application-to-application communication using SOAP, announced this week the signing of three financial services firms; Wachovia Corp. (formerly First Union), the US's fourth largest bank holding company; Thomas Weisel Partners, a merchant bank; and Putnam Lovell Securities, an investment banking firm. This brings GC's customer base to a total of eight.

The company also announced revenue generating partnerships with application service provider’s Blue Matrix and Systems integration firms Acetta, Opscentric, Persistent Web and Primordial have also signed up to utilize GC's services.

While any customer wins for outsourced service providers in today's market are significant, the financial services market seems especially suited to utilize GC's services.

"It's really just the nature of the beast ...," says Adam Gross, GC's vice president of Marketing. "These folks spend an order of magnitude more than the nearest vertical on these technologies so they are going to be the early adopter of most new things."

This is because companies in financial services rely on the speedy and accurate delivery of timely information to survive. And while many of the big players have spent years and millions of dollars developing similar technologies in house, GC has taken that model and made it available to all comers, he says.

"This sort of technology has been the domain of the largest and most rarified IT organizations; just like online services were before the Internet and we're trying to democratize it," Gross says.

GC's solution works by establishing a network hub through which SOAP enabled messages can be queued outside the corporate firewall. Other applications then query GC for the information via a standard IP hookup. GC handles all the business processes and security needed to ensure the data only goes where it’s supposed to.

"Were not an ISP," says Gross. "We don't actually supply the bytes. We sit on top of the Internet and you use your existing ISP to connect to GC. We provide these application level services to facilitate the connection of partners. The key is they don't have to take their internal system and put it outside the firewall in order for others to be able to access it."

This is precisely why Putnam, which relies on ASP and other service providers for its IT infrastructure, signed up for the service, said Rodric O'Connor, Putnam's VP or Technology.

Not having the time, money or experience to develop a connectivity solution themselves, Putnam turned to GC to facilitate the cross talk between its four worldwide offices and its dispersed customer base. By utilizing GC's services, processes once done by hand, like the dissemination of reports generated using Blue Matrix's services, can now be automated, he says.

"We're automating a manual process," O'Connor said. "We could have built something ... but then all that development would be just automating that single business process, that single operation. It wouldn't be like a hub and spoke architecture where you can reuse that development work."

Another factor attracting firms like Putnam is cost. O'Connor estimates that to have developed similar capabilities in house would have cost $250,000 over three years. GC provides the same functionality at about 20 percent of that cost, he said.

"It's the easiest way to do it. It's the cheapest way to do it," O'Connor said.

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Primordial, Grand Central Sign Web-Services Pact

About the Author

Allen Bernard is a Columbus, Ohio-based freelance writer covering the ASP and Web Services industries