To find out the latest in Islamic banking technologies we spoke with the experts at Path Solutions, the leading Islamic banking software provider.
Jacob Zachariah Karuvelil, ‘Executive Vice President-Operations & Global Support’ and ‘General Manager-Kuwait’ at Path Solutions has been working with the company since its inception and has more than 25 years of extensive hands-on experience in the fields of Finance, Audit, Operations and IT. Donning the hat of Department Head, Jacob has played a key role in the development of the company managing various departments. He currently heads the ‘Global Support’ activities of Path’s worldwide clients, Operations and Corporate Legal Services and functions as the GM for Kuwait Head Office.
- Tell us about Path Solutions and the iMAL System.
Path Solutions, with its diverse client base and global presence, is a multi-award winning Islamic banking software house offering a broad spectrum of Sharia and IAS-compliant integrated solutions and services. All of Path Solutions’ business lines are certified as ISO 9001 compatible and are also CMMI Level 3 certified.
Path Solutions’ flagship product, iMAL is designed and developed from scratch on the basis and principles of Sharia to meet the Islamic banking needs, thus making iMAL the number one choice worldwide for this niche market. iMAL, is a comprehensive enterprise yet modular system catering for all banking and investment operations. A “Model Bank” implementation option is available, with best practice processes built-in for start-up Islamic banks.
Path also offers iWINDOW as Islamic window for conventional banks and iSHRAQ a solution aimed for investment companies and consumer financing companies.
- What is the latest iMAL Version?
Version 13.0 is iMAL Application’s most recent ‘Major Release’ that was released in March 2013. It comes with many modifications and general enhancements added to meet the demands of the market and latest technological advances. iMAL 13 includes wide-spread enhancements across the various Delivery Channels, Business Vertical products, Financial Accounting as well as Reporting ones.
- How frequently does Path Solutions release ‘Major Releases’? Are there any other release kinds?
As per Path’s current Version Release Policy, we issue one iMAL Major Release every year to facilitate complex and/or widespread product enhancements and sweeping technological advancements. Major Releases are generally available to all clients and are free of cost; hence termed GA (General Availability) releases.
‘Enhancement Releases’; on demand are released to specific clients to accommodate their critical modifications that cannot wait until the Major Release. And then we have the ‘Maintenance Releases’ or updates which are provided as and when needed to quickly resolve issues reported.
- Tell us about the Upgrade Methodology for existing clients for such Major Releases.
With every new Major Release, Path Solutions follows an ‘Early Adopters Program’ (EAP) where a few clients are selected to do the upgrade as pilot projects. For such clients, full and dedicated Support of key assigned resources from all Path Solutions’ departments is allocated allowing faster turnaround. After completion of upgrades through ‘EAP’, the version is made available for all clients to upgrade to.
iMAL upgrade projects are run by members of the “Global Support” team, the team who provides the general day-to-day Support and maintenance, thus having a full understanding of the people, client business and their requirements.
All projects are executed following Path Solutions’ adapted PMI Methodology for Project Management. A Project Manager (PM) is assigned and for bigger projects’ supervision, a Project Director (PD) would be there. The PM & PD and the project team also receive Support from the Global Support – Project Management Office (PMO) ensuring effective monitoring and control is established throughout the project.
Every project plan discussion starts with a Standard Project Plan, schedule (set based on Path’s previous experience). Upgrade projects range from one month to anywhere upward of three months. This is directly dependent on the level of testing the client plans based on the number of modules implemented among various other factors like availability of staff, readiness of the infrastructure, other dependencies like database and hardware upgrades.
- Do clients need Path Solutions’ help for the ‘Upgrade’?
Every client is given all the needed requisites and the option to do upgrade on his own. However, almost all clients use Path’s Consultancy Services to aid the Upgrade effort. The usual procedure would be to have Consultants (Technical/Business) assigned for the project to be present onsite with the client to support him.
It may be either throughout the project helping propel the project as planned closing it in record times, or at times specifically to accomplish particular tasks based on client requirements like where our Consultant conducts a cycle of Unit Testing onsite before UAT on behalf of the bank IT team. This has always ensured UAT by Business team are much shorter and hassle free. Least down time is achieved with our Technical Consultants assisting for the system upgrade and validation tasks. Also, Overview Trainings of the new Release inclusions are done. Some clients also take it up further to conduct full detailed Refresher Trainings for their employees.
Ultimately we leave it up to the client to decide and provide our services based on each client request and requirements.
- Could you share about one of the latest iMAL Major Release Upgrade done?
The first ‘EAP’ Pilot Upgrade to adopt the new iMAL 13.0 version was United Capital Bank (UCB), Sudan and they went live on the new version in November 2013.
The project was executed as planned and service rendered to the client as per the scope and schedule agreed with the known risks and the unknowns managed efficiently moving UCB to iMAL 13 as expected. With the exception of a few issues faced that were ironed out during the UAT stage, the project was a clear success.
The true cooperation and integrated efforts of the international team of Path Solutions drove this project to success. From Path’s end the PM was from Sudan office, onsite Techno-Business Consultants from Bahrain office and the directorship from India office. The Application experts from Kuwait & Lebanon R & D centres and unwavering Support from the Global Support team contributed gravely to this victory. This would not have been a reality if not for the exceptional leadership and guidance from UCB Head of IT, System Analysts & Project team.
- Is iMAL 13.0 the latest Version? Were there any minor Releases after?
iMAL version 13.2 is the latest Version released in August 2013. It is a minor Release Version built on 13.0 adding in some important modifications and enhancements based on requirements from our clients and others internally identified.
iMAL 13.2, as in 13.0, also includes many enhancements across the various products. Additionally some new changes are included in the specialised iMAL modules for Alerts, Transfer Pricing, Revaluation, Provisioning, ATM Broker and Financial Template Reports.
- Has 13.2 Upgrade been done anywhere?
The first client to start the Upgrade as per ‘EAP’ is Bank of Khartoum (BOK) in Sudan, the largest bank in Sudan now, with 50+ branches.
With many branches decentralized, this Upgrade project comes with its own set of risks to factor in, among many other variables and so the ownership to lead this project was given to one of Path Solutions’ most Senior Managers and Subject Matter Experts on the iMAL Application. From BOK side, the ownership of the project is with the VP-IT/Project Manager.
The Upgrade project at BOK involves a project team including specialists for integration efforts, database review and fine tuning, Internet Banking penetration testing providing onsite assistance during the various stages, along with a Business Consultant and Technical Consultant to propel all planned tasks. Specific expert Trainers are also allocated for the Training on specific modules BOK needed emphasis on.
The project started in March 2014, has successfully completed the planned ‘Training and Bank IT Testing’ phases, which were followed by the User Acceptance Test (UAT) phase. The Go Live on the Upgraded Version has taken place on May 29, 2014.
- How important is it for clients to Upgrade to latest Version?
First of all, it is clear that it would allow the client to take advantage of the vast set of new enhancements or fixes that would have been added with such a new Release – regulatory (like for FATCA), other market-driven enhancements, bug fixes or defect corrections, etc.
Secondly, as per Path Solutions’ Version Release Policy, while all the clients receive free Major Release software updates, it also sets that only the last two General Availability Releases would be supported. This allows Path to maintain and manage lesser Versions and focus on quality of the Supported Versions.
- Any updates about iMAL future Major Release?
The new Major Release, iMAL 14 targeted delivery date is by the 3rd Quarter of 2014 and our strategic partner Boubyan Bank, one of the major Islamic banks in Kuwait will be the ‘Early Adopter’.