Thursday, February 21, 2008

Who will buy?

It is no secret that Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO is hell bent on world domination, and the other day I had the pleasure of seeing just how determined the man is to provide the complete software stack covering almost every permutation of financial services.

Over lunch an Oracle exec presented me with a 'place mat' - which I proceeded to eat my lunch on - demonstrating Oracle/i-flex solutions' banking footprint across retail, commercial and private wealth management.

With no fewer than 38 acquisitions under his belt, in the next issue of financial-i magazine, we look at the ramifications of Oracle's 'stack' approach for financial service providers.

Critics say that IBM tried it in the 1970s but failed. It is a question of who will buy, and of course with any software vendor that is so acquisitive in nature, customers are always going to be concerned about how well integrated its solutions are. Oracle's Fusion Middleware is an effort to pull the applications together, and the Oracle execs I met with were insistent that any company acquired by Oracle soon becomes part of the fold.

When it comes to Oracle/i-flex's existing banking footprint, most of the boxes on the place mat representing the customer experience, product and transaction processing, master data management, corporate admin, compliance, risk-based monitoring, analytics platforms and enterprise technology, were greyed out, meaning that Oracle already occupied that space.

The executive indicated that the white boxes were where Oracle would make its next acquisitive strike; in areas such as trade processing, securities trading, derivatives pricing, Lock Box, custody and structured derivatives.

Interestingly, Ellison has deep pockets and has financed acquisitions without having to resort to injections of private equity capital. The latest target is BEA Systems, which Oracle appears to be acquiring for its capital markets customer base.

Any guesses where Ellison is likely to strike next? But it seems not all banks are buying the stack approach. No bank is going to want to lock themselves into a single vendor, although the pace with which Oracle is acquiring companies they may be forced to. Additionally, some of the bigger banks still tend to favour building proprietary solutions in-house rather than buying something off-the-shelf.

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