Though the product is out for a while, here are some experiences from the field
Microsoft has created a middleware product targeted to second-tier money managers and banks, an underserved segment of the financial industry that frequently cannot afford existing technology, according to Tim Lind, analyst at Needham, Mass.-based TowerGroup. Microsoft is a TowerGroup client. "If the technology brings integration tools to the masses, it bestows important advances to the industry. There are hundreds of firms that could use this technology and its impact could potentially be huge," said Lind. Calls to Kenny McBride and Matt Connors, product managers at Microsoft, were not returned by press time last Thursday.
Existing technology can cost in the six figure range, a price point beyond the grasp of most small firms. But Microsoft's offering, BizTalk Accelerator For Financial Services, will cost $20,000-25,000, and offers 80% of the functionality at 8% of the costs of existing systems, said Lind.
Automation among smaller banks and managers has been hampered because the price of middleware was prohibitive and building systems in-house was not an option because staffs were too small. Instead, these firms were forced to re-key data and rely on manual processes such as the fax machine. Those methods expose firms to errors and risk which many market participants feel compelled to reduce. BizTalk is a messaging platform that speeds communication and eliminates errors.
Microsoft has built BizTalk on software that many firms already use and support such as Outlook, which is BizTalk's user interface. The advantage of building on known technology is that training and integration costs are virtually eliminated because users and developers are familiar with using and deploying the technology.