Migrating your bank’s card systems: what it means, why it matters and how to do it

As new ways to pay come to the fore and cash takes a back seat, having a modern software infrastructure that can cope with online and mobile payments is vital to any bank’s future. Maris Zandersons from Tietoevry Banking look at what it takes to replace or upgrade your card payment systems.

Making the decision to upgrade or replace your core systems is never easy for any bank.

Yet at a time when banks’ card products face competition from new, nimble fintechs and telecommunications companies – not to mention digital wallets – such upgrades are necessary as they deliver improved efficiency, lower costs and greater profitability now and for the future.

What’s more, with renowned management consultants McKinsey & Co claiming[1] 90% of any bank’s IT budget is currently spent on maintaining legacy systems, migrating your card systems can also free up more money to invest in innovative new products for your customers.

Modern systems can also give you a degree of control that a national switching system can’t match, with the freedom to offer specific products tailored to your high net worth (HNW) customers, the youth market, small businesses and other groups.

Trust a methodology that works: preparation is important

At Tietoevry Banking, we have more than 25 years’ experience in migrating card systems for banks of all sizes in the UK and Europe. This experience has enabled us to identify a methodology that works for card systems migration.

This methodology begins with a preparatory phase, in which we examine a bank’s objectives in undertaking a systems migration project.

In this phase, we analyze our client’s existing card systems and business processes and agree how these need to change.

We then develop a solution proposal which includes all of the new systems that need to be integrated, including any customizations required.

Finally for this preparatory phase, we develop a project plan for the implementation of this new system.

Data – as important as systems

Just as important as the new systems themselves is the migration of client card and account data into the new environment. That’s why we define a clear path for how to migrate all client card and account data, including which systems are involved, how the classification and structure of the data needs to change, and other factors.

After having made this proposal and discussed it with our client, we prepare a data migration plan that runs in parallel with our implementation plan for the new card system, using a framework we call PPS (Practical Project Steering).

How to prepare for data migration

Our client banks play an important role in data migration. Firstly, we work with them to identify the sources (systems) their data is drawn from, as well as the scope of data they are looking to migrate – and whether they will migrate historical data, as well as current records.

Another important step is deciding who is going to prepare the data for migration – we have this capability at Tietoevry Banking but some banks choose to do it themselves or ask third parties to do it for them.

Choosing your migration: big bang, phased or other?

Once you’ve created a migration project plan for your systems and data, the next step is to choose a migration approach. One popular method is the so-called “Big Bang” method, in which everything is migrated at one time. Another method is to migrate systems, functionalities or products gradually, in what’s known as a phased methodology.

The phased methodology tends to suit customers with a lower risk appetite, while a “Big Bang” approach tends to be faster and cheaper. If a “Big Bang” approach is taken, we would always recommend running old and new systems in parallel for a period of time to minimize risk.

It’s also possible to take a blended approach, in which old systems are run in parallel with new for a defined, limited time period.

The graph below shows how much work is usually required before launch (implementation work) and after launch (problem solving) under each of the different options – “Big Bang” with no parallel systems run involves less work before launch, but potentially higher risk, while taking an approach with parallel run before “Big Bang” means more work before launch, but less after launch.

Some points to bear in mind:

Card scheme certification. One obvious point many banks miss when migrating to new card systems is allowing enough time for card schemes such as Visa and Mastercard to certify the new systems. This should be booked well in advance and planned into the migration schedule.

Customer agreements. Usually, most system upgrades do not change existing products so there should be no requirement to revisit customer agreements. Your new system should be capable of replicating your old products, and indeed make it possible for you to offer new products.

API integrations. Keep in mind that your new system should have well-defined APIs to enable integration with other banks and third parties – and that these APIs will be different to what you used previously. Usually banks want us to adapt to their existing file formats, but then find that our APIs are more flexible and easier to integrate to other digital solutions. Your vendor should be able to handle all integrations with your existing systems and third party systems on your behalf.

Don’t forget the data. Remember – the quality and quantity of data migrated to your new system is an essential element of success. At Tietoevry Banking, we would not necessarily recommend migrating huge amounts of historical data which can have little value: instead, we often recommend warehousing any data that regulators do not require banks to retain. This data can then be accessed as needed. Going forward, it’s important to identify scenarios in which this historical might be needed (and accessed) – and to have a data management strategy that defines how and when data needs to be accessed, who is responsible and the processes by which data can be consulted.


Tietoevry Banking is a European leader in card systems migration, now expanding globally. For a discussion about how your bank can migrate to more flexible, modern, fully-digital card systems, visit us HERE


[1] McKinsey & Co, 5 December 2023: “Capturing the full value of generative AI in banking” : https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/capturing-the-full-value-of-generative-ai-in-banking

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