Spanish bank Santander, the owner of Abbey in the UK, has set out plans to migrate the various payments systems it uses around the world onto a single IT infrastructure.

The consolidated payments system, which is due to go live over the next 12 months, will make use of a range of Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 as part of its core, plus Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft BizTalk Accelerator for SWIFT and web services. The overhaul should enable faster payment process times, reduced operating costs and bring significant cost efficiencies to the entire group.

The initial phase of the project will see the group’s larger banks – Banco Santander, Abbey and Banesto – implementing the technology first, to be followed by the smaller banks and building societies in the group.

The Microsoft-based core payments system is being rolled out in part to enable connectivity and transactions processing for Single European Payments Area (Sepa), connecting to the Euro Banking Association (EBA) and UK Faster Payments.

And Santander is currently developing different projects that will culminate in a common payment infrastructure for the whole group. These include STP Manager, a system designed to handle all financial message interchanges between the group and external institutions, and Faster Payments, a key initiative that will increase the speed of credit transfer from one account to another, enabling internet and telephone banking users to benefit from near-real-time payment processing.

The project should also give Santander the ability to receive payments information in various formats by consolidating interfaces with the various Automated Clearing Houses and corporates with which it is connected. The system’s flexibility will enable the payments engine to be modified and routing rules to be altered as required.

“Having explored and evaluated various solutions, we chose Microsoft technology after the Group’s architecture team ran a proof of concept that proved the system would be able to handle 62 million messages per day, with processing rates of 1,156 messages per second,” said Maite Agujetas, chief architect of Santander.

“We believe that this project will help us easily adapt our current systems with minimal disruption to our customers.”