Customer service is front and center for Investors Bank, a publicly traded, full-service bank headquartered in Short Hills, New Jersey. The bank was founded nearly 100 years ago and operates over 150 branches throughout New Jersey and New York. Its mission is to help customers, employees, stockholders, and communities prosper by offering world-class banking solutions, honestly, earnestly, and responsibly.
Investors Bank wanted customers to have a consistent experience whether they were interacting with the bank online, at a branch, or at an ATM. Its vision for an omnichannel experience included providing customers with the ability to start a loan application online and finish it at a branch, or vice-versa. Customers would also have the option to communicate with bankers via video conferencing from anywhere they’re located.
To achieve its vision, Investors Bank began a digital transformation effort a few years ago that included adopting a cloud-first approach. As part of this strategy, the bank’s IT leadership sought to transition its branches to the cloud using a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solution.
In order for Investors Bank to attain its goals, it first needed to address its legacy branch network. It relied on a router and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) as its primary network, along with a secondary broadband connection participating in a Dynamic Multipoint Virtual Private Network (DMVPN). MPLS was expensive and didn’t provide enough bandwidth to perform required tasks. Without a next-generation SD-WAN, Investors Bank lacked traffic visibility. The bank also had no way to segregate traffic supporting back-office applications from customer traffic.
Investors Bank sought a best-of-breed security solution that would improve visibility. It needed to be able to examine network and application traffic and pinpoint where problems were occurring.
IT leaders also wanted a solution that would provide symmetric traffic. Symmetric networks permit all devices to send and receive data at the same rate. They’re important when greater bandwidth and fast speed are crucial, such as during video conferencing.
The bank required technology that would easily integrate with its existing ecosystem, which includes Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls, providing branch security.
As part of its evaluation process, the bank vetted solutions from three SD-WAN vendors and also considered a fourth vendor that IT leadership had experience with in the past. While competitors couldn’t meet all the requirements, Palo Alto Network exceeded them.
Palo Alto Networks’ Prisma SD-WAN was clearly the best fit to enable the branches to migrate to the cloud and provide industry-leading security.
As the world’s first next-generation SD-WAN, Prisma SD-WAN met all the requirements and provided features competitors did not. For example, it was the only solution that enables visibility into Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) traffic across the web and could differentiate between application and network traffic.
Prisma SD-WAN seamlessly integrates with Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls and provides singlepane- of-glass visibility for Investors Bank.
During the evaluation phase, Investors Bank’s IT team ran Prisma SD-WAN through the network in transparent mode and collected data that helped them see how it would perform. “That’s the beauty of Prisma SD-WAN,” said Thava Kanaganathan, Vice President and Head of Enterprise Architecture at Investors Bank. “You can run it in transparent mode then look at all the data and see how it’s going to help you out.”
Once the team deployed Prisma SD-WAN, they leveraged Layer 7 intelligence to inspect traffic and for visibility into the customer and banker experience.
“With all the positive feedback we got, we went on to deploy 157 branches at the same time,” said Kanaganathan. Investors Bank’s small IT team was able to roll out Prisma SD-WAN to all branches in just four months. “We don’t have a huge army of people, but we were able to do that. Each site took a maximum of 20 minutes,” he said.
The bank created a detailed runbook to guide the deployments, which were performed during business hours. “Branches didn’t even feel the difference. They went through the upgrade without any downtime,” said Kanaganathan.
Palo Alto Networks engineers were on the phone to provide assistance during deployment to the first 10 sites. After that, the Investors Bank IT team was able to complete deployment by themselves. Palo Alto Networks also provided training to help the IT team get up and running and utilize Prisma SD-WAN to its fullest. Maintenance is minimal, consisting only of software upgrades.
With Prisma SD-WAN, Investors Bank saw several benefits right out of the gate. It gained the bandwidth it needed by aggregating the MPLS and broadband networks already in its branches.
The bank handles several types of traffic including core banking applications, ATM, and customer Wi-Fi. It’s now able to segregate and prioritize traffic at both the application and the port levels, increasing performance and security. Traffic from known applications can go directly to the internet and bypass the data center.
Enhancing bandwidth performance while reducing costs is a game changer
Best of all, Investors Bank was ultimately able to eliminate MPLS and use the cost savings to install 4G broadband backup in all branches. Prisma SD-WAN allows the bank to prioritize traffic using that connection. With Prisma SD-WAN, it’s seen a tremendous boost in performance compared to MPLS while achieving a 53 percent reduction in operating expenses.
The increased bandwidth allowed the bank to implement video conferencing in all its branches. Customers can now communicate with bankers located in a different city or state. “With Prisma SD-WAN, the banker can do their job and the customer can get what they want. That was the main game changer for us,” said Kanaganathan.
The top choice for financial institutions
Investors Bank sees its decision to select an SD-WAN solution from a trusted firewall provider as the right choice for ensuring highly secure and optimized network traffic—a choice they’d recommend to any other financial services company considering a similar solution.
“I’d put my money on a firewall company for an SD-WAN solution for a financial company’s peace of mind,” said Kanaganathan.