Leading Greek bank uses Citrix solution for unified communications during COVID-19
Companies faced overwhelming IT challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Instant access to critical apps, desktops and data, coupled with the basic requirement to communicate efficiently with colleagues and clients became urgent as the restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic brought many employees to a work at home mode. Security was paramount in these new dispersed environments and that was particularly relevant for banks who had to maintain customer trust and ensure that new processes complied with financial regulations.
One institution that started with a distinct advantage was Eurobank , one of the four Greek, systemic banks. Having already implemented Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops as part of its wider digital transformation strategy it had built the foundation for a mobile-ready workforce.
Headquartered in Greece, Eurobank also has a presence in Cyprus, Luxembourg, Serbia, Bulgaria and the UK. It has 652 customer service locations and nearly 12,300 employees. With approximately 9,000 desktops, the bank had not previously concentrated on widely available remote access system, having an eight-year-old legacy system that was used mainly for IT administration activities .
“Our old infrastructure and the method of connecting to the bank needed an upgrade. Therefore, we decided to look for something contemporary, that would also secure other requirements, like Office365 and mobility, while being able to cope with different user operating systems,” says Apostolos Mavrogonatos, Head of IT Services Operation Division at Eurobank.
Seeking a more user-friendly environment including additional security features, such as two-factor authentication, the bank rigorously tested two solutions – one of which was Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, presented by a consortium of Citrix and Accenture.
“Citrix met all of our immediate requirements and we could see real potential for developing the solution further in the future,” explains Kostas Zafiris, Assistant General Manager, Group IT Operations & Infrastructure Head at Eurobank.
Regarding working with the technology partner, Accenture, K. Zafiris adds: “Working with Accenture helped us bridge the gap. They are subject matter experts when it comes to the Citrix solution and the Microsoft products used to secure end users’ equipment. They gave us access to the best elements of both environments.”
Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops provide virtualization solutions that give IT control of virtual machines, applications and security while providing access from any place and through any device. End-users can use applications and desktops independently of the device's operating system and interface to produce a flexible, secure and responsive environment, working from any public cloud, on-premise or hybrid environment. New apps and desktops can be rapidly provisioned and there is built-in security balanced with individual access requirements.
Eurobank runs an active/active environment with two Citrix gateways – one in its Athens production site and the other at its disaster recovery site. Each has the capacity to take the entire load and tests have shown that in the event of a malfunction, everything can be moved seamlessly without noticeable disturbance for remote users. Behind the gateways, nearly 40 servers deal with various requirements. Citrix has been installed in a Double-Hop DMZ (demilitarized zone) scenario to provide an extra layer of security for internal networks.
The initial set-up was for 600 remote Windows PC users with 150 VDIs running in the production and disaster recovery sites and before COVID-19 there were between 100 and 150 concurrent daily user sessions. When the pandemic loomed, a 40-strong Eurobank team swung into action to support remote working and now, over 5,100 users are connected to the system.
“There was a lot of hard work to digitize the whole bank and move the entire environment to home-working, but this is where we saw in action the main benefit of the Citrix infrastructure,” says K.Zafiris. “Establishing the remote connections with each user with a unified communication solution, we were able to get all desktops and phones at home working seamlessly without any problems.”
A. Mavrogonatos adds: “With Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, all users are working as if they were in their office. They have the same access to applications with no difference from the desktops they have been using for years.”
Eurobank has been praised for coping with COVID-19 efficiently. Shortly after the first lockdown, the company was among the top Greek companies that achieved such high percentages of working from home for their staff, in a safe environment. It is worth noting that Eurobank has been named “Distinguished Crisis Leader for 2020” by the internationally renowned American magazine Global Finance as a recognition of the measures it took to enhance safety for its employees and the support it offereced to its customers and the society during the pandemic.
According to Eurobank’s partner Accenture: “Eurobank has a very strong vision of the digital era and they understand the tools that they have and how to expand the capabilities that these tools can bring to their way of working,” says Charis Motsios, Accenture Cloud Transformation and Migration Manager. “The Citrix platform has helped them do things better and give better functionalities to their people. Also, they have the appetite to expand and enhance these capabilities in the future.”
Those future plans include a move of 550 people to a new building in Athens and the implementation together with Accenture of a modern workplace, with the use of VDI and virtual applications.
With Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, all users are working as if they were at their office. They have the same access to applications with no difference comparing to the desktops they have used for years.
Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, it offers Strategy and Consulting, Interactive, Technology and Operations services—all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Accenture’s 506,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. The company embraces the power of change to create value and shared success for its clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. www.accenture.com.