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The future of financial services IT

Grant Caley
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The future of financial services IT Financial services have for the most part weathered the storm of 2019/2020 fairly well, but the past couple of years have not been without their challenges and opportunities. In banking there was a large rise in e-commerce transactions as customers shopped from home, especially for more mundane items. But this rise was tempered with a loss of direct customer interaction and the realization that functions such as compliance are not ready for remote working. Other financial services sectors have been equally impacted. For example, insurance has seen fewer motoring and medical claims, but reinsurers are likely to take the brunt of claims for COVID-19 related losses. In the fintech industry, especially in exchanges/execution and payments, there was some initial paralysis but overall growth opportunity. Cryptocurrency startups have seen a spike in interest; electronic currencies are the exciting investment of the year. It’s fair to say, though, that despite the opportunities, it has been a challenging time, with an uncertain future still ahead.

It’s obvious that the engagements and services offered to customers will have to transform. Brick and mortar branches will certainly decline, especially as distancing measures and remote working remain high. Customers are also rapidly adopting mobile technologies for their key financial services and taking advantage of a range of exciting new apps for investing, saving, and transacting. The use of cash has taken a dramatic decline. In the UK, the Open Banking initiative is opening the doors to a plethora of new startup opportunities based on a standardised cross-institution banking API. In order to capitalise on these opportunities, digital transformation is an essential strategy. But what does this actually mean?

Broadly, digital transformation is the use of technology and data, combined with a social mind shift to achieve an accelerated and enriched outcome for both a business and its customers. Customer engagement and experience is obviously even more key than ever to retaining, protecting, and driving new business, especially because this is more often than not a remote engagement. Not to be too pessimistic, but those financial services companies that fail to transform rapidly will lose business to those that do.

For mature financial services companies, the challenge to transforming rapidly is partly their legacy technical debt, which slows their ability to be as agile as new fintech companies are. And the challenge is also partly due to their lack of new technology skills and a corresponding reluctance to embrace innovations. Some financial institutions are splitting their IT functions into legacy and agile to try to deal with these challenges; or they are purchasing startups to gain a competitive leap forward. In the data centre, though,  the legacy still remains of siloed data and cost-impacting infrastructure.

Addressing the challenge of digital transformation in financial services

Although the answer isn’t simple, financial services institutions can take some steps to set the right course. The end game is to be agile, to be able to quickly build new revenue-driving, customer-engaging solutions, and ultimately to be more  “fintechlike.” All while bringing to bear the maturity and reputation of an already established brand.

Leveraging the cloud is an essential step to a fast start to building new agile technology and data-enabled solutions. Unlike the past, though, these new platforms need to start off cost optimised, compliance maintaining, and flexible. All while avoiding the siloed lock-in and technical debt of the past. Leveraging new agile deployment and development technologies such as microservices and artificial intelligence is imperative, but  with an underpinning of mission-critical and scalable data services platforms. The cloud and ecosystem partners can deliver this agility today, if they are architected correctly from the beginning.

However, the cloud isn’t the only answer; legacy technical debt also needs to be addressed. Adopting an application and infrastructure modernization strategy is key. Apart from evaluating which applications to move or transform to the cloud, or which should stay on premises, the building of a cloudlike agile data services platform on premises is essential. This platform should be flexible, so that it can scale up or down as needed, and it should also be cloud connected. Cloud connectivity enables a true hybrid cloud application portability strategy, providing application flexibility that is based on business need and not technical debt.

So the future of financial services is to be able to drive new revenues, protect existing business, and be the new innovators through digital transformation. This transformation relies on modernizing and cloud connecting existing data centre infrastructures, leveraging multicloud and ecosystem capabilities to build a siloless, secure, flexible, and compliant hybrid cloud data fabric. A future where technical debt is a thing of the past and innovation is by design!

To find out how to start your journey, visit https://www.netapp.com/industries/financial-services/ for more details.

Grant Caley

Grant Caley is the Chief Technologist for NetApp UK’s Enterprise business, helping customers build their hybrid cloud data fabric.

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