Technology trends shaking up the financial services industry

By on June 22, 2015
technology

By Thoughtworks: the Communications Firm

The financial services industry has to consider the adoption of new technology trends such as cloud computing to augment their capabilities and social media to test market appetite for new products and services.

The industry has historically been at the forefront of the usage of technology. This is not surprising given the financial institutions’ geographical footprint, enormous client bases and need to conduct an even greater number of transactions securely and quickly. Quintis Venter, a senior software engineer at ThoughtWorks, outlines five of the technology trends South African institutions have to come to terms with.

CLOUD COMPUTING AND BIG DATA

These two trends cannot be seen in isolation and financial institutions are perfectly placed to leverage the benefits of these comparatively new developments in technology delivery.

They can do so by establishing their own, secure cloud computing infrastructure that eliminates the need for discrete computing power and storage capabilities. The benefits of interrogating big data allows them to respond more rapidly – hopefully proactively, but this is more difficult to pull off.

And not because of any technology limitations, but because of the way that these institutions are structured and how they operate. The reality is that we have a situation in which we are waiting for human attitudes to catch up with the available technology.

In order to achieve this transparency while still operating within their security and governance rules requires a significant revision of their data policies that allow the flow of information from one division to any other without fear or favour.

Achieving this ideal is by no means an easy task and – perish the thought – experimentation. This concept may be anathema to the industry but now is the not the time to be sticking to old methods when the industry, especially consumer expectations, are in flux.

SECURITY

A security infraction is a constant axe hanging over the head of financial services executives – and understandably so, given the multiple examples of breaches of financial systems.

This again speaks to the need for greater collaboration and transparency between the different departments and roles within the financial institutions. It is not uncommon to have the development, security, IT and info security operations working in isolation – this is truly a recipe for disaster.

It is understandable that certain compliance requirements have led to this situation; but the range of threats to security today are of such a nature that this is likely to facilitate rather than prevent a severe breach.

The multitude of attempts that banks face every day requires that security is an active and evolving practice.

SOCIAL MEDIA

This focus on the user and user experience has taken on new dimensions with the rise of social media.

Many financial institutions have latched onto this development with vigour in order to open communication lines and improve relations.

The big advantage is the ability to gain immediate feedback when testing out new products or approaches. A lot of effort has therefore been pumped into developing apps that allow customers to respond, but the true value in social media lies well beyond that.

And this concept has not yet been fully grasped. The value for the industry lies in melding the immediacy of social media with the benefits of cloud computing capabilities and big data intelligence.

The forward-thinking institutions will be using these three tools to constantly iterate their offering in response to customer feedback, supported by what the data tells them and their cloud infrastructure allows them.

MOBILITY

There is little doubt that the transaction platform of the future is the mobile device.

Recognising this is not as easy as ensuring that the service, especially the security of the service, is maintained at the levels customers expect or delivers the experience they demand. The added security challenge for the industry is that they can only assure what happens at their end, with the security of the devices themselves left in the hands of their customers.

It is also because of these risk and compliance concerns that the financial institutions have erected silos to protect other areas of the business from intrusion through the mobile and Internet platforms. As mentioned, this is a mode of operation that used to make sense, but no longer – despite the inferred threat of the millions of devices that potentially open a doorway into their back-end systems.

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