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Banking on virtualization: current technology trends in the financial services sector

By Nick Lowe, Senior Vice President, Sales and General Manager, EMEA and APAC

Nick-LoweIn many large organisations today, IT teams are being challenged to deliver greater performance and a better user experience while working with reduced resources and budgets. The financial services sector is no different; cost is a perennial issue, and even in the wealthiest business the IT department will be tasked with making their organization more agile and effective.

In a recent financial services survey conducted jointly by the CBI and PwC, the authors noted that while businesses in the sector are expecting to spend much less over the next 12 months on land, facilities, vehicles and machinery, expenditure on IT is set to increase by almost 15%. In my opinion, the logic behind that increased expected expenditure is clear – technology can play a huge role in helping any organisation to transform and modernise itself. This is an idea with huge relevance to financial services industry, a sector still feeling the effects of a severe downturn and a shifting economic landscape.

Yet, at the same time that financial services leaders are recognising that technology can be the element to provide them with a competitive edge, they are also facing a conundrum – “one size does not fit all”.

Due to the often overwhelmingly complex and security driven nature of their IT infrastructure in financial services industry, combined with the fact that many organisations are dependent on large shared ownership legacy systems, a “one size fits all” implementation of a technology solution is not always an option. It’s for this reason that the best technology solutions in this industry are the ones that are able to fulfil a particular use case. Successful financial services technologies are the ones that can meet the requirements of specific individuals within the business. A trader, for instance, is going to have a very different requirement to that of a PA, or from back office staff from something as basic as their desktop setup. But meeting those requirements individually is expensive, and therefore prohibitive – especially as the global financial industry and its workforce are becoming more mobile.

User virtualization is one technology that fits the bill. It can help financial services companies drive agility into working practices, while ensuring security is maintained, and IT costs are brought down in the long run. The idea of user virtualization is that each user is managed independently, delivering a consistent desktop computing experience, regardless of how they log into the system – be it from their desk, from another terminal on the network or while on the move using a mobile device. User virtualization offers the user the freedom to work in a way that suits them while allowing IT to keep control over each users account on a policy level. Ultimately, it can enhance workforce mobility and reduce costs.

The question is, how do you know your organisation is ready for user virtualization? Firstly, I would ask, is your organisation looking to maximise its cost efficiency? User virtualization can be an enabler to achieve smart working, hot-desking, desktop virtualization programs and reducing user on-boarding times. I would then ask, whether you need to support a range of business units, some of them high value and therefore have high demand, along with their unique requests? Virtualization can be a great way of helping to accommodate those without having to re-engineer your entire infrastructure and deliver expensive bespoke solutions. My final question would then be, how are you showing value to your company? Financial services moves fast, and it’s up to IT to support that. User virtualization can help the business to expand and chase new opportunities at high speed.

To my mind, there are very few financial services organisations at this point in time that aren’t looking to maximise cost efficiency while supporting a range of business units through the use of a single technology platform. There are even fewer IT departments who aren’t tasked with showing that they provide value to the business. User virtualization can help with all these elements – the question is just, are you willing to lead the way?