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FINANCIAL ORGANISATIONS STILL NOT ‘APPY WITH THE COMPLEXITY OF CLOUD

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Financial organisations still not ‘appy with the complexity of cloud

Len Padilla, Vice President Product Strategy, NTT Communications in Europe

Never before have financial institutions had to face such a slew of competitors, many of which aren’t even banks: Google, Apple, PayPal, and so on. And the problem is that consumers are increasingly valuing what these digital, ‘non-bank banks’ have to offer. In a bid to remain relevant, many financial institutions are turning to the cloud; using it as a tool to innovate, digitalise and fend off competitors.

According to a report by CBI and PWC, UK financial services companies are expected to spend 75 percent more on technology in 2015.  Specifically looking at cloud spend, our own Cloud Reality Check research found that FS organisations plan to increase their budget by seven percent over the next three years (23% to 30%); accounting for nearly a third of their corporate IT budgets by 2018.

And it is easy to understand why. The benefits of the cloud seem undeniable; scalability, reduced capital expenditure, ubiquity and outsourced management of cloud services all promise to make it possible for IT to meet the digital demands of the business. Applications can move from the sandbox to global production in a matter of days, rather than weeks or months.

However, despite this, we found that 34 percent of finance IT decision makers agree that cloud technology in their organisation is failing to live up to its potential. We’ve also seen it slip into the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’, based on Gartner’s latest Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle. Security, compliance and governance are all known issues which can block finance companies adopting cloud. However, although it’s not voiced as a big barrier to cloud, complexity is actually causing IT departments significant frustrations as well.

Is too much choice adding to cloud complexity?

Our research found that on average, finance respondents are running approximately 195 business applications, which is almost double the average of all industries questioned (103). They’re also running four separate cloud platforms across their organisations. And to add further confusion, there isn’t consensus as to which apps are ‘cloud ready’ and which are ‘data centre bound’. For example, finance companies’ most important applications are office productivity and document management (22%) and while 41 percent of them do choose to run the application on private IaaS, the rest are divided between managed hosting (15%), SaaS (18%) and public IaaS (14%).

This is only the tip of the iceberg for cloud confusion. The significant choice faced by finance organisations extends to the number of cloud vendors themselves that are available and even then, some of these vendors aren’t doing enough to help with the move to the cloud. Almost half (45%) of finance sector respondents find managing cloud vendors confusing and challenging, with 43 percent also stating they find migration more trouble than it is worth.

Bimodal can be challenging

With so much hype around the cloud, FS organisations need to act with caution and remember that not all apps belong in the cloud. There is clearly still a place for non-cloud apps, with our research showing that 24 percent of FS respondents don’t plan to migrate their most important apps to the cloud ever, citing security, governance and compliance as the main reasons (71%). This is not surprising given that most, if not all organisations in this sector, are governed by strict regulations.

Consequently, IT departments have to invest a significant amount of time maintaining the current performance of both cloud and corporate data centre applications, while trying to innovate at the same time. And as a result, over half (55%) of finance respondents believe they’re spending more time managing performance than developing functionality.

As Gartner sees it, Bimodal IT refers to having two modes of IT in operation at once. Mode 1 describes traditional IT systems, focused on maintenance, stability and efficiency. Mode 2 is more non-sequential; it’s an experimental and agile operation that moves at great speed.

This bimodal operating model can be challenging for IT departments, as they grapple with running two speeds of IT. However, all is not lost. Many service providers are helping resolve this problem by better aligning the two models. They’re helping to modernise legacy systems and design IT infrastructures, for example, meaning that businesses can focus more of their attention on innovation. This helps companies improve their time to market with the latest IT offerings and provide satisfying customer interactions resulting in profitable, long-term relationships.

It’s time for a cloud reality check

Both ours and the CBI and PWC research show that financial organisations are aware of the huge transformative potential of every type of cloud platform and want to invest more in it – but they are also conscious of the challenges that lie ahead.

In order for cloud to live up to its potential, vendors must help overcome bimodal IT challenges and make the migration to cloud smoother. They also need to make organisations realise that cloud is not an ‘out-the-box’ solution – there are deeply entrenched, highly complex technological, budgetary and organisational challenges.

However, it is also up to finance organisations to approach the planning of their IT strategies differently. By taking the time to use a smaller proof of concept project to map out what their IT landscape will look like rather than diving straight into a big transformation, organisations can make much more informed decisions on the appropriate environments for certain apps and also avoid integration challenges.

These factors should also be communicated to internal stakeholders in order to manage expectations. Understanding that the benefits of cloud accrue over time can help organisations find the patience and tact needed to deal with the complexities of moving to cloud. This realistic approach should also extend to the choice of vendors and cloud solutions. Organisations must scrutinise providers and not be hesitant to opt for a solution that spans different types of cloud and in-house infrastructure, if it meets the needs of the business.

What finance organisations need to do is to stop seeing cloud as a ‘quick fix’ to IT headaches but see it as a powerful tool for digital transformation. In other words, it should not be about cutting costs, or finding a new way to consume services, but about transforming the customer experience. To that end, cloud’s biggest role is to help organisations disrupt themselves from within and build their digital DNA – develop a culture of speed, agility, and innovation that ultimately changes the customer experience.

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears 1

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.

Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.

Other countries including Canada and Britain have already expressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.

Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the titans of the technological revolution.

Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough.

As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.

The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.

A final vote after the so-called third reading of the bill is expected on Tuesday.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson)

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback 2

By Pushkala Aripaka and Matthias Blamont

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.

The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.

In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed towards the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.

Disappointing results were probably caused by an inadequate concentration of the antigen used in the vaccine, Sanofi and GSK said, adding that Sanofi has also started work against new coronavirus variants to help plan their next steps.

Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 110 million as highly transmissible variants of the virus are prompting vaccine developers and governments to tweak their testing and immunisation strategies.

GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.

“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.

The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.

Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.

To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from July.

Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Matthias Blamont in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)

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Don’t ignore “lockdown fatigue”, UK watchdog tells finance bosses

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Don't ignore "lockdown fatigue", UK watchdog tells finance bosses 3

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at financial firms in Britain are suffering from “lockdown fatigue” and their bosses are not always making sure all employees can speak up freely about their problems, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.

Many staff at financial companies have been working from home since Britain went into its first lockdown in March last year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

One year on, the challenges have evolved from adapting to working remotely to dealing with mental health issues, said David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists.

“During this third lockdown, there has been a greater impact on mental well-being, with many people struggling with job security, caring responsibilities, home schooling, bereavements and lockdown fatigue.”

Bosses should continually revisit how they lead remote teams, he said.

“The impact of COVID-19 is creating a huge workload for those considered to be high performers, while the remote environment potentially makes it much more challenging for those who were previously considered low performers to change that perception,” Blunt told a City & Financial online event.

Companies should consider “psychological safety” or ensuring that all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.

“We’ve heard varying reports of how successful this has been,” Blunt said.

Pressures in the financial sector were highlighted this month when accountants KPMG said its UK chairman Bill Michael had stepped aside during a probe into comments he made to staff.

The Financial Times said Michael, who later apologised for his comments, had told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.

Blunt was speaking as the FCA next month completes the full rollout of rules that force senior managers at financial firms to be personally accountable for their decisions to improve conduct standards.

There have only been a “modest” number of breaches reported to regulators so far as firms worry about being “tainted” but more cases will become public as sanctions are revealed, Blunt said.

“Regulators won’t be impressed by lowballing the figures.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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