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How banks can modernise legacy systems with APIs

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How banks can modernise legacy systems with APIs

By Danny Healy, financial technology evangelist,MuleSoft

These are challenging times for traditional financial services firms. On the one hand, they need to speed up their adoption of new digital platforms, so that they can meet the demands of modern customers and compete with disruptive fintech players.

On the other hand, they also need to transform how they connect to the legacy systems that underpin much of their business if they’re to integrate seamlessly with these new digital platforms. Faced with the challenge of bridging the divide between two very different generations of IT, many banks are struggling to find the most effective way forward.

MuleSoft’s Connectivity Benchmark Report 2018 recently revealed that 42 percent of organisations cite legacy infrastructure and systems among the top three challenges to digital transformation. Since legacy systems contain immense value and are embedded across banks’ operations to such a large extent, the ‘rip and replace’ approach simply won’t work. However, continued reliance on these monolithic systems makes it difficult to innovate at speed. This highlights the impact that legacy IT systems, such as mainframes, have on a bank’s ability to innovate and remain competitive.

As legacy systems form the backbone of most financial organisations, it’s not surprising they are still relied upon. Yet at the same time, these organisations need to modernise their legacy systems to survive in a business landscape where fast and agile beats slow and static. So why are they still so reliant on legacy systems and what can they do to modernise them?

 Why break from reliability, security and resilience?

Although their heritage dates back more than half a century, legacy systems offer the kind of security, reliability and resilience that banks desire. That’s why they’re still used to support critical functions such as deposit accounting, policy administration, loan servicing, and payment processing. It’s also why banks store the bulk of their most valuable data on legacy systems. However, while well suited for intensive data processing tasks, legacy systems are less aligned with many modern business requirements. For example, they can be inefficient at accommodating new consumption experiences and supporting rapid change, which are critical to the new digital banking services consumers are demanding.

If unable to simply abandon legacy systems, banks must find a way to “refresh and extend” them so that newer digital platforms and technologies can plug into the immense value they possess. While innovation does not happen within legacy systems themselves, they are where the data that fuels innovation is stored. By finding creative ways to unlock and use the data stored in legacy systems, banks can decentralise access to their data in order to enhance customer experiences.

This can be achieved with code written on top of legacy systems that allows access to a limited set of data. For each set of data, different units of code can be written, thereby componentising the information housed in the legacy system. Furthermore, the collection of those units provide an agility layer that allows other systems or business partners to access the data without having to depend on the underlying complex system directly. Banks must therefore look at how they can create this agility layer between existing legacy systems and newly adopted applications, such as Salesforce and Workday.

 The API transformation 

APIs essentially become a kind of ‘digital glue’ that enables the integration that today’s banks require, providing the necessary agility layer between new and existing IT. In simple terms, APIs allow applications to talk to each other and share data. Using APIs, banks can quickly plug and unplug applications, data sources and devices into their growing application networks. As a result, banks can drive innovation at speed and compete more effectively.

A major benefit in using APIs is that consumers of the data need only interact with the API itself; they don’t need to understand how to connect with the underlying legacy system or data source. As well as providing greater agility, this also helps banks overcome the challenges associated with the growing mainframe skills shortage. Most importantly, it creates long-term benefits by moving away from point-to-point integration, which creates tight coupling between applications. According to the Connectivity Benchmark Report 2018, over three-quarters of IT decision makers in the financial sector believe point-to-point integration must die if they want to reduce costs, deliver faster and remain competitive, while extracting more value from data.

HSBC is a great example of how this works in practice. The bank is using an API strategy to expand its digital and mobile offerings without needing to replace its legacy systems. For example, it created a new mobile app that can directly connect to a customer’s bank accounts through an API, enabling transactions to be categorised in real-time to offer customers greater control of their spending. APIs have enabled these services by exposing and connecting data from siloed stores, both within the bank and from third-party providers. 

Banking on a digital future

 Legacy systems clearly have a lot of life left in them, but rather than feeling trapped by their longevity, banks can follow the example of HSBC and modernise their legacy environments with an API strategy. Adopting this approach and building out an application network will enable significant benefits beyond just solving the immediate challenge of integration in a single project. Banks have a real opportunity to add value for customers and create new revenue streams by using external APIs to open up access to their products and services for a new world of third-party providers, who essentially become a new distribution network.

This makes a lot of sense in terms of the new Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2), which was created to encourage competitiveness and innovation in mobile and internet banking, by allowing authorised third parties to access banks’ customer data. For example, property websites, used car trading forums and many more could embed a bank’s products and services on their webpages, driving the bank into a wider distribution channel and adding enormous value for consumers by creating more seamless experiences.

Ultimately, financial institutions must balance their operational demands with the strategic need to grow and compete. With an API strategy, it’s possible to both extend the life of legacy systems while supporting immediate digital transformation needs to keep up with the pace of fintechs. The enhanced capabilities and agility that this enables opens up a whole new world of possibilities for banks to embrace.

Banking

The Next Evolution in Banking

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The Next Evolution in Banking 1

By Young Pham, Chief Strategy Officer at CI&T

Everything we know about banking is about to change. A new industry around the sharing of financial data is primed to give birth to a host of new consumer services, all thanks to Application Programming Interface (API) technology. Already known for being the safest place for money, there are opportunities for banks to expand that relationship to other aspects of the customer relationship. Banks will no longer simply be just a place to deposit and withdraw your cash, but a one-stop-shop for a range of data-sensitive services.

The passing of GDPR and the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) were the first steps in this process of banks modernising how they handled their customer data. However, incumbent institutions have so far not engaged enthusiastically. Rather, it was only after growing pressure from fintech challengers and government regulation that they were forced to open up and share their data. This should not be treated as a regulatory challenge, but rather a way to grasp the unique opportunities that banks have to reposition themselves as the most trusted resource for their customers.

Expanding offerings

It is hard to overestimate the breadth of possibilities arising from open banking, should banks choose to take advantage of this evolution. While the public rarely holds bankers in high regard, it still puts a high level of trust in banking institutions. People are more willing to hand over their sensitive data than they would be to almost any other private entity. Furthermore, banks have a unique perspective into their customers’ behaviours, needs and desires. Spending habits, income streams and risk appetites are just a few examples of the data that no other institution can tap in to.

There is certainly appetite to expand offerings. In our recent study of business banking customers, over 68% of respondents indicated that they were open to their financial institution providing digital non-banking services.  This includes services such as tax support, managing payroll, or invoicing to help them with their day-to-day businesses.

More banks should consider how open banking can maximise their digital capabilities and create a greater range of services for customers to enjoy. Such offerings could be tailored according to each bank and their particular customer audience. For instance, banks could offer everyday services for most users, such as insurance for individuals or business management tools for business accounts. Alternatively, banks could offer more exclusive and specialised services for high net worth individuals to meet their specific needs, such as art appraisal and investment management.

The idea that a firm can expand its offering into new verticals is hardly new. Many of the world’s largest tech companies, such as Apple and Amazon, already offer diverse products including hardware, software, entertainment and cloud services. They are able to do this thanks to the vast quantities of data they have gathered, which provide invaluable insights into consumer behaviour and demand. Banks are in prime position to follow the example of these top tier tech companies thanks to their monopoly on key financial data.

Disruptors vs incumbents

The business model described above is already being adopted by numerous challenger banks. These firms have led the innovative charge thus far, thanks largely to their agility afforded by their smaller size. Indeed, some fintech banks already provide a range of non-banking services to their customers. Revolut, for instance, offers users several types of travel insurance as well as access to airport lounges as part of its premium service for a monthly subscription.

These offerings are not a sign that the challenger banks are about to topple the large incumbents. Rather, these disruptors have always flagged the gaps in the market that larger institutions have been too slow to fill. It is now up to the established banks to learn from their example.

While challenger banks may have a first-mover advantage for these services, the incumbents have two key advantages: capital and credibility. Firstly, the top banks have enough cash to fund this overhaul of their business models. While the challengers have been able to afford to do so in recent years, they lack the reserves to tide them over during economic downturns such as the current pandemic.

Secondly, even though challenger banks are perceived as more convenient and are less vilified than traditional banks, the public still trusts the latter. Many of these large banks can point to their extended histories and long-term investment success – accolades young challengers simply cannot match. In short, people don’t have to like their bank to trust them with their cash and their data. These two advantages strongly suggest that large banks are better positioned to take advantage of the open banking business model in the long term, despite being slower to adopt and adapt.

What’s next?

All this opportunity is within reach. We already have the technical capabilities for data sharing, and the regulatory framework is not insurmountable. Rather, the key for this evolution of the sector lies in banks’ appetite for risk and willingness to reinvent their business model.

Banks need to take a leap of faith and leave behind the business paradigm to which they’ve become accustomed. They should embrace transparency, run towards regulation and take advantage of opportunities to invest in these areas or collaborate with outside technology firms. Only then will banks be able to make the most of their data assets, creating value for the customer and further strengthening the relationship.

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Banking

Banks talk a good game, but are bankrupt when it comes to change and innovation

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Banks talk a good game, but are bankrupt when it comes to change and innovation 2

By Erich Gerber, SVP EMEA & APJ, TIBCO Software

You hear all the time about the incredible pace of change in technology and the way that it affects business, but sometimes we kid ourselves about the real speed of that change and the depth of its effects. Retail banking is a perfect example to illustrate the yawning chasm between the illusion and the less attractive reality. In this article, I want to provide a critique of the banking sector and its failure to change fundamentally and to modernise.

Banking is an old sector: the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena has its roots in the 15th century and the oldest UK banks go back to the 17th century. We often talk about legacy holding companies back, restricting their speed of operations and hampering their ability to adapt. Well, established banks have legacy in spades.

They also have cultural challenges. The old saying has it that something is “safe as the Bank of England” and that is a standard for security. But today we need banks to be more dynamic and represent something more than being a deposit box for our wealth. Consumers are accustomed to the superb customer experiences in entertainment (Spotify), devices (Apple), retail (Amazon), travel (Uber) and much else. Surveys show that they want their banks to be responsive, easy to use and available across multiple channels. They’d like banks to be secure but also to be advisors, enable flexible movement of assets between accounts, provide useful data analytics, be cloud- and mobile-friendly and offer deals that are specifically targeted at their interests.

S-l-o-w progress

At their core, banks now must become digital enterprises but, frankly, it has been slow going. As Deloitte observed: “While many banks are experimenting with digital, most have yet to make consistent, sustained and bold moves toward thorough, technology-enabled transformation.”

Erich Gerber

Erich Gerber

We all know that retail banking has changed significantly: you can see that in the proliferation of apps and the fact that, in pre-pandemic times, the morning and evening commute are peak times for transactions as people arrange their finances while sitting in trains, buses and subways. Banking has become a virtual, often mobile business, thanks to new tech-literate consumers pushing banks in that direction. But my fear is that the banks aren’t moving even nearly fast enough and that’s bad for us as consumers and bad for the banks themselves.

Banks are under pressure to change because challengers don’t have the legacy constraints of incumbents and because PSD2 and open banking regulations are having the intended effect of promoting banking as a service, delivering transparency and greater competition.

Attend any business technology conference and banks will talk about their digital transformations and customer experience breakthroughs, but it’s my contention that a lot of this work is more window-dressing than platform building. Or, to put it another way, banks are injecting Botox, rather than undergoing the open-heart surgery that they really need. It’s a case of ‘look: fluffy kittens and shiny baubles’ in the form of apps and websites, but the underlying platforms remain old and creaking and that means that the banking incumbents are hampered.

To be fair, I have lots of sympathy here. They simply can’t move as fast as the challenger banks that have had the luxury of starting their infrastructure from scratch and sooner or later that will come back and bite them. Look, for example, at cloud platforms where only 10 or 20 percent of infrastructure has been migrated despite promises of cloud-first strategies and the banking data centres where monolithic on-prem hardware still reigns.

You feel that slowness of action in your interactions with banks that communicate only via issued statements, letters notifying you of changes to Ts and Cs, and threats when you go into the red. Inertia is nothing new in banking either: we like to think that technology change happens in the blink of an eye but in banking contactless NFC took the best part of 20 years to go mainstream.

This is the dirty secret of banks. They see the need to change but remain shackled. Why are the banks so slow? Historically, because it was hard for competitors to gain banking licences and the capital to really challenge so there was no catalyst or mandate for change. Also, because change is tough and fear of downtime or a security compromise to critical systems is very real. More recently, because internal wars in organisations set roundheads against cavaliers, the risk-averse against the bold, resulting in impasse and frustration.

I said change is tough and that’s why banks need to power through on the basis of Winston Churchill’s wisdom that ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going.” How? By a combination of maniacal focus on expunging legacy systems, placing maximum emphasis on superb customer interaction experiences and digitally enabling anything that moves.

Right now, the banks are surviving, not thriving; they’re rabbits blinking into the headlights of approaching traffic, frozen in the moment. But they need to disrupt themselves before others do it to them: change is painful but not as painful as the alternative. They have to do much more or they will see a decline in their fortunes due to their bankrupt capacity for innovation and their inflexible infrastructures.

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Banking

Vietnamese National Citizen Bank Rises to Excellence with Three Global Financial Awards

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Hanoi, Vietnam – Global Banking & Finance Review is proud to announce the sweeping victory of National Citizen Bank in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards®. The bank was recently presented with three prestigious global financial awards: Best Place to Work Vietnam 2020, Fastest Growing Retail Bank Vietnam 2020, and Best Investor Relations Bank Vietnam 2020. The Global Banking & Finance Awards® recognize the innovation, enterprise, method, progressive and influential transformations that transpire every year within the global finance community. National Citizen Bank would like to extend their thanks and appreciation to the community and their customers for their continuous loyalty and support throughout the last 25 years.

Vietnamese National Citizen Bank Rises to Excellence with Three Global Financial Awards 3

 

The National Citizen Bank was recognized for its all-inclusive professional working environment and ongoing staff development that enhances its internal communications and employee relations. Throughout the last 25 years, National Citizen Bank has focused on the core fundamentals of regulatory modifications with the underlying goal of dividing the volume of both business and administrative tasks. As a result of this, the bank has successfully strengthened its staff’s capacity to obtain, manage outstanding liabilities, and acquire assets to negotiate and retrieve capital efficiently and reliably.

When asked what allowed the bank to triumph against the fierce competition, Wanda Rich, Editor for Global Banking & Finance vocalized, “one of the key factors that stood out to the committee is that National Citizen Bank strives to maintain and maximize profit to shareholders through the implementation of stable, sustainable business operations and advanced production methods. The bank has also remained stable, positive, and had a high growth rate in all of its activities, which is not often seen; however, it clearly indicates how prestigious and overall accomplished they are. They should be exceptionally proud of all three awards.”

About National Citizen Bank

The National Citizen Bank was initially established as a rural bank in 1995 under the name Bank of Kien River. The bank optimized its competitive standing within the global financial industry, later transforming into an urban banking institution where they reinstated their name as the National Citizens Bank. With a team of highly professional financial experts and customer service representatives, the bank embraces each customer’s diverse needs to ensure customary, efficient, and trustworthy experiences from start to finish. Over the years, the bank has prided itself on its continued emphasis on risk management and global business relations with investors, customers, and partners. For more information, please visit the National Citizen Bank.

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