By Chris Buijs, NS1 EMEA Field CTO
Digital transformation has been a topic on the agenda for financial services companies for some years, but it has taken a pandemic to supercharge it up to the top priority.
Those that had already invested in digital when Covid-19 hit found they were ahead when it came to meeting the plethora of unexpected requirements. Those that had delayed, or were only part way through the process, were suddenly playing catch-up.
Look around and it’s easy to see how important digital capability has been in recent months—from investment banks able to rally quickly and establish lines of communication for traders working remotely that still meet with regulations, through to credit card companies processing millions of online payment transactions for cardholders using eCommerce for the first time.
Where it had already been applied, modern infrastructure proved to be an enabler of efficiency, resilience and responsiveness. Too many organisations, however, are still facing obstacles when it comes to building and managing scalable and resilient technology stacks that will support them in the future.
It’s no surprise that one of these obstacles is legacy infrastructure. In research we conducted among 400 technology leaders in the UK, US and Germany in June, 80% cited their infrastructure as the reason that they were struggling to reach application delivery requirements. Aging networks and the outdated, inflexible organisational structures that often accompanies them were also highlighted as a challenge by 40% of German respondents, 36% in the US and 27% in the UK. Technical and operational debt were cited as an obstacle by 31% of the respondents.
What the pandemic has promoted in the financial services sector is a sense of urgency when it comes to efforts to modernise these IT systems. A report by Banking Circle amongst banks, fintechs, payment service providers and payment intermediaries in Europe and the UK, detailed to what degree the pandemic had accelerated change. Amongst this group 90% said they were building technology design and architecture into their business planning, while 80% of retail banks and 74% of commercial banks said they had already worked with infrastructure providers. This is backed up by our own research which found that three quarters of the companies we spoke to expected budget increases to grow for IT modernisation initiatives over the next three years.
Is the foundational infrastructure up to scratch?
To move forward, financial services companies need to take a hard look at their underlying network and application infrastructure. The core technologies on which their businesses deploy, connect and deliver applications must be suitable to provide the kind of experiences that users and customers expect today. The pandemic has turned enterprise technology inside out, and now has to support users and traffic, not just contained within the walls of office buildings, but flowing in and out from remote locations and homes using a vast array of connecting devices. This is unlikely to change anytime soon.
What is important is to ensure employees remain productive and customers can access vital services without interruption, and this relies on the applications they use every day delivering a quality experience. This was highlighted in a recent study by PwC which said: “Given the rapid pace of development that the industry is undergoing at present, legacy banking systems across much of the world are regularly found lacking. It would seem that the digital-first generation of young, tech-savvy customers along with the proliferation of new, creative fintech start-ups are exposing such legacy infrastructure as being incapable, inefficient and inflexible in both meeting the demands of today and anticipating the trends of tomorrow.”
It can be all too easy for technology specifiers within any kind of bank, fintech or financial services organisation to believe that innovations such as containerisation, building a Kubernetes platform, using infrastructure as code or even adopting cloud are crucial to their deployment. Amidst all of this, the key piece of the jigsaw is the agility of the network. This is what helps to support the modern landscape and allows technology platforms to best service the DNS and IP side of the infrastructure stack, rather than being relegated to poor cousin status. Adopting technology at light-speed might seem like a good idea when the urgency around digital transformation has become so great, but in the medium to long-term, it is more important to create a flexible network that can respond to inflection points in Internet traffic based on the fluctuating needs of users and customers.
Implement a foundational network to deliver applications
To achieve this level of flexibility and agility and ensure that dynamic, scalable applications and IT environments are supported, banks are advised to start with DDI, which is the combination of DNS, DHCP and IP address management. These technologies are fundamental to accelerating IT modernisation, automating network management tasks and improving efficiency and operational velocity in the diverse, often complex technology environments within banks and financial services companies.
An effective, software-defined DDI solution will help organisations ensure good network and application performance regardless of whether they are using public or private cloud, hybrid or multi-cloud, or on-premises networks. It should be purpose-built for speed, reliability and scalability, allowing banks to optimise their application delivery and end-user experience across any environment. It should also integrate with multiple DNS delivery networks for redundancy, to ensure traffic steering—the delivery of internet and application traffic—can be managed from one single point.
If financial services companies are looking to make prudent decisions with their increased modernisation budgets and streamline operations, there are two more recommendations for them to consider. DDI solutions that offer third-party API integrations with popular development and orchestration tools and platforms will provide straightforward connections with applications. Secondly, automated traffic management and workload orchestration capabilities based on features such as geography, usage and performance allow organisations to monitor and assess criteria including latency, cost and overall end-user experiences.
Given the wide acceptance in financial services circles that digital transformation is no longer a nice-to-have but instead has become an urgent necessity, organisations will now be considering deployment in terms of time-to-market and delivering a competitive edge. Getting the foundational basics right first, however, is the key to a successful IT modernisation overhaul.
U.S. inauguration turns poet Amanda Gorman into best seller
WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The president’s poet woke up a superstar on Thursday, after a powerful reading at the U.S. inauguration catapulted 22-year-old Amanda Gorman to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.
Hours after Gorman’s electric performance at the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, her two books – neither out yet – topped Amazon.com’s sales list.
“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY!” Gorman, a Los Angeles resident, wrote on Twitter.
Gorman’s debut poetry collection ‘The Hill We Climb’ won top spot in the online retail giant’s sale charts, closely followed by her upcoming ‘Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem’.
While poetry’s popularity is on the up, it remains a niche market and the overnight adulation clearly caught Gorman short.
“Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: ‘For words alone are certain good: Sing, then’.”
Gorman, the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the transition of presidential power, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country in Wednesday’s rendition.
“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman said on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob laid siege and following a year of global protests for racial justice.
“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”
The performance stirred instant acclaim, with praise from across the country and political spectrum, from the Republican-backing Lincoln Project to former President Barack Obama.
“Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait,” tweeted former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
A graduate of Harvard University, Gorman says she overcame a speech impediment in her youth and became the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
She has now joined the ranks of august inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
Her social media reach boomed, with her tens of thousands of followers ballooning into a Twitter fan base of a million-plus.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted TV host Oprah Winfrey.
Gorman’s books are both due out in September.
Third on Amazon’s best selling list was another picture book linked to politics and projecting hope: ‘Ambitious Girl’ by Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape
By Justin Pike, Founder and Chairman, MYPINPAD
Delivery of intuitive, secure, personalised, and frictionless user experiences has long been table stakes in digital commerce, well before the era of COVID-19. As businesses harness the revolutionary power of digital technologies, they have pursued large-scale change to adapt to evolving consumer preferences (some more successfully than others, but that’s a blog for another day). Digital transformation is a term we hear repeatedly, and it looks different for each organisation, but essentially, it’s about utilising technology and data to digitise, automate, innovate and improve processes and the customer experience across the entire business.
As I said, this was already well underway but then came 2020 and no industry escaped the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak, which has had an indelible impact on businesses performance, operations, and revenue. Regardless of whether the impact of COVID has been very positive or very challenging, it has forced organisations globally to re-evaluate and re-orient strategies to adapt.
As lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions continue to change daily life, this raises the question of how we can balance a dramatic shift to digital and the benefits it brings, while ensuring business continuity and innovation both during and post-COVID, and protecting everyone against fraud?
Digital is an essential survival tool, and even more so in a COVID world
No one could have predicted the dramatic digital pivot that has taken place over this year. Indeed, within weeks of the COVID outbreak cash usage in the UK dropped by around 50%. Digital solutions including delivery applications, contactless payments, mobile commerce, online and mobile banking have become essential components of a touchless customer experience in the era of social distancing. It’s no longer just about an enhanced and superior customer experience, it’s also about health, safety and survival.
In store, businesses have benefited from contactless payments enabling faster throughput and reduced need for consumers to touch payment terminals (therefore requiring greater cleaning, which degrades the hardware much faster). Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments – including tap-to-pay and mobile pay – during the first quarter of the year as the global pandemic worsened. Digital has also become an essential sales channel for many B2C brands. Where brick and mortar stores have been required to close, digital commerce enables continuity of customer relationships and revenue. This channel also provides brands with rich customer data, which can be used to enhance and personalise the customer experience and typically results in greater levels of engagement and uplifts in revenue.
Industry forecasts estimate that worldwide spending on the technologies and services enabling digital transformation will reach GBP 1.8 trillion in 2023 – a clear indication that the process represents a long-term investment and a global commitment to digital-first strategy. The key point here is that digital brings significant benefits, and regardless of COVID, is here to stay.
The challenges that rapid digital transformation brings to businesses
Regardless of whether businesses are operating in developed or less-developed economies, these times of crisis have levelled the playing field in the sense that all businesses are facing similar issues. Access to products and supplies, maintaining customer relationships, accelerating sales for some and declining sales for others, health and hygiene are just a few of the unique challenges brought about by COVID.
Many businesses in physical environments have had to swiftly implement changes to significantly reduce safety risks for staff and customers, such as contactless payments, mobile ordering and delivery options. But with these changes come a host of other benefits of digitisation, such as faster transactions, and reduced human error at the point-of-sale.
The reliance on technology, however, can also expose organisations and consumers to certain vulnerabilities. In particular, the risks of fraud and cybercrime have dramatically increased since the onset of the pandemic as scammers have taken advantage of digital technologies to target both businesses and individuals.
As a McKinsey report illustrates, new levels of sophistication in the activities of fraudsters have placed more pressure on companies that have been previously slow to go digital, bringing “into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are”, and damaging the financial health of small and large businesses. In fact, the Bottomline 2020 Business Payments Barometer reveals that only one in 10 small businesses across the UK report recovering more than 50% of losses due to fraud.
But take these stats with a grain of salt. While it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges this new business landscape brings, it’s equally as important to have a lens firmly across your own business, industry and audience, and to identify the changes you can make internally to mitigate risk as well as improve your customer experience. Where can you make some quick wins? Do you have the right skillsets internally to achieve what you need to achieve? What technology is out there that will enable your business goals? There are tech companies like MYPINPAD that are making huge strides in software development, which will transform businesses globally.
A digital world post-COVID
Almost a year in, the line between business success and failure remains fragile. However, an ongoing transition towards greater digitisation will be the difference between survival and the alternative.
There is a wide range of initiatives businesses can implement to weather this storm. If we look at the space MYPINPAD operates within, secure digital consumer authentication is crucial to the ongoing success and security of not only financial products but also identification and verification across a range of different industry verticals. Shifting the authentication of consumers securely onto mobile devices enables businesses to completely reshape their customer experiences. By bringing together a more seamless, frictionless customer experience, accessibility, privacy, security and access to consumer data, businesses are able to drive digital transformation across day-to-day activities.
Against this backdrop, software with stronger security standards continue to play an ever more vital role in supporting society, protecting consumers and businesses from the increase in risks that rapid digitisation brings. Already, merchants can deploy PIN on Mobile technology from companies like MYPINPAD, onto their smart devices to speed up the digitisation process many are now tackling.
Essentially, opening up universal payments and authentication methods that feel familiar, for both online and face-to-face transactions, will be key to opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to redefining how businesses engage with consumers.
Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says
LONDON (Reuters) – Food supply problems in Northern Ireland are due to Brexit because there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
British ministers have sought to play down the disruption of Brexit in recent days.
“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” Coveney told ITV.
The Northern Irish protocol means there are “a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption,” he said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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