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 Aging networks and the outdated, inflexible organisational structures that often accompanies them were also highlighted as a challenge by 40% of German respondents, 36% in the US and 27% in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.