In July, City Regulators told banks and financial organisations they have a ‘maximum outage time’ of just two days. The warning – and it is a warning –comes after several organisations in the UK’s financial services faced significant systems outages, stopping customers from accessing and spending.
These outages include the Faster Payments system, which is used by most of the UK’s banks and building societies,as well,as the huge outage from TSB back in April which was widely reported across the media. More recently, a hardware failure at Visa affected millions of accounts across Europe opened the company to considerable criticism.
These outages support a growing base of evidence the payments industry needs to change.Consumers are getting fed up. As reported by multiple leading media organisations, the key point raised by regulators in a joint paper by the FCA and Bank of England is a failure by financial institutions to provide operational resilience.
By October 5 this year,organisations in the sector must be ready to report how they intend to respond in case of significant disruption and further outages, which is not long at all
Resilience is underpinned by better testing
This growing number of service outages is not altogether surprising. The pace of technological change in financial services is accelerating at an immense pace. Young and eager FinTechs that thrive on change and have the ability to ‘think outside the box’ are bringing new ideas to the table; popular ideas that demand state-of-the-art technology if they are to be implemented successfully.
Mainstream financial organisations fall-down because they are rushing the testing process so they can bring offerings to market faster than the competition, even if it means cutting corners. This is a creating a problem which a quick analysis of social media makes very apparent; consumers do not hold back on venting their frustrations, nor do the media in reporting them.
To make improve their performance, banks and financial organisations, need to apply a more holistic approach to testing. At present, the patchy, bottom-up approach of fixing one problem at a time simply isn’t working – a far broader, more comprehensive approach is required. Organisations need to make sure they have the necessary technology and resources in place if they are tomake this happen.
When it comes to testing, short-circuiting the process will inevitably lead to problems further down the line. In the case of TSB back in April, for example, the two IT contractors who managed the migration told the media the outage was down to rushed, poorly designed testing; not exactly the kind of message you want to be sent to the people whose money you are meant to be looking after.
Testing known unknows
Testing can be an intimidating task, particularly when what’s being tested is relatively novel and even more so when the resources allocated to testing are slim. One of the biggest challenges financial organisation will now face is how to automate testing so it’s both effective and efficient. Manual testing, as illustrated by the incidents referred to earlier, no longer cuts it in either respect.
Under the older manual-testing models, each time there is an update, the entire system will have to be re-tested, which can take months. Given market forces now demand new services and new functionality all the time, it is unrealistic to expect an organisation to constantly adapt and test comprehensively.
Payment organisations need a fresh approach and to look to new-testing technology; technology that was not built to cater to systems designed in the 1980s and 1990s. After all, the level of complexity in payments systems and consumer expectation is only going to increase in the years ahead as technology continues to improve.
In the case of ATMs, for example, the key to success is to automate the testing of software in the same manner that consumers will use it, which needs well-defined scenarios and workflows.This requires the application code, cards, appropriate test data, ATMs and peripherals, device simulations, host connections, certifications and security controls that mirror the eventual live placement location. By adopting this model, test maintenance is drastically reduced, and test creation efficiency improved.
Financial organisations’ must adapt their thinking
The testing element of any payments system is mission-critical. It underpins banks and financial services organisations ability to operate reliably and to guarantee functionality and accessibility to consumers.
End-to-end testing technology that guarantees this already exists, and it is now up to organisations to adjust their thinking and invest in the right systems by dedicating an appropriate level of resource to the testing procedure. Financial organisations are going to have to change; not just their systems, but their attitude toward payment solution services, particularly in terms of resources.
The way financial institutions operate and test their systems, particularly now technology never stops changing, must improve if the industry is to embrace the inevitable payments transformation.
Author: Mohit Singh, vice president – quality assurance at Renovite Technologies
Bio:Mohit Singh is an automation specialist with over 17-years working in the IT sector. During this time, he has pioneered Open source tools and designed and developednext-gen Test automation tools aligned with emerging trends in technology.