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Banking

QoE certification for banking services? Not such a bad idea after all…

90206454a

Says Tim Cruddas Spirent Communications

Dear CEO
We regret to inform you that your bank has failed its yearly MOT test on the following counts:

  • Speed and continuity of Internet banking
  • Slow and opaque telephone call handling system
  • Excessive delay in cash transfers and bill payment

90206454aFor full details see the attached report. You have three months to reapply before your bank’s certificate will be withdrawn…

Oh what a lovely fantasy for anyone fuming over poor banking service! But is it really such a crazy idea?

Banks have come under the legislative, and the criminal, spotlight in a big way recently. The economic failure of 2008 did much to tarnish the sector’s image in the eyes of the public, and since then there have been more new stories – like the recent “computer problems” afflicting RBS accounts – serving to whip up further public displeasure, rather than refresh the finance sector’s odour of sanctity.

There is much talk about “regulation” of the sort that would please, or displease, economic theorists, but not so much about regulating the actual quality of service delivered to the public.

Let’s face it, Internet banking is an enormous convenience, and one most people choose to rely on. But the trouble with a mostly reliable service is always the same: it catches you out on the few occasions when it fails. The bills you are paying just before you go on holiday, the cash transfer from savings you need to make sure a standing order does not bounce… but when the bank’s website “regrets that the system is temporarily out of order” it brings a chill of utter helplessness to the unhappy customer.

You cannot expect anyone to actually like an automatic telephone call directing service. But I do remember the first time a credit card company’s helpline – after the usual blurb about “unusually high call numbers” – asked me to put down the phone and wait for a call-back, instead of hanging on for aeons of muzak, I felt so utterly grateful. With today’s technology, there has to be better ways to handle telephone enquiries.

Then there is the time taken to clear payments (and whether that leaves a black mark on the credit agency score), the time to deliver statements, process a loan, the reliability of ATM machines… and so on. Most customers would welcome legislation that required banks to guarantee a certain basic level of service, below which the customer would have a right to complain or expect recompense.

Of course the customers would welcome this, but is it practicable?

It would mean running standardized tests on an extremely complex and diverse set of systems. The entire networked banking operation has to handle its own internal management processes, financial operations, VoIP and other internal and external communications, Internet access to its websites, security, government legislative conformance and so on. To meet these challenges, today’s networks are increasingly “application aware”, with the added complexity of intelligence distributed across next generation firewalls, Unified Threat Management (UTM) systems, Intrusion Prevention or Detection Systems (IPS/IDS), web and Email gateways, QoS-shaping edge routers, policy routers, mobile packet gateways, Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) engines and application delivery controllers.

How can we possibly guarantee a percentage of Internet portal uptime in the face of so many conflicting calls on the network – not to mention the constant pressure of cyber attacks and criminal intervention – in what is in any case a dynamic virtual system?

It is not easy – but necessity is the mother of invention. If the MOT test for motor vehicles did not exist, it would equally be dismissed as an impractical idea. How can you expect motor service staff all around the country to be able to run consistent, reliable tests on today’s sophisticated electronic vehicle management systems? How many mechanics have the necessary background in chemical analysis to understand, let alone measure, vehicle emissions? The answer is that the motor industry now has standardized machines that not only perform the relevant tests, but also enable them to be operated consistently and reliably throughout Britain by relatively low-skilled staff.

Perhaps surprisingly, the same is now true for testing even the most complex application-aware ICT networks. Here the challenge is to achieve three things reliably and consistently:

  • Accurate modeling of real life traffic
  • Rapid adaptation of tests to match new applications, traffic protocols and cyber attacks
  • Flexibility and simplicity in the actual test process

Accurate modeling means you need a tool that not only recreates real world application traffic but also maintains a realistic application state – ie taking account of cookies, session IDs, NAT translations, authentication challenges etc. The test tool itself must behave exactly like a real client in the face of traffic congestion, and it must be designed for repeatable testing, not just maximal throughput.

Rapid response to new applications, traffic scenarios and cyber attacks means having access to a massive library of ready-to-run tests that are constantly updated to keep ahead of technological, behavior and criminal developments. But you also need a test tools offering complete visibility into transactions, field types, payload and content for fast debugging and validation of test cases. A single, unified solution that covers performance, security and functional testing also saves time translating and duplicating between tests.

For even greater resiliency in a world of fast evolving applications and user behavior, there is so-called “fuzz testing” that takes account of unpredictable divergences from what is normal. Very few test tools support this, and those that do often rely on random “bit flipping” and flooding of malformed packets – a rudimentary form of fuzzing, that does not build comprehensive fuzz test cases. More sophisticated fuzz testing technology is needed to provide confidence in the foggy, shifting cloud environment.

Finally, test tool must have a simple and flexible user interface to make it easy to upgrade, fine tune and customize tests for every need. Many tools are too inflexible, forcing testers to rely on test vendors to develop custom tests. More complicated and labour-intensive setup, adjustment and reporting, increases the risk of testing being postponed or sidelined in favour of higher-profile business demands.

In short, MOT testing a bank’s service delivery would require a unified scale, security and functional testing solution that can recreate any application, any protocol, at any time. It would need also to be the quickest, simplest solution to optimize test coverage, accelerate its test cycles and accurately recreate the many traffic, attack and fault situations that could arise..

It’ sounds like a tall order, but the industry’s leading test specialists are staying ahead of these new developments, and test tools – linked to continually updating Cloud databases of test cases and malware attack – are now available that meet these exacting criteria.

The government is demanding greater control of our wayward financial institutions, but is the proposed legislation focused on better and more consistent service delivery?

But why need we legislate for this? If any bank offered me the sort of service guarantees suggested, then I would beat a path to their door. In a competitive financial environment, is it not in the bank’s own interest to run these tests and to differentiate themselves by offering service guarantees?

It isn’t really about MOT testing, but rather about a marketing and brand building opportunity.

 

 

 

Banking

How new trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world’s oldest institutions

How new trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world's oldest institutions 1

By Wayne Johnson, CEO, Encompass

Digital banking has drastically changed the landscape of financial transactions over the last few years. Technologies used to be limited when it came to banking, however, now they cover every step of banking or investment services, from behind the scenes due diligence checks to customer facing channels. Embracing this change through emerging technologies is the future for the financial industry.

In recent years, financial technology (FinTech) has developed to facilitate online payments, instant banking, trading, lending, and more.

This new era of digital transformation has been driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), APIs, blockchain, process automation, and internet of things (IoT) technologies, which have provided vital upgrades to the outdated legacy IT systems institutions historically relied on. The aforementioned technologies streamline and enhance processes, consequently generating a much more reliable and pleasant customer experience. These technological advancements have transformed modern banking operations, changing how the banking industry operates today.

Every new advancement in technology in the finance sector, like expanding a financial service offering to business customers, brings with it new risks and compliance obligations, but the latest trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world’s oldest institutions.

The acceptance of new-age technologies

Technology is already driving massive changes in the banking landscape as we know it, and it will be an influential contributor to shaping the industry of the future.

Focus on improving customer experience

One of the areas that banks are increasingly trying to improve through digital banking is customer

experience. Customer expectations for online services are constantly being influenced by the experience provided by big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. With their influence, everyone is looking for a similar experience from their own providers. While digitally savvy Millennials are mainly responsible for the rise in expectations across the board, the wide-spread use of digital technologies in most industries has meant that it is more important than ever for banks to be on top of their delivery at all times.

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Interactive banking channels

There has been a huge decline in branch visits in recent years, with some re-evaluating their very role, and an increasing shift from just providing transactional services to allowing for a practical banking experience. This was initially done by moving banks to key locations in town centres, investing in video chat services and offering self-service points – all of which has only been possible through the use of digital technologies. Financial institutions have realised that customers, with their busy and demanding lifestyles, like to have a choice and rely on a full range of channels, online access and 24/7 availability.

The rise of open banking

The increased popularity of open banking and rise in API usage is set to drastically change the industry with the flexibility offered by APIs allowing financial institutions and FinTech’s to put innovation at the heart of their service, resulting in improved customer service and enhanced convenience.

The importance of organisational structure transformation

In order to achieve true digital transformation, financial services institutions need to change their organisation functions from the inside out. To reap the greatest rewards, they must promote a “digital first” strategy internally. Only then will they see a positive change and truly release the benefits of digital transformation and the solutions available today.

The  market is constantly evolving , and adapting, and whilst the survival of traditional institutions is not under immediate threat, key players are going to have to modernise their processes and ways of working to keep up with developing requirements and customer needs.

Financial institutions are now starting to recognise the importance of digitalisation, which many other businesses realised was a priority years ago. This is demonstrated by the emerging trends mentioned, which indicate a rapid altering of the operating environment, from increased customer expectations and improved processes, back-end technology and newer operating models to organisational priorities shifting with the times. Digital transformation can no longer be ignored, and financial services organisations will have to embrace it if they want to remain competitive

 

This is a Sponsored Feature.

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Banking

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank 2

Standard Chartered Bank and Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced a three-year strategic partnership to accelerate the bank’s digital transformation through a cloud-first strategy. This partnership marks a significant milestone for Standard Chartered in making its vision for virtual banking, next-generation payments, open banking and banking-as-a-service a reality. Leveraging Azure as a preferred cloud platform, the companies will also co-innovate in open banking and real-time payments to help the bank unlock new banking experiences for clients.

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank 3

Embarking on a cloud-first strategy

As part of its digital transformation, Standard Chartered will adopt a multicloud approach, where significant applications, including its core banking and trading systems and new digital ventures such as virtual banking and banking as-a-service, will be cloud-based by 2025, subject to regulatory approvals. The bank will also adopt a cloud-first principle for all new software developments and major enhancements.

As technology reshapes the banking industry, Standard Chartered recognizes that a cloud-first strategy is critical to the bank’s ambition to make banking simpler, faster and more convenient. By being digital-first, the bank will be able to meet the demand for seamless banking virtually anytime, anywhere, and make banking more accessible to people across its network.

Michael Gorriz, Group Chief Information Officer of Standard Chartered, said, “Cloud is a cornerstone of Standard Chartered’s strategy to meet the present and future banking needs of our clients. Cloud providers have invested massively in the reliability and automation of infrastructure and platforms. Using cloud services improves our ability to be agile and innovative, while increasing our operational efficiency and resilience. As disruption in the financial industry continues, we can focus on client benefits by deploying our solutions quicker and allowing for faster integration of new business models and partners. To realize our digital ambitions, Standard Chartered has chosen Microsoft as a strategic partner and this partnership marks a major milestone for the bank in adopting a cloud-first approach.”

Bhupendra Warathe, Chief Technology Officer, Cloud Transformation at Standard Chartered, added that “The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for businesses and banks to be resilient from a risk mitigation, cost and security perspective. With the increasing trend of an always-on digital economy, commercial and consumer clients are looking for applications and services that empower them to do online banking from anywhere, flexibly and efficiently. The speed and scale of continuous innovation offered by Azure allows us to innovate with the latest AI services to meet evolving client needs. We can pilot new apps in one market and scale them rapidly across others. This is especially important for a bank with a footprint as broad and diverse as ours.”

Standard Chartered will adopt Microsoft Azure as a preferred cloud platform to meet the bank’s need for resilient data centers and cloud services and addressing customers’ security, privacy and compliance requirements across the bank’s global footprint.

The first set of capabilities to move to Microsoft Azure will be Standard Chartered’s trade finance systems, allowing for seamless cross-border trade for the bank’s corporate and institutional clients.

The partnership will also advance the bank’s digital workplace transformation with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams providing modern productivity and collaboration tools to Standard Chartered’s 84,000 employees across its 60 markets.

Co-innovating the future of banking

Standard Chartered will also use Microsoft Azure artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics capabilities to enhance and automate banking processes as well as deliver hyper personalization of its client products and experiences. Co-innovation in open banking application programming interface (API) and Internet-of-Things-based, real-time payments will also help the bank unlock new banking experiences for clients.

Bill Borden, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Financial Services at Microsoft said, “Cloud computing is an enabler for financial institutions to modernize their infrastructure and systems, to gain the agility they need to respond to competitive pressures, regulatory environments and customer demand. We are committed to helping Standard Chartered Bank in its ongoing digital transformation journey as it strives to address evolving customer needs and build the next generation of banking experiences.”

Addressing the social needs of communities in the emerging markets

Standard Chartered strives to understand the evolving needs of its communities and be an enabler for change. As a part of the strategic partnership, the bank and Microsoft will explore sustainable finance and business initiatives to expand sustainability across the industry.

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Banking

What does the future hold for accessing earnings? Introducing the world’s first Earnings on Demand payment and debit card

What does the future hold for accessing earnings? Introducing the world’s first Earnings on Demand payment and debit card 4

By James Herbert, CEO & founder, Hastee

Let’s begin by looking at how our brains are wired. Think about the hunter-gatherer mindset: when we expend effort, we expect an immediate reward.

It’s therefore no surprise that over time, different areas in society have adapted to our nature as humans. Almost everything we want, we can get on-demand. Whether it’s instantly streaming movies on Netflix, online shopping from Amazon, or fast-food delivery from the likes of Just Eat. And, because of such technological innovations our expectations have accelerated when it comes to the pace of delivery. This isn’t individual to us as consumers in our day-to-day lives, it’s also reflected in the workplace. We ultimately want work to work for us.

Part of this of course comes down to accessing wages. Workers should be able to access a portion of their earned wages whenever they need it, in advance of the monthly pay cycle – whether to help during challenging times or in day-to-day life. We solved this solutionBut, to take this up a level, ready for the future, we introduced the world’s first Earnings on Demand contactless debit card, powered by Visa – giving users access to their accrued earnings in real-time, with the card’s balance dynamically increasing every day they work.

So what is the card, and how will it change how we access earnings in the future?

The basis is very much the concept of Earnings on Demand. At university I set up a company called Brightsparks to connect students with work opportunities so they could earn money. Yet I noticed a common trend. With students often having to wait for the monthly pay cycle to get their earnings, many were having to turn down work simply because they couldn’t afford the travel day-by-day. It became very apparent that not having £20 today could stop them earning £200 tomorrow.

It struck me that payday itself doesn’t have to be a rigid construct that people have to wait for. But this isn’t specific to students. Liquidity is a widespread issue faced by people in all industries and of all ages, and according to our most recent Workplace Wellbeing Study, 82 per cent of people turn to high-cost methods of financing to tide them over when needed.

The Hastee Card effectively makes wages directly accessible: it simply lets people spend a portion of  what they’ve already earned.

Some people might wonder why they’d want to step away from the standard monthly pay cycle. But consider this: the monthly payroll (via a cheque) only came about in the 1960s as an Act of Parliament. Before this, most people were paid weekly in cash. The first major firm that shifted to monthly payments did it for cost-cutting. It worked for the employer more than the employee. In fact, that firm’s employees had rejected their employer’s change of payment type when it was first trialled a decade before (look up ‘Pye Radio’). So the way that workers and organisations interact around pay is not set in stone – it changes as technology and society shifts.

The way we perceive and use money keeps evolving. Apple Pay, Monzo, and PayPal have completely changed the way payments can happen, yet payroll still remains largely unchanged. It’s only a matter of time before disruption becomes more widespread.

Looking at it from the employer side, it has its benefits too. Before the climate changed, businesses were accommodating enhanced workplace benefits such as no-desk policies, flexible or remote working. In all cases by businesses offering more, they tend to see a more engaged, happier and less financially stressed workforce – leading to increased productivity.

Earnings on Demand is ultimately a perk that presents an ethical alternative to high-cost credit options such as payday loans, credit cards and overdrafts. And existing solutions offer zero impact on payroll processes, zero impact on the cashflow of the business and are designed for quick, simple integration.

The Hastee Card is an evolution of this all – preparing for the future. It builds upon and enhances the user experience by reducing friction and offering immediate spending power as well as a path to greater benefits such as cashback and rewards in the not-to-distant future.

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