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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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Rigour builds resilience

Louise McCarthy, non-executive director at Recognise Financial Services | 15:14 Friday 24th January 2020

There is a relentless flow of new technologies and development methodologies unfolding on many fronts in the financial services arena.

While not every one of these will result in significant change, some genuinely have the potential to disrupt the status quo of traditional banking platforms and alter the way banks operate and the way they currently deliver their services.

The reality is that IT outages will always feature, even a small update can cause a big disruption. How then can new entrants be more effective in responding to these outages and, ideally, preventing them?

Financial services is an industry where change is a constant variable; technology in a bank is now determined by digital transformation which provides the opportunity to innovate and disrupt. This, however, comes with risks, challenges and an increased reliance on the IT infrastructure — arguably the cardiovascular system. To help prevent and minimise such outages, a bank needs to have detailed digital plans and mapping in place, sooner rather than later. The impact of an outage in financial and reputational terms is significant. In today’s fast-moving world, delivering a customer service experience with minimal disruption is a must. So, then how is this achievable?

To avoid regulatory censure, reputational damage and customer detriment, it is always better to prevent, rather than to cure, an IT disruption issue. This can be better achieved by adopting suitable processes that align to this fast banking environment, for instance, running regular configuration reviews and determining validation checkpoints in the platforms will help to reduce the probability of a failure. There is a huge advantage now with the way digital disruption is being shaped through software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service, where the focus is on the configuration of the platform itself rather than the underlying infrastructure. The advantage in this approach is that there is only a single version of the platform for every client, with the caveat that how the platform is configured by each will (without hesitation) be different.

In tandem with prevention, regular testing of the platforms is essential, but requires time and resources, which can sometimes prove to be a challenge. However, resources and time are not the most critical aspects, the creation of real-life testing scenarios that can break an institution are even more essential, certainly for the organisation I represent — Recognise Financial Services. These scenarios will reveal incompatibilities in integration and glitches that might affect the customer journeys. Firms should also adopt recovery test cases to ensure downtime is not prolonged — the more these are rehearsed, the better the response will be. 

Given that colleagues are being hit by a myriad of complex platforms and technologies, it is common sense to remember that a platform is only good if the user is able to understand it and then deploy it properly in line with the bank’s policies. At Recognise, there is a strong focus on developing precise and regular usage guidelines to minimise the probability of something going wrong. This also has a positive impact on developing a culture of vigilance, on having champions that can help others to understand and exploit all the platform capabilities. 

So, are IT outages preventable? Is a reduction in numbers achievable? The answer is yes, but with more effort and focus. The key is to adopt a culture that travels at the same speed of technology disruption, that has no fear of trying new paradigms to work better and more efficiently. Finally, having bright and vigilant colleagues who understand what drives service interruptions and how the business can help itself to build resilience.

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