Opinion: Consumerisation of IT behind retail banking innovation

More users, more devices and more locations mean more investment in application delivery infrastructure in the retail banking sector says Paul Ruinaard.

July 22, 2011

By Paul Ruinaard, Country manager, Sub-Saharan Africa for F5 Networks.

F5 Networks is seeing an unprecedented uptake of its solutions among retail banks in South Africa as the financial services sector works to respond to the increasing complexity of delivering banking services to customers.

Retail banking has to adapt to the changing nature of its customers. Back in the late 1980’s, the ATM transformed the branch and gave rise to self-service banking on a level that many couldn’t have predicted.

The journey has taken the IT department from figuring out how to integrate with other banks’ ATMs into a world where web applications need to be easy to access from any device, at any time, in any place and failure will not be tolerated.

A recent survey by Bank Systems & Technology and Information Week Analytics suggests that this is only the beginning. 70% of those who expressed an interest in cloud computing said that the “ability to meet user demands quickly and achieve scale” was the top consideration.

In terms of which applications were currently being deployed in the cloud, payment applications (23%), core banking (22%) and retail banking applications (21%) are at the top of the list. Mobile banking applications came in at 19% but another 19% plan to use the cloud for mobile banking and a further 32% are evaluating the cloud for mobile banking.

From this research it’s pretty clear that financial services think their traffic will be coming from the mobile.

What we are seeing is a move to multi-channel banking or a channel agnostic approach to banking. This is great for the consumer but puts enormous pressure on the banks to manage the reliability, responsiveness and security of their applications within a distributed application network.

Basically, it’s not easy and made harder by unforgiving customers who, as FNB discovered in April , will show no mercy in their public forum discussions should a bank experience any system problems.

F5 Networks creates a dynamic infrastructure layer which support financial services companies and retail banks to speed up server response times, balance connections across redundant services, speed up the replication of data and protect applications from intrusion and data loss.

By creating a layer whose job is to intercept interpret and instruct all information being sent and received, the network is able to handle more traffic, better and protect the banks and their customers from security incidents. South African financial institutions in general and retail banks in particular are embracing this way to managing their electronic delivery to clients and shows that once again, we are ahead of the innovation curve in global banking.

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