Unified monitoring: how banks can plan for success, not just prepare against failures
With the continuing trend of growth among financial services companies through merger and acquisition (M&A), parent companies are groaning under the load of having to manage disparate divisions of IT infrastructure.
To stay competitive among other brick-and-mortar operations – and with newly emerging online banking alternatives and applications – banks must embrace modern unified monitoring solutions. Such solutions must be able to not only look across all lines of business, but also across all technology platforms, whether on premises or in the cloud.
Mergers continue to fuel growth
According to a PWC report on mergers and acquisitions (in the US) in 2017, Q3 banking and capital markets M&A transactions increased by 47% over the same time last year, with a focus on small regional and community banks.
This trend is no less prevalent globally, with cross-border acquisitions among regional banks, both domestic and international. The goals are to achieve better economies of scale and to grow market share.
Unfortunately, economies of scale are not particularly transferable to the technology component of these companies, which often still deal with their businesses as silos. Subordinate organisations have multiple tools to monitor infrastructure performance and ensure uptime. With every acquisition the parent organisation inherits more silos of technology and information, while lacking a holistic view of infrastructure reliability across the entire business.
To provide optimal service to its personal and corporate clients, financial services companies must adopt a single unified platform to monitor their IT assets and to understand the effect of new applications on those assets. The platform must be able to look not only at on-premises systems but cloud-based components as well.
How banks benefit
Huntington Bank is a $57 billion regional bank holding company headquartered in the US. Founded in 1866, it provides full-service commercial, small business, and consumer banking services; mortgage banking; treasury management; brokerage services; and other financial products and services. The company has more than 700 retail banking locations and 1,500 ATMs in six US states.
It also had 37 separate monitoring tools in its IT environment, with multiple subcomponents. Huntington employed unified network monitoring to consolidate server, network, operating system, application, database and security monitoring operations for a unified enterprise view.
This move enabled the company to drop 12 monitoring tools, thereby reducing maintenance costs. Eliminating unnecessary legacy systems also saved the company enough money to fund five additional personnel. Their mean time to resolution (MTTR) was improved by nearly 85%, and gave multiple teams access to heterogeneous infrastructure data.
These same staffers now have a better understanding of how a network event affects the performance of upstream devices, and can make corrective measures based on the severity of the problem, rather than chasing down each problem with the same level of urgency. Administrators know what part of the infrastructure is supporting given services, helping them focus on those incidents that put service assurance at risk.
In general, a holistic view of the IT infrastructure reduces staff effort. Instead of maintaining and interpreting multiple monitoring products, this single view requires only one or two staffers.
This is not just about better staffing efficiencies, though. It’s about improving the overall customer experience.
The customer experience
New customer-facing technology innovations – prepaid credit cards, online credit card ordering, and electronic payment alternatives ranging from Venmo to Apple Pay – are potential threats to traditional brick-and-mortar operations. Banking organisations are justifiably concerned about adding technology to a constantly changing competitive space.
The health of each of these business services is based on the entire infrastructure that supports it, regardless of whether the supporting systems are on premises or in the cloud. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings in the cloud can provide a comprehensive solution that allows new monitoring capabilities to be brought online at very limited cost to the organisation. With hosted offerings, IT operations teams don’t have to be experts in administering the monitoring application, nor be concerned about the infrastructure hosting the application.
For banks with corporate clients, improved customer experience is critical to that client’s business. A bank’s IT operations needs to be robust enough to address the demands of those organisations.
Banking customers have peak times for their banking needs, and a bank’s IT operations must scale as customer demands fluctuate organisations. For example, corporate clients reconciling their accounts, whether on a calendar year or other fiscal year basis, create huge and somewhat unpredictable peak network demand times. Regardless of the demands on the network, supporting customer needs requires proactively minimising downtime.
It’s simply a matter of preparing for success, not just anticipating failure. By adopting a unified network monitoring solution, banking customers gain a level of comfort that their business is running optimally, because the bank’s business is running optimally.
By Mike Lunt, VP of engineering, Zenoss Inc