Financial services are internet-reliant, so how do you prevent downtime?
Digitalisation was well underway in the financial services industry even before COVID-19 but under the new realities of the pandemic, the transition has accelerated at unprecedented speed and scale. For many, it has prompted a rethink of people, property and technology to support a future world of remote business.
What remains unchanged is that digital experience is part of the fabric of any business operating in the financial services sector – from retail banks serving customers to high-frequency trading firms, where milliseconds of latency can mean millions of revenue lost. Customer retention and employee productivity is now dependent on a good digital experience, without delay or failure.
Nonetheless, this is easier said than done, especially when you add remote employees and online customers into the mix. Providing this first-rate digital experience at scale now hinges on a complex supply chain made up of the Internet, cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) services – infrastructures that lie outside a financial services firm’s view and control. Consequently, as these organisations enter post-pandemic recovery strategies and re-assess their technology needs, many are realising the need for more control. More control over how the Internet impacts customers’ online experiences, and more control over employees’ ability to access business-critical SaaS applications.
A tech awakening
It’s well known that concern over complex regulation and security has meant the banking sector has had to be more thoughtful about how and when to adopt digital technologies. Pre-pandemic, a 2019 Bank of England report found that only a quarter of workloads of the largest global banks were cloud-based.
That was until the pandemic erupted. At the start of national lockdowns, financial services organisations’ approach to networking was turned inside out. Banks and financial services providers raced to reimagine themselves in the face of branch closures and unprecedented customer service volumes across digital channels. Internally, trading floors became living rooms and insurance brokers became bedrooms as many employees worked from home for the first time ever. Never before had these businesses had both employees and customers accessing services outside of their IT perimeter.
So, where are we a year on? Now that the dust has somewhat settled and the benefits of remote business have been realised, many financial service organisations are looking to make some permanent changes to both their real estate footprint and their work-from-home policies to accommodate new ways of working. Some banks have already made the decision to close branches permanently, while others have announced semi-permanent remote working models.
As a result, we’ll see three different employee personas manifest. These will include fixed, flexi and field workers – those who return to the office, those who continue to work remote and then those who adopt a hybrid working model. With this in mind, financial services firms will need to rethink what IT systems they likely scrambled to put in place at the beginning of the pandemic.
If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it
To serve these new workforce personas and meet increasing consumer expectations for digital-first services, financial services organisations are relying more and more on a complex service delivery ecosystem that includes public and hybrid cloud, SaaS applications and the Internet as the mechanism that connects it altogether. While financial services businesses don’t own the underlying infrastructure of these external networks, they certainly own the ultimate user experience and it’s become business critical to achieve sight of the performance and availability of these networks.
The challenge here is that when an issue arises, traditional monitoring tools can’t pinpoint the problem quickly or provide insights into what’s going on outside an organisation’s four digital walls. IT blindness leads to a scramble to figure out the problem, and often costly finger-pointing ensues as corporate IT teams and help desks become overwhelmed. When a service is impacted, IT teams are often caught in the middle, facing a nearly impossible challenge to understand if problems exist within the application, the intranet, the Internet, the service provider or the cloud provider.
The banking industry is no stranger to the detrimental impact of downtime. Not only can an outage cause immediate pain in the form of lost employee productivity but it can result in more devastating damage to a financial services company’s brand reputation, and ultimately its bottom line.
Digital experiences are business-critical in the new normal
Understanding the health of the global Internet networks, employee and customer applications, and everything in between, has become fundamental to delivering that all important digital experience. Financial services today will require new solutions that provide the reach, visibility, and insight that they require to understand the performance of the entire digital service delivery ecosystem.
Having this end-to-end visibility means that issues can be quickly identified and mitigated, within and without your control, sometimes even before customers are impacted, all while avoiding chaotic and war room-like discussions internally. This level of visibility empowers IT teams to rapidly drill down into root cause analysis so they can have meaningful conversations with service providers, leading to more proactive rather than reactive remediation. From a network planning and management perspective, something which many financial services organisations will now need to be including in their IT strategies, comprehensive visibility also allows visualisation and scoring of performance across applications, groups of users and locations to understand how critical services are performing for your workers over time.
The last year has certainly reshaped the future of financial services. Whilst we’ll likely see the reopening of offices and branches this year, online customers and remote workers will continue to be reliant on always-on, always-fast digital services. Digital experience monitoring provides a bridge so that financial services businesses can comfortably embrace this new digital-first era and continue to deliver the flawless experiences customers expect and employees rely on.