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GOOGLE CLOUD STUDY: CLOUD ADOPTION INCREASING IN FINANCIAL SERVICES, BUT MORE GUIDANCE NEEDED FROM REGULATORS

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By Zac Maufe, managing director, Google Cloud, Financial Services

 

The financial services industry is evolving at a rapid pace, with shifting consumer expectations, new technologies, and developing regulatory requirements. Financial services firms need the right technology to help them stay agile and prepare for the future.

The cloud is a key point of leverage for firms looking to improve performance across a broad range of activities. Moving to the public cloud can advance operational resiliency, improve staff productivity, increase regulatory compliance and enhance business model innovation.

However, there are a number of financial services companies that are still hesitant in their cloud journeys. The barriers to adoption vary, from the complexity of legacy systems, to trust and skills gaps, regulatory uncertainty, and fragmentation of compliance requirements. Although many companies have embraced the benefits of cloud technology, more robust cloud adoption—especially around core back-office functions—will require additional facilitation, including through regulatory harmonization and streamlining.

 

A new comprehensive study on cloud adoption in financial services

To better understand the challenges and opportunities of cloud adoption in financial services, Google Cloud commissioned Harris Poll to survey more than 1,300 leaders from the financial services industry across the United States, CanadaFranceGermanyUnited Kingdom, Hong KongJapanSingapore and Australia.

 

There were five noteworthy takeaways from the study:

  1. A vast majority of financial services companies are already using some form of public cloud. A large number of surveyed financial services companies (83%) report they are deploying cloud technology as part of their primary computing infrastructures. Of those using cloud technology, the most popular architecture of choice is hybrid cloud (38%), followed by single cloud (28%), and multicloud (17%). Notably, of respondents without a multicloud deployment, 88% reported they are considering adopting a multicloud strategy in the next 12 months.
  2. Financial services institutions in North America are leading in cloud adoption. Of the financial services companies who are implementing a cloud strategy, the highest levels of cloud workload adoption were reported in North America, with institutions in the U.S. (54%) and Canada (52%) leading the way. The lowest level of cloud adoption was reported in Japan (42%).
  3. As financial services companies continue to use the cloud, more core functionalities can and will be migrated. While many financial services companies have migrated substantial workloads to the cloud, the industry is far from full adoption when it comes to core, back-office workloads. Of financial services companies currently using a majority cloud strategy in the United States, for example, only half (54%) of their workloads are fully deployed in the cloud. Data and IT security (74%), regulatory reporting (57%), and fraud detection and prevention (57%) rank among the highest workload adoption. Core underwriting activity (40%) and data reconciliation (48%) ranked lowest. Across Europe, cloud usage for core activities like underwriting also scored low with the UK listing only 30% adoption.
  4. Among respondents, there is a very strong positive perception of the potential for cloud technology to assist in business operations and regulatory compliance. Nearly all respondents (>88%) agreed that cloud adoption can:
    1. help adapt to changing customer behaviors and expectations,
    2. enhance operational resilience,
    3. support the creation of innovative new products and services,
    4. enhance financial services institutions’ data security capabilities, and
    5. better connect siloed legacy software infrastructure within financial services institutions.
  5. Certain regulator-induced challenges, including the complexity of sectorial compliance frameworks and fragmentation, create hurdles to cloud adoption for financial services companies. While 88% of respondents had a positive view of current regulatory efforts to provide guidance and clarity for cloud implementation, the results showed that more needs to be done to facilitate adoption. Most respondents (84%) agree that regulatory reviews and approvals take too long because of regulatory fragmentation across regulatory bodies. And 78% say that regulatory uncertainty over the use of public cloud prevents their organizations from adopting cloud technologies that would otherwise provide benefit to them. Additionally, a third of all on-premises respondents (38%) say that the large investment of resources for the regulatory approval process is a reason why they’re not using cloud services.

“While many banks have already deployed hybrid cloud environments, others are still in various stages of planning and deploying,” said Jerry Silva, research vice president for IDC Financial Insights. “Clearly, hybrid infrastructure is a reality, and financial institutions must focus not only on leveraging the modern infrastructure model to gain efficiencies, resilience and agility, but also on taking the necessary steps to manage such environments, including the security and compliance of cloud services.”

 

Future recommendations for financial services regulators

Financial services firms should continue to maximize the potential of technology by migrating more core workloads to the cloud, as well as actively considering multicloud and hybrid-cloud strategies. Such strategies enhance resiliency of existing IT infrastructure and reduce concerns over vendor lock-in.

The research also points to steps that regulators could take to provide additional clarity and guidance, such as aligning regulatory reviews across agencies to avoid fragmentation; developing regulatory “safe harbors” for cloud adopters based on adherence to accepted standards and best practices; training regulatory staff on emerging tech; and advancing data reporting requirements via cloud and related technologies.

In the past few years, many regulators across the globe have taken a robust approach to rationalizing rules and guidance to cloud adoption in the financial sector, which has helped significantly stimulate adoption. But further assurances and harmonization of best practices around supervision is needed to advance risk-based and secure digital innovation.

At Google Cloud, we’re committed to working with financial services customers and regulators to provide them with controls and assurances on risk management, data locality, transparency, and compliance. We are constantly engaging with regulators to share information, respond to their considerations and concerns, and address questions in the interest of transparency and building trust.

 

Research methodology

The survey was conducted online by the Harris Poll on behalf of Google Cloud, from December 7, 2020, to January 4, 2021, among 1,363 senior executives in France (n=113), Germany (n=178), the UK (n=192), Hong Kong (n=99), Indonesia (n=100), Japan (n=142), Singapore (n=71), Australia (n=134), Canada (134), and the United States (n=200) who are employed full-time, part-time, or self-employed whose main functional role is in risk/compliance or IT at a company in the banking, finance, or financial services industry with a title of director level or higher. The data in each country were weighted by the number of employees to bring them into line with actual company size proportions in the population. A global post-weight was applied to ensure equal weight of each country in the global total.

 

Business

How FS organisations can utilise data to boost customer experience

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Charles Southwood, Regional VP and GM – Northern Europe and Africa at Denodo

We’ve all heard the age-old adage “the customer is always right”. It insinuates that, in any sector, the needs and desires of those buying a brand’s product or services should be paramount. However, today’s customer has new standards and it is becoming harder than ever for businesses to meet and exceed them.

This is certainly the case in the financial services (FS) sector where getting customer experience right used to be relatively simple. The human touch was traditionally delivered as a bi-product of in-store, transactional interactions. Perhaps, as a result of this, few people ever considered changing their provider and the traditional, established banks ruled the space.

However, with the dawn of online banking and the introduction of new, exciting challenger banks as well as the UK’s unique Current Account Switching Service, the balance of power between the consumer and the bank is changing. Consumers no longer feel locked in. If their needs aren’t being met, they aren’t afraid to look elsewhere and switch their allegiance to other companies. In other words, loyalty is far from guaranteed and customer acquisition is only half the battle.

Retention relies upon delivering strong, unique customer experiences that beat down the competition. In order to achieve this, FS organisations will need to be able to leverage data. Its insights could be the differentiator that enables them to stand out. The positive news is that, in our online world, there is a constant stream of data being produced. However, having access to all this data doesn’t necessarily mean that a brand knows how to effectively analyse and utilise it.

Ensuring data provides insight

The rapid growth in digital technologies and services across the sector has left many FS organisations juggling an unimaginable amount of data. This data is both complex and much of it is lacking in quality. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured, it is stored in many different places – whether that’s in data lakes, on premise or in multi-cloud environments. Before FS organisations can even think about using it to inform customer experience strategies, they need to be able to find it and understand it.

This is where modern technologies – such as data virtualization – can help. Through a single, logical view data virtualization boosts visibility and real-time availability of all data across an organisation.  Unlike traditional extract, transform and load (ETL) solutions, it does not move and copy data. Instead it leaves it in the source systems. In other words, instead of just replicating data, data virtualization reveals an integrated view to those trying to find it.

For FS organisations this provides several important benefits. For example, it helps when data sovereignty issues arise and the movement and replication of data outside certain countries is illegal. Data virtualization solutions can also assist in terms of financial reporting by fetching data in real time from underlying source systems – applying the necessary security and obfuscation whilst delivering the performance, the agility and the accuracy needed through the seamless connection of data.

FS organisations that adopt data virtualization, are likely to see an improvement in the overall performance and efficiencies of their business operations. Overheads will be reduced, as will the length of project times. Above all, data virtualization will rapidly strengthen the customer experience by supporting business leaders to think strategically and make decisions based on real-time insights. But don’t just take my word for it.

The proof is in the pudding: How Landsbankinn is delivering on the CX promise

Landsbankinn is just one of the many financial services institutions that has already successfully embraced data virtualization and its benefits. Despite being the largest financial institution in Iceland – with around 40% of the retail and 33% of the corporate banking market share – Landsbankinn used to face several issues when it came to data sharing and analytics.

Over 45 siloed data sources – including Oracle databases, data warehouses and APIs from internal and external sources – made finding and accessing the right data at the right time extremely difficult. Without real-time data to fuel informed decision making, customer experience and operational efficiency were suffering. As a result, Landsbankinn was in need of a data overhaul to streamline and integrate its infrastructure.

To bring together its complex data landscape and collect data in real-time, Landsbankinn implemented the Denodo Platform – a data integration and data management solution built on data virtualization – to build a logical data warehouse. As a result, the team can now aggregate data from multiple data sources, transform that data based on the applied business rules, and then make it available to consuming applications. Ultimately, this means that, throughout the organisation, the data can be utilised by a wealth of employees, even those who are not particularly IT savvy. It also means that the business leaders can use data insights to make well-versed decisions and provide a plethora of services to Landsbankinn customers both quickly and efficiently.

In recent years, customer retention has become the key to successfully growing a business. This cannot happen without an effective customer experience strategy. The ability to convert data into insight is priceless in an economic landscape where the line between a business thriving, surviving and failing is so thin. Those operating in financial services must harness modern technologies – like data virtualization – to stay at the top of their game and ahead of the competition.

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Banking

The Importance of Digital Trust in Banking and Finance

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By Maeson Maherry, COO at Ascertia

 

With the rising adoption of eSignatures and the acceleration of digital transformation, trust in digital systems is more important than ever before. As a recession looms, the ability to trust digital systems is critical to the stability and security of the banking and finance industry.

So, what should businesses prioritise in an increasingly online world? Information security, data integrity, and digital trust are crucial for ensuring regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction.

Digital trust is empowering banking and finance institutions to effectively tackle issues of identity theft and fraud.

What is digital trust?

On the surface, digital trust refers to a digital system or platform that is secure and can be relied upon to protect and properly handle sensitive information.

Building the confidence that people have in digital systems, platforms, and technologies to handle their sensitive information, protect them from fraud, and function as intended is paramount for decision-makers going forward.

Trust online encompasses various aspects, such as data security, privacy, authenticity and reliability. Digital trust also involves assessing the trustworthiness of digital entities such as websites, apps, and online services, as well as the trust in the integrity and reliability of digital communications and transactions.

Maeson Maherry

Digital trust is a key element of digital transformation, the additional step to ensuring the digital systems in place are secure. This can include the following:

  • Online banking platform for customers
  • Digital document approvals and workflows
  • Secure digital signature solutions
  • Know your customer (KYC) checks
  • Electronic anti-money laundering procedures

Why is digital trust important for banks?

One of the main reasons why digital trust is so important in banking and finance is that it helps to tackle issues of identity theft and fraud. Customers and regulators require reassurance that personal and financial data won’t fall into the wrong hands. This includes customer statements, investment authorisations, legal records and customer personal data.

Online banking is now well established but the technology continues to evolve and so do the potential threats to data security. With phishing and other identity theft a daily concern, establishing digital trust in the industry is key.

Digital trust provides a means to trust in the identity of a person or document online, to the same degree as meeting or signing in person. This requires additional checks and layers of security to verify identities and the security of documents.

The role of eSignatures in banking

Digital trust is vital in the secure implementation of eSignatures.

In the banking and finance industry, eSignatures are becoming increasingly popular as they allow for transactions to be conducted quickly and securely. However, for eSignatures to be effective and to provide digital trust, all parties involved must trust in the transaction. This is done by ensuring eSignatures are valid and that the person signing the document is who they claim to be.

There are global standards to ensure the authenticity of eSignatures for digital signing. This means there is a way to validate the digital trustworthiness of eSignatures if implemented and used in a manner that meets certain criteria for security and authenticity.

For instance, digital signatures that are compliant with internationally recognised standards, such as eIDAS (Electronic Identification and Trust Services) in Europe, can be considered digitally trustworthy. It’s important to understand not all eSignatures provide the same level of security and to ensure the correct eSignature is used for the purpose and security required.

eSignatures that use advanced digital signature technologies such as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) or biometrics, can be considered more digitally trustworthy as they provide a higher level of security and authentication.

These technologies use cryptographic methods to ensure that the signature is unique to the signer and cannot be replicated or forged. These standards establish a legal framework for the use of electronic signatures and ensure that they are legally binding, enforceable and offer the same level of trust as traditional signatures.

How does digital trust prevent fraud?

If the public loses trust in digital systems, it could lead to a loss of confidence in the financial system. Fraud, in particular, is at the forefront of public concerns.

Digital signatures are well positioned to offset the risk of financial fraud, largely due to three critical factors when assessing the digital trust of an eSignature:

  • Authentication: To verify the identity of the signer, eSignatures employ sophisticated technologies such as PKI. This confirms that the person signing the document is who they say they are and aids in preventing fraud through impersonation.
  • Tamper-evident: Tamper-evident features are often included in high-trust eSignatures, which identify if a document has been changed after it has been signed. This helps to prevent fraud by identifying manipulated papers and giving an audit trail of the signature.
  • Compliance: International standards such as eIDAS ensure that eSignatures are legally binding, enforceable, and provide the same level of trust as traditional signatures.

The banking industry specifically will benefit greatly from investing in digital trust ecosystems that include eSignatures, biometrics and encryption software to provide verification and assurance for customers.

In the future, financial institutions will adopt Know Your Transaction (KYT) as a means of implementing cybersecurity measures at the transaction level in their banking protocols.

By utilizing digital signatures at the transaction level and verifying them upon receipt, the financial industry can achieve KYT, ensuring that the source of information is under the control of the endpoint and that transaction information has not been tampered with.

This level of security will be a crucial aspect of achieving digital trust in the financial industry moving forward.

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