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WHY FINANCIAL SERVICES NEED TO ADOPT LEAN AND AGILE PRINCIPLES

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By Philip Farah, AVP Head Digital Transformation Services, Global Accounts at World Wide Technology (WWT)

 

The financial services industry is going through major changes as it prepares itself for a digital future.

With the pandemic in play, social distancing rules drove digital uptake amongst consumers as most highstreets banks were closed, forcing many people to manage their finances remotely. As society has adjusted to this change, and ‘banking through a screen’ has become the new normal, financial services institutions are feeling the pressure to integrate new technologies that will meet the demands and expectations of digitally savvy customers.

Prior to the pandemic, it took IT teams in financial services up to 18 months to release a new product. However, with increasing customer demands for digital services combined with the backdrop of the pandemic, this is not fast enough. Speeding up this process is a key challenge for the financial services industry – and one that needs more attention.

This is where adopting lean and agile processes as well as DevOps processes that bridge the gap between Application Development and Infrastructure Operations, which are used by some of the most advanced technology companies in the world, can help.

 

Following the trend

Service offering is a key competitive differentiator in the financial services sector. The rise of new fintech players, who already use agile principles, has forced traditional financial institutions to emulate the way they work.

Fintechs have demonstrated that Agile and DevOps can speed up the rate of innovation and reduce time to market. This has been observed by the wider financial services industry. The onus is now on the incumbents to integrate agile (and DevOps) practices to match this pace.

Companies understand they need to adopt lean and agile principles – as it will help speed up the process of replacing legacy technologies with modern digital innovations or bolting on new digital front ends on top of existing systems (through the use of APIs and Mircoservices). But the question is, from a practical perspective, how do large financial institutions implement lean and agile principles that will give them the ability to evolve and compete? One answer is the cloud.

 

Cloud as an enabler

Cloud service providers offer products that deliver a seamless extension of the enterprise private cloud into the public hosting sphere. This includes tools to manage an agile development process, such as Kanban. More importantly, it leverages seamless links between app development and infrastructure operations (e.g., automated infrastructure provisioning).

This means developers can set up infrastructure on demand to accelerate development and deployment of new applications to support business opportunities. Moreover, this integration allows financial institutions to deploy at scale especially in situations where spikes in demand are frequent.

However, migrating to the cloud has challenges. A move to cloud-based collaboration requires cultural change. And innovations such as automation open up operational and security risks. Therefore, it is easier to get developers rallied behind DevOps than teams running security or operations.

This is why a successful and broad adoption of Agile and DevOps at the enterprise level is conditional on operations, security and development teams working hand in hand with a joint strategy and prioritisation plan aimed at peeling the value/risk onion in layers.

Organisations are working tirelessly to solve these challenges. Businesses will require solid leadership, and a strategic plan in place to act on. It is those organisations that overcome these barriers that will succeed in a new cloud enabled future.

 

The lean and agile tech revolution

While the public cloud removes some of the constraints to the adoption of lean and agile principles, financial services Institutions have to pursue a hybrid approach the includes their on-prem infrastructure as well with the goal of creating seamless infrastructure provisioning and workload migration capabilities that cut across public and private infrastructure.

To do so, they need to invest in observability, AI, automation, and security through upping their skills /expertise in areas such as AIOps, DevOps, DevSecOps, GitOps, design thinking, and agile development.

Bottom line is that for Financial Services Institutions to be able to accelerate time-to-market, they need to adopt new capabilities and upskill their teams today, focus on quick wins (new Apps in the cloud as an example) while setting the foundations for a comprehensive enterprise-wide adoption of Agile and DevSecOps to expand the reach to legacy apps and private Infrastructure.

 

Finance

Weathering the Crypto Storm

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Crypto investors may be left reeling from losses over the last few months. But that is not to say all is lost. The good news is that a crypto bear market is unlike a traditional one, with the high volatility and wide-ranging opportunity meaning no two days, even minutes, are ever the same. Here, Kristjan Kangro, CEO and co-founder of Change, a leading Estonian investment platform, explores:

We’ve all seen the headlines. Some say that the crypto bear market could last two years and that a bitter crypto winter is here. That Bitcoin and the like will continue to slump. But that is not to say it’s time to cash in your chips. While the news reports may, by design, ignite worry or even panic, the reality is that the situation isn’t near as grave as it might appear.

For the first part, this is not the first time that crypto investors have weathered such a storm. By its decentralised nature, crypto is much more changeable than the traditional market. Assets can see huge increases or decreases in price from one day to the next.

It’s also important to note that while the current crash may have a short-term negative impact, in the long-term it could mean that the coins and crypto projects that survive rocket in value. Seen as a ‘cleansing process’ of types, this could offer a good opportunity for newbies to enter the crypto market for the first time ever at historically low prices.

With this in mind, there are several tried and tested investment strategies that can help you weather the current crypto storm and build your wealth throughout.

First up, it’s important to be patient. As with anything in life, it’s never a good idea to react out of fear and panic, but rather consider your options. Remember, this isn’t the first time cryptos have lost value, only to rebound and reach new heights. From my own personal portfolio experience, I do believe there’s a lot to be said for ‘the long-term investor always wins.’

At the same time, do your research. Look at your options, your overall portfolio and the broader financial picture to decide your best course of action. Don’t just buy because others are. Don’t short because others are either. Weigh up your options based on exactly what you have and what level of risk you can afford to take. If you don’t need the cash immediately and it feels right, sit tight and try to wait it out.

It sounds obvious too but, diversify. It’s never wise to have all your eggs in one basket, especially during a bear market. A broad selection of investments will always create a more stable portfolio and mitigate some of the risk. I, for example, always tend to mix up my portfolio with a range of established market leaders and a selection of more niche coins with interesting applications across different sectors. This has continued to serve me well and limit my exposure during any difficult period.

As seen in previous crypto winters gone by, there is also a lot to be said for investing in a downturn. Yes it might not be for the faint hearted. You might even think you’re buying at a low, only to see your assets continue to decline in value. However, it could be a risk that pays off. If your coin has a long-term potential it could be a risk which pays serious dividends.

Depending on your risk appetite, another route could be to move towards passive income opportunities such as yield products. Although the gains might be more conservative, it offers a more gradual, and less exposed way to make a profit. Better still, it involves no continuous trading effort. At Change, for example, since launching our Growth Pocket high-yield account at the end of last year, we’ve helped create 100k euros worth of passive income for our community.

Lastly, although it may be hard, it’s important to try to not buy into all the headlines and ‘expert reviews’, much of which may be designed to scaremonger and capture your attention. This is, after all, not crypto’s first crash. And just like the crypto and traditional bear markets before, it will come to an end probably sooner than you think. The likelihood too is that it will drive best practice, as consumers gravitate to those companies who are regulated and offer a certain level of protection.

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Let’s Not Talk Ourselves into a Slump!

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By Dominic Bourquin, Head of the Tax Consultancy and Corporate Finance team at Monahans

 

In the face of the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures, it is important for businesses in the UK to stay calm and not panic otherwise there is a real chance we could talk ourselves into a recession.

The ONS GDP figures are seen as a key barometer of the strength of our economy. On August 12, the ONS announced a 0.1% estimated decrease in GDP for the quarter ended June 2022.

In my opinion, this can be interpreted in a number of ways. Some might say this is a precursor to a recession later in the year, others might argue that such a small estimated fall in GDP might actually be a rounding and, of course, it is subject to revision later as more data becomes available.

Dominic Bourquin Monahans

There is a real mixed bag behind the figures.  The service sector, the largest sector of the UK economy, has shrunk by 0.4% in the quarter, mainly due to the fall in what is termed health and social work activities – this has been caused by a reduction in coronavirus led activities as the COVID-19 virus has become part of normal life and COVID testing, vaccinations and track and trace activities have reduced.

That said, this fall does hide some bright spots, such as the increase in the wholesale and retail of cars and increases in accommodation and food services partly due to Jubilee related activity.

Of course, all data comparisons are dependent on what is being compared, so, to be too gloomy about the shrinking of the service sector, because we are undertaking less coronavirus related health activity, seems to me like an overreaction – surely the economy recovering from coronavirus so there is less of that sort of activity is a good thing?

In the production sectors, there was an overall increase of 0.5% driven principally by increases in gas and electric power generation and transmission, although mining and quarrying activity was down, but not by much, so the part of the economy that actually produces tangible products has done pretty well, with any falls in sectors within the wider production figures being pretty negligible.

The construction sector performance is usually an early indicator of things to come in the economy and is notoriously cyclical so the rise of 2.3% does not yet signal that a recession is coming.

Expenditure and private spending showed small falls of 0.1% and 0.2%, but again, with these first figures being estimated and subject to revision, there is no reason to panic yet.

I am pretty sure that back in 2010 when George Osborne was Chancellor that we “were in recession” and yet when the figures were revised some months later as more data became available, there had not actually been a recession at all! 0.1% given the size of the UK economy is tiny!

Overall, I am sure the Government and all of us would have much rather seen an increase in GDP, but when the reasons for the fall are examined and we remind ourselves that these are early estimates subject to revision, there is no need to panic yet – they might be indicators of the start of a trend that leads us to a recession, but then again they might not!

The fall in the service sector was caused by a drop off in coronavirus related health activity, which you would expect as the virus recedes, so let’s not talk ourselves into a slump!

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