The competitive edge: Hybrid cloud in financial services - Intelligent CIO Europe
The competitive edge: Hybrid cloud in financial services

The competitive edge: Hybrid cloud in financial services

The hybrid model offers a level of flexibility and business agility which is extremely appealing to the banking and finance sector. Helena Schwenk, Market Intelligence Manager at Exasol discusses why organisations must stay ahead of the data game in the current Digital Transformation landscape.

Regardless of the sector you work in, you’ll no doubt have heard the chatter around the hybrid cloud. However, like many of your peers, you’ve probably got more questions than answers. What is hybrid cloud? Which way should my business jump? How do I know what to think about when selecting cloud strategies? Can I be guaranteed that it’ll prime my business for the future?

Among all the confusing commentary surrounding the hybrid cloud, one thing is clear — organisations must stay ahead of the data game. The use of data in industry has now become the most valuable asset in driving tangible business success. In fact, according to Forrester, insights businesses are growing on average more than 30% annually.

Nowhere is this truer than in the financial services sector where heightened customer expectations mean the demand for fast information is higher than ever. With security and compliance front and centre, those who aren’t paying attention to the possibilities of the hybrid cloud could be losing out. Or worse, could be kept out of the game altogether.

Staying competitive

Growth in the financial sector has been unprecedented in the last five years, as has the pace of Digital Transformation. This growth has meant that the FinTech landscape has quickly become synonymous with data analytics. FinTech start-ups are changing the way we think about banking. For consumers, financial firms must provide their services in the most timely, satisfying and straightforward way, across any platform. Long gone are the days of physical banking where consumers need to wait for a bank’s 9am-5pm opening hours.

Against this backdrop, the hybrid model offers a level of flexibility that is hugely appealing to financial services firms — mainly as it incorporates many of their core applications, which are often run on-premises. It allows these businesses to stagger the migration of their applications to a new cloud architecture, making it more achievable in both the short and long term, while allowing them to mitigate any risk involved during the transition period. From there, it helps to maximise the potential of existing investments and deliver incremental business value effectively.

As financial organisations increase their adoption of technologies like AI and Machine Learning, it becomes more critical for them to invest in a robust data infrastructure. Doing so means they can access all forms of data at scale while integrating and leveraging data science languages. Also, it allows these businesses to discover, learn and optimise insights that result in more efficient business decision making.

Graduating to the cloud

Understandably, transforming from legacy infrastructure to one with a digital-first focus is no easy task. The financial sector is particularly delicate as it’s highly regulated and also has data security, privacy and protection to consider. However, this shouldn’t stop businesses embarking on their journey to the hybrid cloud. Success ultimately relies on organisations addressing perennial challenges first and foremost. These challenges include breaking down data silos and addressing the science skills shortage to change cultural thinking around using data and analytics in everything the business does. 

Progressing to the cloud typically starts with front office Software-as-a-Service applications, new native cloud application development and some front-office functions, and arguably most important of all, evidence that it works for the organisation.

That includes tracking new analytics outcomes – i.e. derived measurable results brought about by the use of data and analytics in decision making – as well as associating those results with the underlying data, analytics, algorithms and decisions that contributed to each success. For example, Revolut, a digital bank with over 8 million customers worldwide is able to streamline decision-making processes with queries that run 100x faster. Those working with data must be able to make this correlation between analytics and business success clear to the whole business – particularly in such a fiercely competitive landscape. Only then can the power of data be fully understood to those who haven’t got the skills required to deal with or leverage data, while simplifying how instrumental it is to underlying commercial success.

Before you’re out of the starting blocks

Building a hybrid cloud architecture suited to the needs of your organisation can take time, and within financial services, requires businesses to integrate systems with multiple technologies in the long term progressively. As part of this, it’s essential to consider that there are significant regulatory implications of cloud adoption within the financial sector.

For example, these companies must ensure that they can transition from the cloud back to their own data centres if required by the regulator. Other important issues that impact decision making around hybrid cloud include how personal information is stored, how it is used, dependence on third-party providers and security of cloud infrastructure. These are issues that are all vital during design and architecture stages of hybrid cloud infrastructures, and in an industry that continues to evolve in line with the ongoing pace of change, must be taken into account in all stages of the Digital Transformation process.

Many organisations overcome these regulatory hurdles by using scalable public clouds for dynamic workloads, allowing them to store more sensitive workloads in the private cloud, on-premises data centre or mainframe application. In practice, this means that things like marketing or sales apps can be found in the public cloud, while more sensitive services that the bank supplies, such as financial or customer-related information like balance enquiries, are stored on either a private cloud or on-premises application.

Freeing you to be ambitious with your data

Hybrid cloud is a necessity for financial services companies seeking greater business agility, especially for those operating in such arduous data environments.

In a space like financial services, businesses can’t afford not to adapt. The rate of change is driven by customers’ appetite for more straightforward and quicker services, available 24/7. In this context, the case for the hybrid cloud is simple; it’s an enabler and supporter of digital business transformation, helping businesses prepare for an uncertain future.

Moreover, that future could also be exciting when it comes to the liberation of data. In an exciting twist, the utilisation of cloud-based platforms has given financial services firms a unique training ground that allows them to experiment with the best ways in which to deploy emerging technologies – from chatbots to Blockchain-based data stores. The latter could prove valuable to financial services firms as Blockchain is designed to store transactions forever while preventing data from ever being altered, creating a trustworthy environment where small transactional data can be stored. That grounding – based firmly within a hybrid strategy – means that businesses won’t be left to play catch up, but can instead lead the charge to an ambitious, data-led future where the possibilities are endless.

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