Change for the better

When some of the most influential IT decision makers in the banking and finance sector met to discuss and debate the issues that matter to them the most, Duncan MacRae joined in the fun.

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By  Duncan MacRae Published  July 11, 2007

Developments in IT in the banking and finance sector have always been fast-paced, with billions of dollars constantly being injected into the industry and much of the technology leading the way for other verticals. While this makes the sector extremely exciting, it also exacerbates the challenges faced by the IT decision makers in the industry.

It was no surprise then that so many of them turned out at the recent Information Technology in Banking & Finance Forum in Dubai. The two-day event, featuring presentations from some of the most experienced bank CIOs in the region, was the perfect chance for those from financial IT to get together, exchange ideas and debate today's hot topics.

Discussions were varied, ranging from VOIP to IT asset management, and international IT standards implementation to risk management. Interestingly, it was difficult to get any of speakers or guests to agree on exactly what is the one main challenge they now face. It was a probing question put to many of them by forum chair Baqar Muzaffar, CIO at United Bank Limited.

According to UVK Kumar, head of IT at Doha Bank, the answer is simple. "The biggest challenge," he said, "is aligning the technology with the business needs. It does sound very simple but that is the crucial aspect.

"The needs are always changing and that is what makes it all the more difficult. It's up to the IT manager to constantly assess the technology they have at their disposal. They need to decide how they can best utilise that and also how they can develop and improve upon it, whether that's through adding more up-to- date solutions or simply by finding ways to get more out of what they already have."

Collaboration was also a major issue raised in discussion. It is essential that the IT department is in constant communication with the CEO and all other staff working on the ‘businesses' side of the company. This collaboration is an absolute must, especially when the bank wants to launch a new product and the IT people need to go out into the market to source the necessary software to support it.

"You can't do this alone," explained Youssef Laban, COO at Banque Saudi Fransi. "You have to keep the busines people involved and informed, so being able to explain to them what you need and why you need it is essential.

"Look at it this way. If your company is going to invest US$2 millon in a project then making an extra investment of say $50,000 in a document management solution is nothing. Spend two or three weeks doing this and it is really worthwhile. For such a large investment an extra $50,000 isn't a lot but it will definitely save you a lot of time and money in the long run. It's not difficult to make people see this but, of course, you need to take the time to do so."

Time management is something that will always come to the fore when discussing challenges in any job but it is important to make time for a number of things, including talking to vendors and finding the one that is right for you and the company's needs.

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