Financial focus

Sean Lee, director, financial services, EMC global verticals, discusses cloud, compliance and other issues facing the banking sector.

Tags: ComplianceEMC Corporation
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Financial focus Lee: Customers need to have a long-term strategy for cloud services.
By  Mark Sutton Published  July 14, 2010

ACN: You’ve just completed a financial services roadshow in the region, what was the purpose of that?

Sean Lee: It was geared specifically towards banking institutions, customers of ours in Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar, Cairo, Istanbul, and Riyadh. The roadshow was designed not to be an overview of EMC in general, but very specific into this particular vertical, with a lot of specific customer examples, and to allow the customers to kind of see EMC not just in a traditional storage stance, but looking at one EMC, the entire portfolio of EMC in terms of security, compliance, governance, contact management, portal management, capture and of course back-up recovery and business continuity.

ACN: What are the main themes that are occupying the financial sector?

Sean Lee: There are really three things that most banks are talking about now. They are talking about managing risk, we all know why that’s the case; containing costs, rather than reducing costs - you can’t really win new business when you are constantly in a cost-slashing mode, so they call it cost containment. They maintain the operational cost, but at the same time allocate enough for innovative projects, whether it’s new products, new markets, cross selling and different ideas. Then the third one is multi-channel delivery, getting closer to the customer.

During the road show we spent a lot of time talking about our customer centricity, multi-channel delivery capability. If you look at the IDC reports, they are saying winning banks will focus on delivering the information to the customer, not so much having the information readily available for the customer to see, but to actually deliver it to them in a very personalised manner. It is about mimicking that experience when we used to walk into a branch and there is someone there to greet you, and to get to know you and build a profile around you.

It’s difficult to do that online, especially on a mobile device, but there are still things that you can do to map that journey so that you can at least allow the customers to feel like the bank is a trusted entity again. The financial crisis really damaged a lot of reputations, maybe not so much here, I don’t get a sense that that’s the concern here, but certainly on a worldwide basis a lot of banks were in damage control, now they are winning the customer back.

ACN: Do you see a lot of differences between banks here and banks in other parts of the world?

Sean Lee: I see similarities and I see differences. Banking services are banking services - they are managing people’s money, savings and loans and mortgages and investment portfolios and so on. It’s very, very similar in that regard, so the type of projects that we see are very similar. They are trying to protect the information, the customer data, they are trying to fight against fraud, they are trying to make their operations more efficient, whether it’s business or IT, all of those are very, very similar. Cost savings mode may not be as high a priority for obvious reasons because this is still a very fast growing region. In other areas they may be more stringent in terms of savings and IT budget, but at the end of the day it’s very similar.

Now, differences, a lot of the banks in North America, in Western Europe have been around for a very long time, so they have a lot of legacy systems, infrastructures and applications that they still need to maintain, because they still have systems or records that are sitting in there. They keep the records forever, which means a lot of those legacy systems still need to be powered on.

Banks over here are much less of a problem. The infrastructure is much newer, the application is newer - it almost seems like they skipped a few generations of IT, especially in the banking industry. So I think they have more flexibility to really look at new, innovative ideas and adopt those ideas quicker because they don’t have the legacy systems, the APIs and integration to worry about. I think that’s a definite competitive advantage that I see the banks here having, especially in the UAE.

ACN: There’s a comparative lack of regulation for the financial sector in this region - does that make a difference to what the banks are asking from EMC?

Sean Lee: It does in some sense. Some of the audiences, all they wanted to talk about was GRC [governance, risk and compliance]. They want to understand not so much what they need to do now, but more about mature banking institutions elsewhere, either in the region or worldwide. They wanted to learn from what they are doing, how they are preparing for it, and what they have done already.

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