Ahead of the curve? The finance industry's IT challenges

Seen by many as ahead of the technological curve, the finance industry still faces immense IT challenges

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Ahead of the curve? The finance industry's IT challenges Financial institutions in the Middle East are finding it particularly difficult to keep up with the rapid digital transformation
By  Tom Paye Published  September 27, 2015

The finance industry has a reputation has being ahead of the curve when it comes to IT. Whether it’s new algorithms designed to take trading to new speeds, or the latest security solution designed to provide the utmost protection from criminals, finance organisations are well aware of the benefits that IT can bring. In the Middle East, things are no different, but there are still challenges that finance organisations face.

Indeed, financial institutions in the Middle East are finding it particularly difficult to keep up with the rapid digital transformation and change of the industry landscape. According to Yasser Zeineldin, CEO at eHosting DataFort, digitisation has become imperative for financial firms in order to compete in today’s changing market. Unfortunately, many of these organisations have legacy systems with data stored in different silos.

“Hence, a number of organisations are looking at moving their data from in house legacy systems to more adaptable platforms such as the cloud,” he explains.

Indeed, according to many, while banks and finance institutions are seen as ahead of the curve when it comes to IT, the fact is that the majority of them are no longer young companies. This means that, like any other large, old company, there are legacy challenges to contend with, and these challenges are made more pressing by the fact that the industry demands staying technologically advanced. To counteract this, banks and finance firms are investing heavily in next-generation architectures that take advantage of so-called third-platform technologies.

“To keep up with business growth, there is an increased focus on ‘simplifying IT’, thereby laying the foundation for private cloud deployments,” explains Hidir Mag, MEA systems leader at Oracle. “Transforming data centres to deliver private cloud services to run 24-7, non-disruptive business operations is a key factor for organisations to stay competitive in the market place.”

That said, while many banking organisations in the Middle East are now relatively mature, with plenty of legacy IT to contend with, there is an argument that they’re in better shape to implement new changes than international finance houses. According to Sunil Paul, co-founder and COO at Finesse Global, this is down to the fact that, comparatively speaking, banks and finance institutions are smaller here than in other markets — meaning they can turn things around more quickly.

“Since the size of the institutions in the region is much smaller compared to many parts of the world, the operating dynamics are obviously different. However, this should be considered as an advantage for a quick turnaround as the industry is going through a rapid transformation,” he says.

According to Biswajeet Mahapatra, research director at Gartner, it’s true that there’s pressure for finance institutions in the Gulf to stay ahead of the game. He also largely agrees that this will only be possible through adopting new technologies. He points to some of the big areas of interest that the sector is currently looking at.

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