Financial services organisations turning business continuity into business advantage
The enforced changes in the way businesses operate as a result of the global pandemic has shone a spotlight on the critical nature of business continuity and the necessity for companies to continually evaluate and update their plans. While the past nine months have generated numerous case studies around companies that were prepared for almost any eventuality, as well as some cautionary tales, most organisations fall somewhere in between the two extremes. According to the Veeam 2020 Data Protection Trends Report, almost one-quarter (23%) of global organisations describe their progress towards achieving digital transformation initiatives and goals as mature or fully implemented and almost a third (30%) are currently in the early stages of implementing or planning digital transformation.
The financial services sector has traditionally taken business continuity very seriously. As a result of the nature of their operations and regulatory frameworks it has to adhere to, the sector has, over the years, invested heavily in ensuring that its infrastructure, applications and data remain available under almost any circumstances.
However, some financial services organisations were better positioned to maintain operations during national and regional lockdowns compared to others. Kate Mollett, Regional Manager, Africa at Veeam, highlights that there were situations that even the most prepared had not anticipated. “Many companies made their plans based on the unavailability of one or more physical locations, allowing them to shift the work to another location, either locally or nationally. What they didn’t anticipate was that they would need to operate in an entirely distributed manner. Mollett adds that in the rest of Africa the situation was exacerbated as financial services organisations were more dependent on the capabilities of their infrastructure and were unable to respond quickly to the challenges posed by the pandemic. “The lack of network access meant that not all employees were able to work remotely and this had a direct impact on their ability to service customers.”
Stepping up modernisation
The net result of these experiences is that financial services organisations are stepping up their modernisation efforts to ensure they are able to respond quickly to future challenges. She adds that companies across the sector are looking to accelerate their adoption of cloud services in order to empower remote work and minimise the need for physical interaction. “We’ve seen, across the board, cyber criminals targeting remote workers and, as a result, financial services organisations are paying greater attention to securing this area.”
Critical to the success of the modernisation effort is the embracing of automation. Mollett explains the key to building a robust business continuity strategy is leveraging the power of automation. “You can have the best systems and processes, but if you’re relying on a human as part of this process and they are not aware of the processes and best practice, then the entire system fails because human error is responsible for roughly 70% of downtime. Leveraging automation removes the human error element to ensure that the business continues to function. This, however, does not replace the value of humans because we need to control and direct automation. Automating processes like disaster recovery means that it’s possible to test these more often, ensuring they deliver when the time comes.”
Learning from digital-first organisations
She adds that this is something that digital-first financial services organisations have taken advantage of, in order to operate effectively at the lowest possible cost. This covers all aspects, from internal processes through to interactions with customers. “The lesson from the continued success of these organisations is that more traditional companies need to accelerate their adoption of automation to stay competitive.”
Automation is also critical in allowing banks and other financial services institutions to take advantage of their most critical asset, their data. Recent research by ITWeb indicated that South African organisations were looking to leverage their legacy data to drive business value, but most were uncertain of where to start. “If you have a robust backup strategy, then this data provides the perfect starting point for generating valuable insights,” comments Mollett. “By optimising data management, there are real opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce operational costs.”
Ensuring business continuity in uncertain times remains a critical concern for financial services organisations, but alongside ensuring their resilience in the event of a future crisis, they’re leveraging these modernisation initiatives to drive their evolution into truly digital businesses.
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