FINANCIAL services play a vital role in the UK economy in providing investment capital and mitigating risk against loss or catastrophe. But most financial services companies today would fail without having a robust IT technology platform to underpin their business processes and operations.

Technology has always played a vital role in the evolution of financial services. The sudden de-regulation of the markets in the 1986 Big Bang marked one of the most rapid periods of technological change, replacing open-outcry with electronic trading systems. But it’s not just the financial and investment markets that are affected by technology innovation. Retail banking, insurance and the payments industry all offer significant opportunity for leveraging IT.

Many large IT programs are currently being driven by a tsunami of regulation (Basel III, Solvency II and the retail distribution review), much of which will force companies to use IT to drive operational efficiencies in their business. However technology is also at the heart of a company’s ability to reduce cost (via video and collaboration), to acquire and retain customers (for instance, through customer contact centres in insurance and multi-channel capability in retail banking) and to create competitive advantage (as with low latency switching platforms for algo-trading).

At the very core of all this innovation is the enterprise architecture, a well designed system that should tightly couple IT to long term business priorities, thereby maximising a business’s ability to be agile. Risk and compliance, customer acquisition and other business priorities all compete for their share of the IT budget in financial institutions, so a standards based enterprise architecture is critical in establishing priorities. Such an approach should result in better customer experiences, reduced overhead and a more secure, scalable and flexible platform for the business.

Making data and information truly valuable business assets, available through the enterprise architecture is critical. Turnkey solutions with high levels of automation, from fewer vendors, will make it available in a more timely fashion, thereby increasing its real value, just like any time-bound financial instrument or asset.