Recently, I had the chance to attend the Operations & Technology in Financial Services Conference in London. The Conference brought together over 200 attendees including C-Suite, Directors, Heads and Managers of IT, Operations, Technology, Strategy, and Digital Development from over 75 financial institutions.
The conference focused on how Financial Services organizations can use technological and operational tools to stay ahead in this complex and quickly changing industry.
I attended some great sessions throughout the day and met with representatives from companies like Barclays, ING, Close Brothers, LV and MetLife. Through the sessions and conversations, a few key themes emerged.
The need to secure ‘regulation ready’ data
Data acquisition and usage was a prevalent theme at the conference. But many voiced the need to move beyond just data accumulation and integration and find a way to secure ‘regulation ready’ data – data that has been standardized, validated and is trusted for use in reporting and analysis.
In order to get to this single version of financial truth many agreed that the source systems and data warehouse could not just be owned by IT, but required shared ownership by the business users. When only one group owns the data, it frequently leads to delayed access and untrustworthy information.
“Surf on Burning Fires”
Dirk Coutuer, an information architect from ING Belgium, delivered a great presentation on implementing a data governance strategy and referenced the need to ‘surf on burning fires’ in his session.
This idea recognizes the importance of identifying and illustrating a ‘burning fire,’ which can justify a data governance or financial infrastructure upgrade project. These issues can include quality problems in reports, negative audit reports and mandatory regulations.
We’ve seen companies using the recent IFRS 15, IFRS 9 and IFRS 4 regulations to spur needed updates in the data acquisition and accounting systems space but the real key is to ensure new applications and systems achieve value beyond simple compliance. There seemed to be significant interest in these upcoming regulatory requirements and how they would impact both finance and IT.
The Holistic View of the Organization
A consistent goal for many companies seems to be gaining the ability to generate a holistic view of the organization. For some this can mean a single view of customers; others financial services firms are focussed on a single view of financial health. Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming desire of companies to achieve these levels of transparency, few actually have the systems and processes in place.
While it can seem overwhelming to bring together often siloed information, it can be done. We are currently working with a large global organization to evaluate the systems and processes needed to provide the CFO, CEO and team with intra-day reporting across the organization. This company’s internal ‘Gross Margin Improvement Plan’ aims to provide management reporting to all layers of the organization in near-real time. The data integration and standardization work required for this effort will also help them meet changing IFRS accounting requirements.
Listening to the speakers and meeting with representatives from various finance and insurance institutions was very valuable and highlighted the ways technology and operational processes are necessary for business success. I look forward to working with these colleagues to understand how Aptitude Software and our specialist finance solutions can continue to add value for CFOs and their teams.