Systems integration in banking sector: tricks to crack the hard nut
Editor / Provider: Prasanth Aby Thomas, a&s International | Updated: 5/26/2015 | Article type: Hot Topics
Financial institutions are at the heart of contemporary global economy. Modern corporates that are accustomed to the convenience of transnational trade and commerce would never function without the support of banks that are working around the clock. Customers used to the convenience of accessing cash any time and making cashless transactions too would be at a loss without them.
The banks, on their part, are going all out to make sure that they are able to reach each and every possible customer. To this end, they have embraced technology and made use of the internet for electronic, and more recently, mobile banking. In the U.S. alone, despite the slow growth of the financial sector post the financial crisis, the year 2014 saw banks put up a strong performance in terms of assets and liabilities, according to the US Federal Reserve.
Concerns on a Lukewarm Approach to Security in Banking
Yet, despite such an aggressive financial rebound and its subsequent contribution to the GDP, banks continue to be a dismal vertical for the security industry. Even with the sensitive nature of their business and risky character of their transactions, banks have largely abstained from adopting modern video surveillance technology.
To most systems integrators (SI), this attitude is illogical. Banks are willing to move ahead with Internet and mobile banking but are reluctant to make use of similar technology to make their systems secure. According to Bob Mesnik, President of New York-based SI Kintronics, convincing banks to improve their security is an uphill task.
“They are reluctant to spend money in security and we have not found any way to convince them otherwise,” said Mesnik. “The larger banks don't seem to care at all about security, which is very strange. Outside the U.S. there is more interest at smaller banks, but in this case they are mostly interested in monitoring performance of their employees.”
Mesnik's complaint echoes sentiments from several other SIs across the industry. Major reasons often attributed to this reluctance from banks are concerns on safety and cost effectiveness. But even when these apprehensions are put to rest, banks are not enthusiastic to move forward.
Understanding the Challenges in Financial Sector
But this is not to say that banks have totally remained off limits when it comes to upgrading their video surveillance systems. Numerous case studies from manufacturers as well as SIs show instances where banks have moved forward to IP technology and felt it was worth spending money on. Tyco, a company with significant experience in the vertical, explained the challenges that SIs face when dealing with banking sector clients.
“Clients are working with tighter budgetary constraints and have to prioritize those projects which are deemed absolutely necessary, whether this is due to replacing dated security installation, meeting regulatory demands or responding to business expansion strategies,” said Chris Jones, Regional Global Account Manager for Installation & Services at Tyco Asia Pacific.
“A number of clients are also outsourcing their sourcing or procurement departments. These companies are more aggressive in their scrutiny and more likely to prefer to go to tender to encourage competitive pricing.”
Aidan Anderson, Security Consultant at Red Leaf Consultancy in UK, elaborated this point further. According to him, not all SIs are aware of how the banking sector operates and how they view physical security.
Although from a security-industry perspective protecting bank assets may be seen as a priority, banks are more likely to think in terms of controlling certain identified risks. Security is only one among these risks, the others being liquidity, capital and regulatory. Methods of controlling risks may include upgrading systems and equipment, but it might just as well be adopting certain procedures or buying insurance products.
“Within a bank, security is generally seen as another department, rather than a special case and as with all departments any investment has to provide returns, whether those are measured in terms of increased revenues, cost savings, process efficiencies or a reduction in headcount,” said Anderson.
“The challenge for systems integrators is to work with potential clients to establish how their products could, in terms of risk and for the security department, provide benefits to the extent that the business will invest in them, rather than the competing requirements of all other departments.”
Paul Bremner, Senior Analyst for Video Surveillance - Security Services at IHS, who works closely with the systems integration community, added a few more variables that impact security related decisions in banks.
“The banking sector itself can be divided into different sectors, there are the retail branch locations, the distribution centers, and the corporate offices; each of these has different requirements with its own unique challenges,” said Bremner.
“For an integrator trying to win business in this sector, it is important to understand that the level at which the decision to install or retrofit a security system can vary at each of these locations.”
The decision to hire a particular SI would also depend heavily on where it is taken. If the decision is made locally, it could level the playing field for regional as well as national level SIs. But if the decision is taken at the national level, then banks are certain to choose SIs with a national presence and relevant experience.
“This makes having a large geographic footprint an important selling point for an integrator looking to win business across the entire banking sector,” Bremner pointed out. “Another requirement from an integrator that goes hand-in-hand with this large footprint is a proven track-record of servicing these financial institutions.”
Banks to Favor Surveillance Beyond Security
The technological developments for banking security are not unique to the sector, but their applications are. According to Paul Bremner, Senior Analyst for Video Surveillance - Security Services at IHS, banks tend to proceed with investment decisions in new security equipment and solutions after considering the ROI and reduced operational costs it may bring. Among this, reducing operational cost is mostly about bringing down the headcount, but in terms of increasing ROI, banks are interested in business intelligence analytics.
According to a survey from Cisco, 43 percent of US customers believe their primary bank does not understand their needs. Thirty one percent feel their bank is not helping them reach their primary financial goals.
Banks are increasingly aware of this gap in their service and are actively seeking a solution. This requirement, coupled with a rising need to increase efficiencies of the branches and do more with less, clearly paves the way for banks to utilise their surveillance systems for analytic data.
“Technologies such as business intelligence analytics can help a bank's branch locations improve their operational metrics, such as queue line monitoring,” said Bremner.
“This allows the bank to create staffing models which are in tune with the flow of customers throughout the day, preventing the bank from being overwhelmed. Technology such as this is helping banks improve their customer's waiting times, while also optimising their staffing schedules.”
Improvised Marketing Strategies to Win Clients
Considering the trend of banks preferring experienced, national-level companies, it's natural that banking sector appears like an uphill task for most SIs. But analysts suggest companies to rethink their marketing strategies to improve their presence in the market.
At present sales strategies are centered on the promotion of equipment and software packages as separate solutions, with integration referring to how the separate components are installed together. Some focus is also given to interoperability and lower downtime with the capacity to remotely repair most faults. While these may work in a number of sectors, it wouldn't make a mark in the banking sector unless the product being sold is unique.
“However where there is a leading strategy, it is working with potential clients to design systems,” Anderson said.
“This does require a great deal of time and effort by the systems integrator, as it might not only be the security department that has to be engaged, but the IT department and perhaps other equipment suppliers. The overriding advantage in doing this is obvious but for the systems integrator who has put the work in, the outcome might not necessarily be the right answer for them.”
A key point that Anderson makes here is that even though systems integration on its own will help reduce costs even after the initial investment, its impact is not significant when compared to a security department's or the organization's budget. Hence the focus should be on generating opportunities that reflect the ongoing business need of matching their strategy, understanding what their driving factors are and creating solutions that not only focus on integrated systems but how that could be used with other security functions to create a winning position.
Elaborating on the reasons for Tyco's success in this business sector, Jones indicated that the crucial point was enterprise solutions that would integrate several platforms deployed for security surveillance in accordance with the client's requirements. The company's PSIM solution has been instrumental in this aspect.
“Tyco's PSIM solution can provide an open platform for integration to get a centralized view of security activity,” Jones said. “Its ability to turn disparate information sources into real-time actionable intelligence, analyze the situation to obtain timely and accurate insights, and automated workflow results in quicker and more effective incident response and resolution which enforce incident response processes, mitigate risk and reduce operational costs.”
Some systems integrators are also trying a more traditional approach of adding values to their services to increase their clients. George Zarifopoulos from the Marketing & Communication Department of Athens-based SI, Takis G. Zarifopoulos, said his company offers a free maintenance contract for a specific period of time.
“Giving two years period free maintenance, directly adds more fidelity and reliability in our projects,” Zarifopoulos explained.
Security Systems Tailored for the Financial Climate
According to a report from Ernest and Young, the major trend in the banking sector for 2015 will be to increase profitability but not look for large revenues. To this end, banks will need to reinvent themselves, with leaner, more flexible business models that can survive a slow global economic growth.
A modern video surveillance system that goes beyond offering security and aids in enhancing the bank's business would be an ideal solution to bank's requirements to survive the weak economic climate. At the same time a tailored and customized marketing strategy that projects the advantages beyond security would be what SIs should focus on to make their mark in the banking sector.