Even though the ISITC Annual Forum & Vendor Show, held this week in Boston, is mostly focused on discussing data standards for the securities industry, emerging technologies and what it takes to be a technology leader dominated discussion during many of the sessions on Monday.
Cloud and mobile trends were debated in many of the sessions and picking up the leadership theme of the conference, Christopher Remondi, partner and chief information officer at Brown Brothers Harriman, spoke about how the traits of an IT leader has changed. "Years ago, a typical technology leader came up through the ranks and knew a lot about the technology and held a variety of roles," Remondi said. "Today's IT leader is completely different. The technology change is so wide and so rapid, that collaboration is so important" with business leaders and other people in the company. "Our future leaders not only have to know about the [data] standards, but they have to also know where the company is headed. To be able to talk in depth about the business is very important."
IT leaders should be required to think about technology and how it will impact the business. "Being the CTO is like being the head nerd in charge," said Daniel E. Retzer, chief technology officer and managing director at SunGard’s XSP. Financial institutions should "give the CTO some P&L responsibility. The technology might be great, but if the CTO has a P&L, then the CTO has to think about how the tech will play into the business."
However, sometimes IT failure is important. "You have to be allowed to fail," Remondi said. "Sometimes 'technology for technology's sake' is actually a good thing. Sometimes you have to try four or five different technologies to find the one that works the best."
John Davies, chief technology officer at Incept5, a financial services software consulting firm, agreed and added that financial firms need to utilize newer technologies in order to bring the best leaders into the financial industry. "Banks need a certain edge with technology to attract the best people. Techies will go to places where there is great technology."
For instance mobile is one technology that attracts newer technologists and is one that is already changing the financial services workplace. "BYOD is very exciting," says Remondi. "People are already just bringing iPads to meetings. I think we will get to a model where team members are just using mobile devices. We are not far away from having people bring their own device."
However, the financial services industry still has compliance and security concerns when it comes to mobile. "All of us struggle with the regulatory demands, but I don't think the regulators are keeping up with the mobile trend," Remondi adds. "Everyone is walking in with their own devices, and that is a large concern."
[To read more about Wall Street's adoption of mobile, read: Wall Street Moving Toward a Mobile First Approach.]
Another technology that is attractive to IT workers, and also one that is becoming more attractive to financial firms, is cloud. The cloud provides a firm a good lab environment to test technology, says SunGard's Retzer. "With the cloud, you can do the testing and decide what needs to happen, without making a large investment. There are some advantages."
The cloud also allows larger firms to move off of older, more costly, systems. "From a corporate point of view, with cloud the idea is to get rid of some of the large back-end vendors who are charging for something that you can now get for free in the cloud."
Remondi says BBH's private cloud allows his team to do many of the things that other companies are doing in the public cloud. "Our private cloud allows us to do things like set up sandboxes for testing and other things," he said. The technology is "agile and responsive. You have always had to worry about how you fit cloud" with all of the compliance and security concerns.
Incept5's Davies agreed. "There are complaince concerns, and that is something that is a problem with public cloud for financial services firms," he added. "Many of the banks have 10,000 machines, so they have essentially been doing cloud for 10 or more years."
Although both Davies and SunGard's Retzer noted that security concerns could be overcome, BBH's Remondi stressed the security remains a major concern for almost every bank. "It is a big challenge. Some business people are going to look at a cloud plan as, 'you put our data where?'" Remondi said. "Getting reliability and security statistics are important. Right now, we can do things better, faster and cheaper because we have a private cloud."
However, regulators are playing catch-up when it comes to policy for cloud technology in financial services. "It is scary, but [security] can be done," noted Retzer. "Just like BYOD, the regulations have not fully caught up to cloud. It is up to each organization." But while financial firms sit on the side and wait to see what happens, Retzer added, "Cloud is something that is not going away. It is a real business enabler. Now is the opportunity for the industry to catch up."