"In 2021, it’s likely that financial services firms will begin addressing their legacy infrastructure a lot more."
We spoke to Fiona Hobbs, chief technology officer, at IT consultancy Opencast Software, about driving change in the intermediary market, the key lessons the financial services sector has learnt from Covid-19, and what will be the big technology focus for financial services firms in 2021.
FR: As a CTO, how do you help drive change in the financial intermediary market?
A CTO is a highly strategic role, which allows me to have a bird’s eye view across the sectors I work in and understand where there may be gaps in current capabilities. Another part of my role is to always be aware of emerging tech and understand how this can fit into a client’s business and provide them with the benefits they are missing.
With this understanding, my job is to initiate conversations with our financial services clients, recommending to them what tech they should pilot and experiment in and show them how it could support and change their business for the better. It’s also key to work with employees that are ‘on the ground’ in those financial organisations, to support them in facilitating conversations with their management of different technologies and what that they want and need.
FR: What are the key lessons that the financial services sector has learnt from Covid-19?
Covid-19 and the subsequent need for remote working has taught a big lesson around the importance of collaboration and communication in the financial services sector. Before the pandemic, more often than not teams would work in silos and if some teams were remote or working in a different time zone, it would be deemed harder to communicate with them. Now everyone is remote, the playing field has been levelled and teams have been forced to communicate better with each other, which has helped collaboration. Hopefully now this has changed, it will continue in this way as we go back to more ‘normal ways of working’.
FR: What will be the big technology focus for financial services firms in 2021?
In 2021, it’s likely that financial services firms will begin addressing their legacy infrastructure a lot more. Given the new capabilities that technology has today, it’s quite possible that firms might actually take the opportunity to redesign their services and processes from the ground up, rather than maintaining their legacy platform and simply building new features into it, or ‘lifting and shifting’ to the cloud.
However, this isn’t a quick fix - clearly you can’t take a platform that has been built over 20 years and suddenly replace it. The way firms might approach it therefore, is to identify smaller sections of the legacy platform based on their function, and then try to replace these with better, reusable and portable services. This way they can tackle replacing legacy system in smaller chunks, doing so will ultimately put financial services in a much better place, increasing their functionality and helping them to adapt to their users’ needs.
FR: As a woman in the financial services sector, what would be your piece of career advice for young aspiring women in the sector?
Stick with your passions - there are opportunities and there is huge progression for technical roles in financial services! If you enjoy writing code and being technical, then don’t allow yourself to be pushed into a business focused or project management role.
Additionally, the increase in flexible working this year, has meant it is easier to have a career and a family and not compromise on either. Financial services is actually a great sector for being able to work remotely or work part time, so there are certainly benefits to be had there.
FR: If you could see one headline about financial services this year, what would it be?
“Such and such financial institution has gone fully into the cloud”.