A cloud-native platform allows banks to adapt quickly to evolving social and market dynamics. Generic components allow for maximum flexibility and speed at low cost. Banks can use these building blocks to focus exclusively on their distinctive market position. Eelco Bode, Kim van Wilgen and Ronald Doorn talk about how Schuberg Philis lets banks take the leap from their familiar legacy towards the benefits of modern technology.
The large, traditional banks are facing major challenges. The European PSD2 directive, for example, makes it easier for specialized fintech parties to claim a place in the financial system – often driven by data and technology. The playing field is also changing due to the emergence of open banking based on APIs. “The major banks in particular are having trouble adapting to this new reality,” says Eelco Bode, Technology Officer Banking, whose focus is on customers in the financial sector. “They are stuck in their existing processes, operational models and antiquated technology.”
The big banks will have to reinvent themselves, says Kim van Wilgen, Customer Director. “In addition to basic money services, they could play a larger part in people’s financial management. For example, I don’t want my bank to send me a push message for every individual transaction, but I would like to be notified of anomalies or get sound advice.”
Eelco expects new players to offer many financial services at a more competitive price. “In time, they may even pay you for access to your data. It’s services like this that the banks need to find an answer to.”
According to Mission Critical Engineer Ronald Doorn, banks will have to work at making their IT architecture faster, cheaper and more flexible. “So that they can develop more quickly and easily, and implement new possibilities.”
Jenga versus LEGO
Eelco Bode says that the major banks’ current platforms can be compared to a tower of Jenga blocks. “Everything fits together nicely, but when you add or take away individual parts, the whole system becomes unbalanced. That is what we are seeing now.” A cloud-native platform, based on generic components, is more like a big LEGO baseplate. “As everyone is using the same connectors, combining the LEGO bricks lets you make the most wonderful constructions. You can remove or replace components depending on new technological developments and the opportunities or needs of the market.”
“Before PSD2 and open banking, the major banks’ products and their customer relations formed a unified whole,” says Kim van Wilgen. “The new directive will turn the banks either into a LEGO baseplate or a LEGO brick. If you help your customers organize their financial lives, then you’re the integrator. You can also develop a unique credit product and leave the customer relationship to the integrator. The LEGO architecture is the key to both of these: every component has to be able to integrate with all the other ones.”
Ronald Doorn sees that the major banks are not focused enough on the new opportunities. “Under PSD2, they’re only making the adjustments mandated by law: granting third parties access to transaction data if the customer has given permission. But once they’ve incorporated the PSD2 functionality in the app, a customer can use it to connect to all of his or her accounts at other banks. And then the bank has become the LEGO baseplate or the integrator.”
Whenever you make choices, the business is always leading, so the focus is mainly on specific value chains.
How does this work in practice? Ronald gives a real-world example. “In essence, a bank is a collection of ledger accounts. As a service, the ledger is always on – even for savings banks where the number of transactions is relatively small. By putting this in the public cloud, the low data rate can save you a lot of expenses.” It would be smart for banks to make better use of such possibilities. “For all of their processes, they are stuck to systems that are much too large and much too expensive.”
He says that rebuilding an existing bank can be done in stages: converting the current monolithic system step by step into smaller, flexible, generic components. “Whenever you make choices, the business is always leading, so the focus is mainly on specific value chains: mortgages, savings, payments etc. And sometimes it’s better to simply start from scratch.”
A lot of things are generic in the world of banking. Kim van Wilgen: “All the banks keep building the same interfaces. But it’s much better for us to offer them as standard components. That allows banks to focus on being distinctive with their product, process and customer services.”
As a technology partner, Schuberg Philis is moving more and more into functional terrain. “By making the right choices in terms of business processes and IT, you arrive at the sweet spot,” says Eelco Bode. “Then everything reinforces each other. Because of our background in IT, we always include non-functional requirements, security and compliance in the solution. That makes our proposition unique. And people trust our name, we have a solid reputation in the market.”
Kim van Wilgen adds: “Banking as a product is essentially about trust – you cannot fail in terms of security, integrity and availability. We have the right technological expertise to set up everything for our customers perfectly. And we are a valued sparring partner in terms of functionality. It’s that combination that makes us unique.”
“Our forte has always been in integrating different areas,” Eelco Bode emphasizes. “And what is it that matters most for that LEGO baseplate? The integration! If the plate has the right interfaces, you can add any bricks you want, regardless of the cloud. We are the leading integration partner, and we also offer sound business know-how in the field of banking.”
The baseplate and the bricks go hand in hand: this is where everything comes together. From a technological standpoint, what Schuberg Philis does is enable decoupling and keep everything flexible. “That allows you to simply exchange LEGO bricks, instead of having a large, rigid monolith that won’t budge,” says Ronald Doorn.
The advice for banks is to look critically at what they really want to be, in terms of business. Kim van Wilgen: “We can help them make those functional and technological choices. We understand both the IT and the business processes. And our customer teams know the customer’s operational context, which is a big help. It’s not just about ‘building the product right’, but also about ‘building the right product.’”
Mission critical engineer
Mission critical engineer
Kim van Wilgen