IBM has recently upped their game significantly in financial services. One of their most insightful moves was to put an executive with deep banking experience, Howard Boville, SVP of IBM Cloud on the effort. Howard was CTO at Bank of America, which has historically been one of the most aggressive users of technology in the banking industry. Howard is arguably the most qualified person working in a technology company for a Financial Services effort period.
Under his guidance, IBM just launched the IBM Cloud For Financial Services, and it should be a game-changer.
IBM Cloud For Financial Services
Given Howard Boville’s leadership, this program is one of the very few services designed by a Financial Service for a Financial Service. In a way, this is how Amazon Web Services was born in that it started as a spin-out of capabilities Amazon itself needed; thus, it was designed by and for the people it would serve.
Given this is a Financial Service offered under IBM’s Cloud umbrella, much of the focus of the effort is on security and compliance in terms of capability. Because the Finance industry isn’t the tech industry, in terms of operations, the effort has been on making the service highly automated and easy to use.
I do think the COVID-19 event likely helped emphasize this need because, Financial Institutions, like every other industry, have to deal with the issues of short staffing and a workforce that, for safety reasons, is often remote.
You can see the impact of having an ex-Banking CTO at the helm because this effort seems to drill down on the three things that cause Financial Institutions to struggle. Balancing ease of use and security requirements for both users and employees, complying with an ever-growing number of regulations, and helping these institutions better focus their human IT resources on the critical future needs of the business rather than being tied up on just keeping the existing infrastructure working.
On balancing ease of use and security requirements, this is a top tier problem because hostile elements are actively going after both bank employees and customers to gain unauthorized access to financial information and bank accounts. The overworked IT departments in these institutions have to not only protect against outside attacks but attempts to turn customers and employees into unwilling accomplices. While that is far from an easy task, IBM had been dealing with it for decades and is one of the most knowledgeable in this area as a result.
Regulations for the Financial Industry concerning protecting customers and executive behavior have become far more diverse and challenging over time. And these institutions don’t just have to worry about local regulations either; the larger ones have to worry about international regulations as well. Besides, they don’t just have to comply with these regulations but have a way to demonstrate that compliance to pass regulatory audits.
Every company and industry wants to be able to focus on what they do and not feel they have to become a technology company to use that technology. This critical need is the often unmet promise of most solutions that target vertical markets. If every firm has to do it themselves, why use a solution provider like IBM at all? Answering this question is why having Howard Boville running the effort is so essential because this likely drove him nuts in his last job, motivating him to prioritize it in this one.
Wrapping Up: Best Practice
Putting aside this solution, having someone from a given industry help develop a solution for that industry has always been a best practice. Putting this person at the head of the effort is highly unusual. Still, it should be more effective because, when I’ve seen this done with a consultant, the consultant is often overridden for some critical issue. After all, executive management doesn’t see the problem. Given the person with the knowledge of the problem is spearheading this effort, that shouldn’t happen this time.
As a result, the IBM Cloud For Financial Services isn’t just a powerful solution for the Financial Industry; it is a template for how efforts like this should be run.