Breaking Down Legacy Systems In The Financial Services Industry

Simon Barton

At the Enterprise Mobility Exchange, I spoke to Billy Ferguson, Head of Enterprise Architecture, Aldermore Bank. In the interview we went over his presentation and discussed how legacy systems are impacting the challenger bank.

Firstly, can you tell me a little about your role and the scope of your responsibilities at Aldermore bank?

I look after enterprise architecture, solution architecture, and within that, the business technology strategy.

From the perspective of a modern bank, what is your take on the challenge of legacy systems?

The bank itself is quite young, we’re just coming up to being seven years old, so there’s a benfit for us in that we might not have the same legacy tail that some of the more established banks have, but we still have seven years of legacy ourselves. The legacy challenge is a continued area of focus. We don’t view it as a ‘one and done’, it’s something we have as a continued direction. So it’s just as big a challenge for us as it is for Barclays and any of the ‘big four’. Even as a challenger bank it’s of real importance.

How far do you think legacy systems will affect the ability of bank to prepare for the future?

When you look at the systems which support customers, you tend to have the stuff that sits on the front door and presents out to customer needs. You’ve got your middle tier where you do all your account handling and the backend which is doing all the analytics and data handling. Depending on how you separate those out, a connected architecture, which allows you to play out pieces which are doing specific functions, gives you a lot more flexibility for the future. If you’ve got a piece of software which does account management – make sure it’s just doing that, it’s not account management creation, workflow, user experience, data analytics – by keeping the piece of kit to a single purpose, it might be a legacy system, but it might be very good at its job, and you can retain it and it can still allow you to deliver a digital experience.

What is the must-have strategy for FS companies to have in place to deal with the future of technology?

The two areas of real importance for me are integration – so how you connect all the pieces together to make your web of systems – and the other is data; how do you protect your data, how do you use it and how do you know where it is? Those two things for me are probably the most important on a huge list of very important things.

As the expectation of mobile increases with the customer, what’s your biggest priority over the next six months in regard to mobility?

The current key focus is consistency of experience. It’s not very sexy, I know, but delivering a consistent experience on mobile for our customers is a key area of focus for us. Beyond that, consistency among product lines. We have four different types of products and being able to deliver a common experience for customers across those, whatever device they’re on, is important for us over the next six months.

How close do you think you are from getting to where you need to be?

We’re not as close as we’d like to be – I think that’s fair. We’ve emerged and grown incredibly rapidly to the point now where our end-of-year results have just come out and we’ve seen a 75% in profits this year. But the drawback is that we’ve grown with a single purpose to grow a particular product line, which means we haven’t got that consisitency across the product lines that we would like. Its not just branding, I’m talking about general product consistency, we want to get a real consistency of experience.

Which products do you think will be most in demand for FS companies?

One would be the ability for the customer to digitally self-serve, from the beginning to the end. And the piece that’s a sticking point in financial services is the need to manually sign or complete a transaction. So the technologies that would allow automation of a decision and e-signature completion of a transaction within an app would be important.