Innovation to determine winners and losers in finance's data race

Azhar Muhammad-Saul

data management

There will be little respite for CIOs and CTOs in the New Year in the competitive race to better manage the complexity of their organisations' data supply chain.

That struggle is nowhere more poignant or urgent than in the financial services industry. 2013 demonstrated the financial sector was dangerously lagging in innovating to address data management challenges.

Last year, the global technology economy exceeded US$4.8 trillion and accounted for 6 per cent of the world's GDP. Data volumes grew by 40 per cent while IT spending grew by only 5 per cent.

In 2014, financial services companies are expected to spend more than US$430 billion on technology. Bloomberg's customers (representing a wide swathe of the financial services space) say they will assign, on average, almost 7 per cent of their revenues and 8.5 per cent of their operating expenditure to IT.

Managing complex data and its inherent risks is driving innovation that must be both rapid and decisive to keep apace with changes in the financial services sector. But there is clearly a disparity between the scale and urgency of the data management challenges and the industry's response.

Events that began in 2008 -- the mortgage meltdown, subsequent credit freeze and economic recession -- mean today's financial markets ecosystem is being redesigned.

Lower and erratic trading volumes, shrinking spreads and commissions and evolving regulatory oversight -- which at once is seeking consistency but is becoming more fragmented across markets -- are transformative. Only the most nimble, innovative and efficient will prosper.

Financial services companies are now expected to provide greater transparency, more extensive compliance measures, tighter management of risk and faster responses to new regulations -- simultaneously and across multiple regions and regulatory regimes.

What's more, to stay competitive, CTOs and CIOs are being told to do more with less. To cut costs and minimise total cost of ownership. To improve ROI and maximise existing technology spend while improving business performance -- all using fewer resources.

The challenge, particularly in Asia, boils down to this. Companies must address difficulties in acquiring quality data from inconsistent data sources across front, middle and back offices. They must rationalise multiple redundant sources of information stemming from disparate legacy systems using varying data shapes and models.

They need to eradicate gaps in data workflow with technologies that move the right data to the right applications. To do so they must invest in technologies that have the flexibility and adaptive relevance to manage transparency across multi-market evolving regulatory frameworks.

Companies in Asia that best understand and address these challenges can turn them into new opportunities to build a competitive edge. In fact, while failing to address the challenge would have dire consequences, conversely many Asian firms and international companies with operations in Asia also have a unique opportunity.

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