Top 10 financial services IT stories for 2011

IT in the finance sector can never stand still. We look back at the highlights of technology in financial services in 2011.

IT in the finance sector can never stand still. IT is on an eternal journey to become faster, more secure and more cost effective.

Add to this that companies in the sector have faced some of the toughest economic conditions ever and you have an interesting year for IT.

Here are ten articles which paint a picture of some the challenges facing IT’s biggest spending and, arguable, fastest moving sector.

1 - London Stock Exchange completes 15-month system replacement

Imagine if your doctor told you could not go much longer without a new heart, but also told you it would take 15 months to replace the one you have and you could not have a single day off while it is being done.

That's what happened at the London Stock Exchange late in 2009, when it realised that its in-house core trading platform developed in .Net, known as Tradelect, was no longer up to the job.

2 - Nationwide IT transformation is taking shape

Nationwide will have completely renewed its front office systems in 2013 as part of its five-year £1bn IT transformation project that began in 2008.

Back in 2008, Nationwide embarked on a project to transform its technology after years of under-investment, typical in the financial services sector. The project sees Nationwide upgrade its datacentre, outsource IT for the first time, implement Microsoft technology in the front office and SAP at the back.

3 - How RBS built a business case for virtual desktops to cut costs

With an annual technology spend of £1.5bn, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) wanted to move 55,000 of its users to a virtual desktop platform to change the way its employees work and cut costs. Mark Diamond, CIO at RBS, shares his lessons learnt in building a business case for virtual desktops and "tying down" suppliers

RBS and Fujitsu signed a deal worth £240m in October 2010 to move 55,000 RBS users onto a new desktop transformation platform.

4 - London Stock Exchange tight-lipped over November crash

The London Stock Exchange has completed its investigation into the cause of the downtime at its Turquoise trading platform, which crashed for two hours in November, but has been scant with the details.

The exchange has also announced the revised timeline for migrating its main market to its MillenniumIT trading system. It will now migrate on 14 February (see below).

5 - RBS pay leak reveals the contractors paid £2,000 a day

A blunder by recruitment company Hays has revealed contractors at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) earn £2,000 per day.

An unauthorised e-mail sent to 800 RBS employees revealed how much contractors were paid.

6 - UBS £1.3bn loss points to failure to monitor unauthorised dealing

Another case of the unauthorised activity of a trader at an investment bank has highlighted the need for real-time monitoring and control in the investment banking sector.

A rogue trader who cost UBS bank an estimated £1.3bn has been arrested by City of London police.

7 - Bank app store part of community cloud developments

Community-based cloud services for banks, including an app store for financial services organisations, are being incubated on the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) network.

The 40-year-old shared messaging service, used by world banks to complete financial transactions, could offer the secure and reliable cloud platform that financial organisations are looking for.

8 - Co-operative Group cuts costs with desktop virtualisation

As the Co-operative Group (Co-op) prepares to move into its new head office in September 2012, the firm's IT team is on track to virtualise up to 3,500 desktops and merge some departments to drive cost savings.

Around 3,000 Co-op users are currently running Citrix's XenDesktop across the company's personnel and banking operations in the head office. The company has been using Citrix's XenDesktop for nine years, but the next phase of virtualisation will make all of Co-op's applications independent of the operating system (OS) it is running on.

9 - Financial services regulations holding banks back from public cloud

Regulations are holding back adoption of public cloud services in financial institutions, according to Chris Swan, CTO of security at UBS.

Financial services companies will be able to make greater use of public cloud platforms in the future, according to Swan. But while IT has more or less resolved the security issues of the public cloud, a hybrid approach may be the only way around financial services regulations.

10 - Has the stock trade's race to speed reached the chequered flag?

The speed at which a share trading exchange can complete a trade has been the biggest differentiator in recent years, as exchanges attempt to cater for traders using computers to trade automatically at high frequencies. But speed is becoming a commodity and exchanges will have to look at other ways to stand out from the crowd.

Stock Exchanges have reduced the time it takes to complete a trade from milliseconds to microseconds in the last few years. The London Stock Exchange is a case in point.

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