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Bank of England’s large IT spend partly due to use of manual processes and legacy systems

The Bank of England admits there is room for improvement when it comes to IT efficiency

The Bank of England’s IT expenditure is being inflated by the use of legacy systems and the high level of manual processes, a government report has revealed.

A report from Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) revealed that the Bank of England spent 33.6% more on IT than other central government departments and that its management acknowledged there was “room for significant efficiency improvements” in areas of its IT.

According to the report, the bank’s responsibility for settling £600bn of transactions between banks every day means its IT requirements are different to government departments or other public sector organisations.

“[The bank] told us that it needed to have higher levels of service availability than central government as the UK depends on the service being available and the system cannot be in a position where it might fail,” said the committee’s report.

In 2016-17, the core system the Bank of England uses to settle payments, known as the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system, was not available 0.01% of the time, compared with 0.37% for systems in central government.

But the UK’s central bank also said manual processing and legacy systems were inflating IT costs. “The bank acknowledged that its larger spend on ICT was also due to high levels of manual processes and legacy IT systems,” said the PAC report.

The integration of the Prudential Regulation Authority also added to costs due to the duplication of many applications and because it required much integration of data systems and datasets, which took a substantial amount of time to deal with.

The Bank of England is in the process of replacing the 23-year-old RTGS system. It is estimated the project will cost at least £150m, with a big bang migration planned in 2025.

Its goals for the project include utilising modern IT, increasing the number of companies that connect directly to the system and making it available 24 hours a day.

Read more about IT at the Bank of England

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  • Bank prepares to replace one of the UK’s core financial systems, with the real-time gross settlement service set to be modernised.
  • A UK government taskforce comprising the Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England has concluded that all three organisations should continue to support the development of distributed ledger technology.

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