Huawei supplier ecosystem to help financial industry emulate internet giants

Huawei targets the European finance sector, with a focus on the UK, through an ecosystem of niche IT suppliers

Chinese networking equipment maker Huawei is targeting the financial services sector, which includes a UK focus, alongside technology and IT services partners to enable Google-like performance.

The IT engines underpinning technology giants such as Google and Facebook process massive volumes of transactions in real time and are the envy of banks that often still rely on 40-year-old mainframe systems.

Facebook, for example, has more than a billion users. By comparison, Lloyds Bank has 30 million customers, HSBC has 52 million and Barclays has 48 million.

Huawei, which reported £18bn sales in its latest six-month period – a 30% increase on the same period in 2014 – is targeting large finance firms in Europe with IT infrastructure products and services that can help provide services in ways customers want: online, in real time and always on.

But it can’t do this alone, and Huawei has recognised the need to collaborate with other suppliers.

A collaborative effort

At its Finance Summit in Beijing, the company said it will provide the ICT infrastructure for banking customers through an open supplier ecosystem, while other suppliers will add products and services to help the company perform more like the internet companies their customers know and love.

The ecosystem includes application suppliers, systems integrators and consultancy firms.

The UK, as a global finance centre, is a market Huawei will increase its activity in as part of a wider European strategy.

“In Europe, it is very important for us to be open and collaborative in BFSI [banking, financial services and insurance]. We will go to market with partners to expand our reach,” said David He, president of marketing and solution sales at Huawei.

Wing Kin Leung, chief technology officer at Huawei’s enterprise business group, said: “We know we are a newcomer to the [UK] market and that we have to be flexible in terms of how we engage with finance firms.”

Huawei is joined in the ecosystem by Accenture, Beijing Advanced Digital Technology, Beijing Yucheng Technologies, Beijng Software, DHC Software, Deloitte Business Advisory Services, Digital China System Integration Service, First Data, Infosys Technologies, Micro Focus and Worldline.

Together these suppliers will launch open platform-based systems. These include an online banking cloud, a credit loan cloud, a direct banking cloud, a micro and small-loan service cloud, a core account cloud and a credit card core application cloud.

“The difficulty of expanding IT systems, combined with the slow response speed of traditional closed IT architecture supported by mainframe machines, has significantly restricted the rapid evolution of financial organisations,” said He. 

“In comparison, internet companies have achieved great success by deploying cloud computing and open architecture,” he added.

IT driven by business

Speaking at the event, He said the ecosystem is aligned with Huawei’s Business-Driven ICT Infrastructure (BDII) guiding principle.

“The ecosystem promotes BDII in the financial industry by enabling our partners to focus on their core competencies. For example, consulting firms, applications suppliers and systems integrators will be able to leverage their in-depth understanding and practical experience around industry applications, while Huawei – as a hardware platform provider – will focus on ICT infrastructure,” he said.

If each supplier can focus on their core competencies, banks can gain IT innovation – something often difficult to do in-house. For example, Huawei is in talks with a UK-based global bank about reducing complexity through virtual desktop software at the network router level.

“This is an example of removing the need for a dedicated server for an application,” said Leung.

A fresh approach to banking IT could be just what is needed in the banking industry. Large banks are being forced to change by customers who want to be connected to their bank 24 hours a day – regardless of where they are.

Meanwhile, new market entrants are arriving on the scene with niche offerings, harnessing the latest technologies and pandering to the demands of consumers. These companies, unlike the traditional banks, are agile and are not held back by the high cost of providing end-to-end finance products and maintaining legacy IT systems.

As real-time connectivity and network resilience become critical in the sector, Huawei’s IT infrastructure expertise gives it a potentially central role

UK focus

Huawei has several global customers, including Santander and HSBC, as well as Chinese finance firms such as China UniPay, Ancheng Insurance, The People’s Bank of China and China Everbright Bank.

It plans to emulate this work in Europe, with the UK to be a major part. 

“In the UK, Huawei has placed great importance on two sectors: BFSI and education,” said He. 

The company directly employs more than 1,000 people in the UK and invested £86.6m, including £78.4m on research and development, in the UK economy in 2014.

While bank IT departments have some of the most talented and best paid IT staff, recent job cuts have stretched them, and departments lack some of the skills required around new technologies such as cloud computing and big data.

IT suppliers know this and are making investments in IT that banks might have traditionally done themselves. It is not in the interests of big IT suppliers for the world’s biggest banks to shrink or disappear because they are important customers.

Huawei and Deloitte also launched a whitepaper called Transformation and reconstruction of banks in the digital age, which focused on the importance of technology in transforming customer interaction channels, as well as the use of cloud and big data technologies in banks.

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