Euro Finance Week — why we need deeper IT discussions

by Hans Tesselaar, Executive Director at BIAN

Earlier this month, Frankfurt played host to the 14th annual Euro Finance Week, which attracted more than 7,000 attendees. The four day event provided the ideal meeting place for heads of industry in the financial sector to network and review international issues across banking, insurance and pensions. Inevitably, the European debt crisis dominated the agenda.

But this year’s conference was of particular interest to us at BIAN, as for the first time there was an IT stream within the conference agenda — ‘Banking — IT 2020’. Turnout to the IT sessions was not as high as others, likely due to the audience primarily being made up of Board- and management-level bankers, rather than IT managers.

Yet, those who did not attend were missing out. The content covered was both interesting and informative; a presentation by Commerzbank regarding its IT merger with Dresdner Bank being just one of the highlights. Importantly, the sessions remained high level and considered the strategic role of IT in the banking sector. While this was a valuable discussion, the real IT issues facing banks today — standardisation, core banking renewal, the role of social media or indeed the increasing success of ‘new banking’ institutions, like PayPal and Google — were not on the agenda.

These topics were remarkable by their absence. I was certainly surprised that discussions did not progress any further than how IT helps the business. Surely, the time has come to go further than this, to start exploring the effect IT has on opening up new markets, channels and customer groups? As an industry — all the way to Board-level — we need to broaden technology discussions to involve consideration of the architecture of IT systems.

For example, the use of standards within banking is well established, but whereas the focus is usually on interoperability, cost reduction in integration and standardisation, the conversation has moved on, to look at the value-add functionality which standards can offer to banks. Standards, such as the BIAN standard for, or an industry standard for SOA, are evolving certain parts of IT from being a cost centre, to a profit centre within the bank.

Hopefully next year, when IT discussions are an established part of the Euro Finance Week programme, the issues will look deeper at more evolutionary topics — standards for interoperability, IT cost reduction and value-added services in banking.

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