Hybrid Cloud Makes Building Financial Marketplaces Easier
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Digitalization has shifted the way people want to manage their finances, and it has also bred a new generation of financial service startups. Consumers want access to all of the innovative features the new fintechs and neobanks can offer, and this is disrupting traditional banking models in a major way.
However, many legacy banks are figuring out how to turn this threat into an opportunity. They're partnering with these third-party providers to offer a full-service financial marketplace, and better serve customers as their primary financial services organization. Sounds like an easy solution. But from a technical perspective, there's a lot happening under the covers.
In order to provide customers with a financial marketplace, you'll need to first build a financial marketplace. This includes integrating the right blend of cloud, container, security and analytics technologies, while taking into account institutional knowledge, regulatory compliance, resilience, agility, time to market and best of breed capabilities.
Here is the end goal:
Large institutions have invested heavily in technology infrastructure and regulatory compliance and have amassed large customer bases. Meanwhile, neobank and fintech firms have been developing greenfield capabilities with rich features and scalability afforded by public clouds.
EU legislation (PSD2) has forged the path to open banking standards, opening APIs between financial institutions and increasing choices for consumers. This is how financial marketplaces were born.
Open banking has also lent itself to aggregator marketplaces that provide customers with a consolidated user experience across multiple traditional accounts. Similar, non-mandated, service models are also emerging in the form of integrated marketplaces, a perfect example being, Banking as a Service (BaaS) and platform banking.
BaaS providers unbundle their core services for integration by customer-facing third parties. With platform banking, we see established banks leveraging third-party services from fintech providers to augment their core banking solutions. These new models allow for customer-facing services like personal finance dashboards and click-to-pay features, as well as provider-facing services like customer analytics that enable dynamic, targeted marketing capabilities.
Let's take a look at the BaaS topology, which is similar in nature to other integrated marketplaces:
The integrated marketplaces share several characteristics:
- They are built and supported by consortiums, comprised of multiple business units and multiple institutions.
- They reside in a hybrid cloud footprint, comprised of private data centers, carrier-neutral facilities and multiple public clouds (e.g., a multicloud operating model).
- Their services are defined by and transacted via published APIs.
- Their creation often brings the need to modernize core platforms.
These new marketplaces are constructed and managed by multiple organizations, including multiple business units in a large institution and/or multiple discrete companies or institutions. For example, the customer-facing user interface might be created by one entity, while back-end services may be built and operated by external third parties hosted in various private and public cloud estates.
This naturally raises concerns about alignment of goals, end-to-end resilience, regulatory responsibilities, chargebacks, SLAs, etc. Therefore, delivering this requires a delicate balance of rigor and discipline with speed and agility.
While established institutions will continue to host core banking apps in privately operated data centers, they will also leverage public cloud solutions for benefits such as elasticity, scalability, global reach and near-on-demand availability of modern services. Meanwhile, young institutions may start with public clouds and never purchase or operate any physical infrastructure.
To achieve a streamlined digital transformation and effectively build a financial marketplace, adjoining these environments is essential. But it takes work. For this, major financial institutions are relying on WWT's expertise in operation and governance of different cloud environments, and ability to prototype, develop, deploy and operate highly distributed yet loosely integrated applications across technical, departmental and institutional boundaries.
Application programming interfaces, or APIs, are pervasive in digital marketplaces, serving as the integration points for these applications. Open APIs define and present the service interfaces for open banking and Banking as a Service consortiums. APIs are the metered point for commerce across the consortium, and the key facilitator for transformation and modernization.
APIs have also become a necessary driver of growth for financial services organizations, and subsequently, the growth of the organization is driving the expansion of its API estate. As the API estate is expanding, so is the surface of application exposure and all the security threats that come with it. This is why APIs are now a major cybersecurity concern.
While most organizations have solutions in place to manage APIs it is likely that more established, legacy institutions will need to level up their API strategies to accommodate the governance, publishing, interconnection, resilience and security of these new commercial assets.
WWT partners with key, industry-leading providers of API solutions to help global financial organizations evaluate and test available products from a vendor neutral perspective. WWT also supports the entire deployment lifecycle, using the right tools and best processes, to ensure performance and security for an optimal API environment.
Core applications will invariably require some updating to adapt to the financial marketplace construct. Forklifting in completely new solutions can be costly and disruptive.
An effective approach is to break these monolithic applications into modular services. For example, we can create omnichannel and API facades while the core functions remain intact; this allows quick returns while the "golden goose" is gradually modernized piece by piece.
Modernization of these legacy applications requires the introduction of microservice and container technologies and the adoption of Agile and DevOps practices, while at the same time retaining and preserving the necessary institutional and specialized financial knowledge.
The diagram depicts a pattern typically seen in open banking and BaaS use cases:
Many variations of digital marketplaces will emerge over time and these will share certain common architectural patterns like those depicted earlier. Adoption of these will require new technologies and practices and will need to be scalable and resilient, and must be operationalized across multiple business sectors.
Here are the challenges to consider when building a financial marketplace:
Time to market
Marketplace solutions are revenue producing and have a direct impact on customer satisfaction, both old and new. Any delays caused by technology uptake amounts to lost revenue and increases operational overhead.
Building a marketplace solution consists of modern design patterns and new cloud services and technologies. Finding or training resources with akin capabilities is burdensome, and the hiring curve is long, which begs for strategic resourcing alternatives.
Adapting core legacy applications to support modern financial marketplace integration relies heavily on in-house institutional knowledge, but also requires proper informed experience in the graceful integration of large applications into modern microservice/API/omnichannel frameworks.
It takes a while for newly introduced IT solutions to be widely distributed in production. Innovation requires ready access to these technical building blocks for prototyping and evaluation. However, ready access to this technology is often hindered and complicated by conflicting department priorities and governance limitations.
While many organizations have established foundations in multiple public clouds, these implementations have often evolved as service provider-centric islands. Financial marketplace deployments demand true multicloud integration, which requires competency in the specific cloud platforms, but also the ability to make these clouds interwork efficiently by leveraging a variety of provider-native and ISV solutions.
Unlike legacy monolithic solutions, data will be distributed across and beyond clouds and organizational boundaries. The necessary AI/ML and automation solutions require real time access to high-volume, event-driven data from streaming data pipelines. Transactions must be appropriately logged and customer data must be governed according to regional regulations. Scalability and modernization also drive the need for cloud-tailored databases for both analytics and OLTP usage, as well as data virtualization solutions, to access and monitor the environment.
Observability and monitoring
Building an ideal financial marketplace will require site reliability engineering (SRE) to automate IT operations tasks (production system management, change management, incident response, even emergency response, etc.) rather than manually by systems administrators. The difficulty lies in observability and monitoring of the granular logs, metrics across highly distributed, multicloud environments.
A key to success in the marketplace economy is the ability to connect and be connected to. The speed of connectivity between systems and people can make or break an organization. Traditional, private datacenter-based B2B2C gateways are being replaced by off-premises, carrier-neutral cloud solutions for the flexible and fast interconnection financial organizations require. It's just a matter of finding the right solution to achieve your desired level of cloud maturity.
Due to their highly distributed, physical, logical and B2B2C organizational make-up, financial exchanges present a broader attack surface. Building financial marketplace topologies require a certain approach to cybersecurity. For example, open APIs are integral to these solutions and microservice architecture is inherently API driven, but as mentioned earlier, API exploits are becoming more and more frequent and sophisticated.
WWT understands the importance of a building a financial marketplace, and can bring our expertise to assist in driving technology transformation and, ultimately, your business. Our consultants provide a formal yet flexible method of evaluating enterprise IT maturity based on foundational building blocks across a variety of technology frameworks.
Utilizing a holistic approach when evaluating an organization's cloud and application environment, WWT is able to provide a level of detailed analysis that will be used as a roadmap to maximize the use of people, processes and technology to optimize the hybrid cloud and application environment, reduce risk, increase efficiency and save money.
And as always, if you need a vendor-neutral perspective, we're here to help you find the answers you seek. Let us know how we can help.