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Payments: Securing future innovation

The only things that are certain in life are death and taxes, or so Benjamin Franklin’s infamous quote goes. In today's financial services market we can safely add another certainty - change. It seems to be an almost daily occurrence at the moment, whether its changes to rates, products, regulation, people, lenders, processes, policies or consumer habits.

The payments world, which has seen more change than others, continues to move forward at a meteoric rate. Just trying to keep up with the new terminology and emerging players in the market is enough to make your head spin - Zapp, PingIt and now Apple Pay are just a few examples. Even an area as fundamental as established trading currencies is no longer insulated from change, with the emergence of the Bitcoin digital currency.

Given this revolution and desire of the increasingly knowledgeable consumer to manage their payments needs according to the latest trend, lenders and financial institutions cannot really allow these developments to be ignored. Contactless payments are yet another example of consumers’ ultimate desire for maximum proficiency through minimal effort. The market has been forced to respond and those that do not react are unlikely to prosper. Amazon, for instance, recently launched its own independent mobile payments app and accompanying card-reader as part of its response. Already many of today’s consumers, view the idea of writing a cheque or entering a branch to make a payment to be almost medieval in comparison to sending a payment using an app on their phone.

Having made a decision that you want to provide a particular solution or enable a specific type of technology, which one, why, and how you implement it are real conundrums to be considered, as well as how to keep pace with changes in requirements and ensure continued compliance.

Once you’ve chosen your preferred way forward, you then have to ensure that your existing IT infrastructure is able to support it. Even now it has almost become a standard expectation that any application that is launched into the market will be available 24/7, 365 days a year. And above all, as systems are exposed to more and more external channels, you need to ensure that the system is kept secure from hackers and cyber criminals looking for vulnerable systems to exploit. It will come of little surprise to learn that not everybody has such a dynamic, secure IT architecture in place.

One way to keep up with consumer demands, adopted by some leading providers, has been to utilise a plug & play-inspired approach to IT infrastructures. Adopted correctly, this ensures they do not have to adapt their existing practices, and can respond far quicker to rapidly evolving customer expectations.

But this and other approaches need to take account of the rapidly evolving expectation around security, and rightly so. It feels like every week we hear news about how company X, or government Y has been targeted in an attack by cyber gangs. These groups are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their efforts to access both personal and customer data and equally sophisticated defences are needed to prevent attack. New generation systems, such as Unisys’ ‘Stealth’ technology has been developed in order to counteract this threat, providing ample reassurance against data theft and fully compliant with impending EU Data protection laws. Put simply, Stealth allows organisations to “cloak” their data making it invisible to cyber criminals – after all, if you can’t see it, you can’t hack it.

Not much is certain in financial services, but one thing that is inevitable right now is change. That being said, having the right security in place to support new digital ventures will be key to maintaining the availability consumers now demand from their banking services.  



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