Unified IT Monitoring for Financial Services: Improving the Customer Experience

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Financial services companies are growing through an intense period of acquisitions and mergers. This has resulted in requiring a parent company to maintain IT infrastructures for several different organizations, each with their own lines of business.

Unfortunately, few of these organizations have a complete understanding of the health of the mission critical IT services that run financial institutions today, because they have no way to look across the disparate systems and monitor performance. And when problems occur, there is not a simple way to understand what business services are impacted.

In addition, brick and mortar financial services firms are finding it increasingly hard to compete against the growing number of online banking institutions, and the growing number of financial applications available online – Venmo, Apple Pay, Stash and others. They need the agility to offer competitive services, which puts an additional strain on their networks, staff and systems. Without proper monitoring and service health visibility, they can lose market share to these non-traditional financial services firms.

Despite this competition, there has been a pattern of reluctance on the part of financial institutions to move to cloud services. Consequently, they are spending more than necessary to support infrastructure and they keep more personnel on-hand than are actually required. As cloud adoption does increase, they will have hybrid environments that are comprised of a combination of cloud-based and on-premises equipment – which makes it harder still to understand whether their systems are performing optimally for their consumer and corporate clients.

A growing number of financial services companies have realized that these problems must be addressed. Often there is a C-suite realization that the institution must fundamentally change how they approach IT systems management, and a Digital Transformation journey begins. Visibility and agility are fundamental, and they are turning to unified IT service health monitoring accessed through the cloud as Software-as-a-Service, to optimize performance for both their on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure.

With this technology, a financial organization can understand not only what’s happening with its infrastructure, but can take proactive measures to prioritize problems, address the ones that may most directly affect operations, and ensure the reliability of the network, service or application not only for itself but for its clients as well.   The benefits of this approach for the financial services industry include: - Reduced costs of operations - Improved reliability - Better use of in-house human resources - Better utilization capacity for new online services

Growth Through Acquisition

In 2017, PWC reported that merger and acquisition transactions increased by 47% in Q3 over the same time last year in the US.

This trend is echoed around the world. Regional cross-border acquisitions have become the prevailing strategy for scaling operations and growing market share.

But mergers and acquisitions don’t translate well to the technologies used by these companies. Most financial services firms take a siloed approach to technology. Companies under the parent’s umbrella keep numerous, often duplicative tools to check network performance and to guarantee uptime. Every time the parent acquires a new company, it takes on more of these redundant technologies. As a result, they often lack a reliable view across their whole IT infrastructure.

It may sound obvious, but only a single unified platform for IT monitoring and application performance can bring the best level of service to a financial service’s clients. That means proactively understanding performance for both on-premises and cloud-based systems and components.

Eliminating 37 Unnecessary IT tools

In the US, Huntington Bank is leading the charge in adopting this approach to optimal network performance. Founded in 1866, Huntington (a $57 billion regional bank holding company) offers full-service commercial, small business, and consumer banking services. It also provides treasury management, brokerage services, and other financial products.

It’s a sprawling operation, with over 700 retail banking locations and 1,500 ATMs in six US states. It’s also an IT challenge. The company had 37 separate IT monitoring tools all with their own subcomponents.

By making the switch to hybrid IT monitoring, Huntington was able to consolidate server, network, operating system, application, database and security monitoring operations.

The switch to a unified view of its operations meant the company could eliminate a dozen different monitoring tools. Maintenance costs were cut dramatically by dropping these legacy systems, and the resulting savings let them add five more employees to their general IT roster. The amount of time it took for them to resolve network performance issues was improved by 85%, and multiple teams now had access to infrastructure data at once – as opposed to the fractured access typical of a siloed environment.

Now, Huntington staffers can understand specifically how any network event can affect upstream performance. They can “triage” problems to correct them based on their severity, instead of chasing down each one assuming they were all equally important. System administrators now focus on improving service assurance by treating the parts of the infrastructure that support any given service.

Better customer experience

While improving network performance by itself is a strong reason for unified monitoring, the real benefit to financial services is that customer experience is improved.

Customer-facing technologies are emerging in the financial market almost every day, from electronic payment alternatives to online investment applications to online credit card processing. These customer tools can be a direct threat to traditional financial services companies, who must continually add similar services to remain competitive. Most brand impressions for financial institutions are coming from the digital experience, putting even more emphasis on the need for healthy, performant and elegant user experiences.

Each one of these services depends on the health of the entire infrastructure, both on premises and in the cloud. As a cloud-delivered Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering, unified IT monitoring technology offers an answer across all infrastructure. New monitoring capabilities, such container, microservice, and serveless, can be brought online at a much lower cost compared to bolting on similar functionality to legacy systems. And hosted offerings mean that IT teams don't have to worry about how to administer the monitoring application, or even what part of their overall infrastructure is carrying the application. 

That kind of improved infrastructure performance translate into a much better experience for a financial services company’s clients. Every corporate client has its own particular peak network demand time – every quarter, every fiscal year and every calendar year. That peak demand can create rather unpredictable strain on a network’s performance overall. But that doesn’t matter to the client; all they know is that they need the network when they need it, and if it’s slow or not available, it’s a business risk.

So proactively minimizing downtime is virtually synonymous with improving the customer experience. In a sentence, you can’t just chase down failures, you have to be set up for success. Your IT operations have to be able to handle the demands of your customers.

The technology available in this new era of unified IT monitoring creates the best possible user experience and provide unparalleled visibility and control for IT leaders. You define the optimal performance parameters of your IT networks, your infrastructure and your business services. You address any reliability issues before they become problems, and in the process you save money, increase IT agility and improve overall service delivery.

The result: you give your clients the confidence they demand from your IT infrastructure – the confidence that you can handle whatever they throw your way. That’s peak customer experience, and a recipe for your own business success.

Brian Wilson is Chief Customer Officer for Zenoss, Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]