Financial service institutions, especially banks, are bound by regulations and responsibilities and mired in legacy infrastructure, both of which make it difficult for them to adopt new technology.

Over the past couple of years, with fintech companies and neobanks competing for a share of the market, these institutions have been forced to embrace digital solutions to keep customers happy – but these investments have never really been part of an enterprise-wide strategy. As a result, with every passing day, the IT fabric of most banks become more vulnerable to security threats, more difficult to scale, and more challenging to optimize.

It is clear that this IT fabric, combined with the need to service a number of different user groups via applications in a number of environments and ecosystems, needs to be cloud-first, cloud-native, and cloud-secure. That’s the model future state, and although the vision is clear, the journey isn’t simple or straightforward; in most cases, it involves a complete overhaul of IT architecture which demands a certain degree of focus and willingness to disrupt business-as-usual in favor of better, more streamlined systems and processes.

A leading Asian bank realized this and wanted to pave its way to the model future state. They decided to work with us because we understood it’s infrastructure and brought the expertise, technologies, and solutions to enable them in their journey by leveraging our own portfolio of solutions as well as enabling them to weave solutions by other vendors into their IT fabric.

More specifically, the organization’s leaders agreed that their future state involved establishing a hybrid multicloud environment made up of the bank’s own data centers as well as private and public clouds configured to meet regulatory requirements while supporting the organization’s application needs. Building this not only enabled the bank to provide more efficient applications but also enabled them to gain better observability and visibility across the length and breadth of their IT environment, ensure superior security, and leverage automation capabilities to optimize cost as well as performance.

While all this sounds great, any banker worth his salt knows that in the modern era, IT needs to play three key roles – it needs to support its massive branch banking network, enable customers to transact from any device and on any network, and allow staff to do their job effectively no matter where they choose to work from. By building a hybrid multicloud IT fabric, the Asian bank was able to do all this and more.

Visibility and observability: The key to turbocharging a banker’s cloud returns

Investing in the cloud is easy, at least as far as appearances go – but is it going to help optimize experiences by delivering applications to customers via the cloud? Probably not. The difference between haphazard cloud deployments based on application-specific needs and a synchronized, enterprise-wide move to the cloud is that the latter provides a layer of visibility and observability that is almost ‘intelligent’.

The cloud isn’t cheap – whether you’re in a private cloud environment, are leveraging the public cloud, or have some sort of a hybrid arrangement in place, optimizing cloud resources is critical to investments in the technology being financially feasible.

Imagine having a layer of visibility and observability across your cloud operations that lets you map resources to demands, allows you to analyze real-time data to optimize performance, and most importantly, enables you to prevent downtime by identifying problems before they interrupt the experience your application aims to deliver.

Security: From the digital banker’s curse to blessing

Technology adoption for clients in most industries outside the financial services sector is less complicated simply because they’re subjected to fewer regulations.

Our client, with operations spanning several verticals in the financial services industry, had a significant number of regulations to comply with. Further, being a custodian of personally identifiable information and financial transactions, they – like all peers in their industry – are susceptible to a higher number of threats in cyberspace.

As a result, moving to the cloud and leveraging the full benefits of a hybrid multicloud environment meant placing a great deal of emphasis on security. That’s Cisco’s forte – we build and design everything with a security-first mindset. Truth be told, the bank we supported on their journey to the model future state was not just happy with the layer of security we provided them with but also found confidence in the way we were able to help them monitor their traffic on the cloud.

Automation: The banker’s catalyst for digital success

In a technology-first world, automation brings many advantages. Some of these include lower costs, fewer (human) errors, and smoother overall operations. In the digital fabric of one of Asia’s leading banks, automation played a pivotal role.

The client organization’s leadership was focused on ensuring that automation was something that could be delivered across its IT environment on the cloud because it would guarantee a certain degree of sophistication and make its model future state easier to maintain. Automation often works on the basis of policies that are deployed in the organization; in a banking ecosystem, those policies are definitely more complicated, but careful planning with some check and balances built into the system makes it a safe bet.

According to my team and our client’s IT leaders, as a result of the automation capabilities we were able to deliver, the new IT infrastructure is on track to unlock significant benefits from its hybrid multicloud investment.

A model future state of IT for other bankers

What we helped our client in Asia achieve is exciting on a number of levels. Visibility and observability, security, and automation aside, the bank’s new IT fabric delivers exciting results. From lower time to provision and lower time to respond, to more transparency with regards to monitoring for audits and reporting, to gaining the ability to switch between vendors providing cloud solutions and services and scale based on most optimal blueprints – the model future state of IT offers it all.

To support the branch banking network, and to provide flexibility to customers, the bank decided to make more expansive changes to its IT and leveraged WAN technology as well as SASE to optimize connectivity and maximize security. These investments coupled with their cloud vision really helped catapult them in a league of leaders who can compete more aggressively in today’s market – making the most of their stature as a reputed bank while behaving like an agile startup who can innovate at lightning speed and provide new digital experiences in record time.

Of course, the journey isn’t over. After all, in a hybrid multicloud environment, the scope for optimizations is endless, and today’s leaders can easily become tomorrow’s dinosaurs if they don’t keep their IT ecosystem in good shape.