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By Georges Hobeika, Head Of IT, International Bank Of Qatar
Digital transformation is the current topic of discussion in the banking sector in the Middle East, and people have started realizing that it is more than just replacing traditional technology to the internet and mobile banking solutions. The importance of automating the processes in the backend as well and taking digital transformation as a long term strategy and not just as a project is sinking in the industry. So we can see many initiatives being taken around automation processes and mostly end to end automation processes such as the Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
How do you Think the Future of Banking Technology is Going to get Affected by the RPA?
Though RPA is not quite a new technology, it is new to the Middle East. However, some banks in the Middle East are planning to incorporate RPA in their system, as it will bring more optimization and efficiency in the banking sector by reducing the risk of errors and workload on the physical resources.
Adding cognitive abilities to the RPA solutions would extend the boundaries of the latter since AI tools would allow such solutions to evolve from rule based to self-learning engines.
What are the Challenges that the Banking Sector is Facing Regarding Technology?
There are many challenges that the banking sector is facing in the present day.
• The most important issue is .finding ways to integrate their legacy systems in the new IT landscape. This a challenging task as in some instances it would require replacing complex systems such as core banking platforms which involves an investment of three to five years per project.
Information security risk is naturally increasing, and the banks are still in turmoil when it comes to choosing a particular technology regarding mitigating the risk
• Next, is moving those legacy systems onto the cloud, which has technical or regulatory challenges as well as the risk of storing confidential data on the cloud. Moreover, cost optimization is also a matter of concern here.
• Finding the right opportunities and initiatives and integrating the cognitive technologies into the bank processes forms a crucial part. However, the challenge is to integrate the right technologies in the right place so that they have a solid business case and figure out where these technologies fit the most concerning optimization, risk reduction, and efficiencies.
• Finally, comes the challenge of collaborating with. Fintechs to create a new ecosystem Fintechs are gaining momentum in the Middle East.
What Changes have you Noticed in the Banking Sector regarding Technology Over the Years?
Over the last twenty years, the entire industry has evolved and changed from monolithic and rigid platforms—gradually adopting web technologies and now follows the API economy. The banking sector in the Middle East has started thinking regarding micro services in an attempt to come out of the constrained environment.
With the Evolution of the Technology, the Security has Become the Primary Concern. So What are the Modern Technologies that the Banking Sector should Adopt to Combat those Challenges?
Information security risk is naturally increasing, and the banks are still in turmoil when it comes to choosing a particular technology regarding mitigating the risk. They are still using classical technologies and appliances to counter the risk, . Augmenting the classical technologies, such as web application firewalls, with new AI technologies, would be build a responsive protection mechanism the ideal condition here to mitigate security challenges.
What is your Experience from this Industry and What do you Conclude?
I can say that this industry is rapidly and constantly evolving in all its aspects, for example on the development side I have witnessed the evolution from a handful of languages such as C, C++ , Java, PL SQL to a plethora of new languages and frameworks. Similarly, in the IT infrastructure domain I have seen the move from vendor specific hardware to virtualized machines and software defined data centers.
Under such conditions it is crucial to constantly monitor, learn and understand the trends in order to be able to choose the technologies that fit the best the bank strategic objectives and business model. Art for Art’s sake cannot be practiced in this industry.