ASEAN banks' transformational projects for 2013 are driven by technology themes such as Big Data, legacy system refreshes and mobility, according to an IBM-sponsored IDC survey about technology spending habits in the finance industry.
The report, ASEAN Bankers' Study, noted that these technology themes, coupled with recovering IT spending budgets, are helping to drive enterprise-wide strategies for faster time-to-market deliveries and technology optimisation capabilities.
"The results reinforce the notion about the amount of growth and opportunities that we have in the region," said Peter Gill, vice president, Banking & Financial Markets, ASEAN, IBM.
The study found that the key projects include core banking system upgrades and business agility, risk management programmes-of-work, customer centricity projects and payment systems overhaul.
CXOs, including CIOs, CTOs, CFOs, CROs and CMOs from some 20 financial institutions based across Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, responded to the study. Further information on the findings from the study will be published by end of April 2013.
Data from the report indicate that Big Data is moving away from being an IT initiative and to the business side of the banks. A few leading banks were observed appointing individuals or groups to understand and map Big Data initiatives internally. "The ones that are leading have a defined roadmap on where they would like to get to and the progress on getting there," said Gill.
Gill observed that banks have been not only been delving into unstructured data sources like emails and call centre logs, but also third party platforms like Facebook and Linkedin. But the main challenge is to be able to make sense of all the information, he said. "How do you value the opinions of, for instance, a blog? How do you assess the accuracy and impact of the data obtained?" said Gill.
While no banks have emerged as clear leaders, organisations with well-articulated Big Data roadmaps will break away from the pack in the space of two to three years, said Gill.
Legacy system refreshes remain high on the CXOs' spending agenda. Almost all the interviewed banks indicated that they still have pockets of legacy systems within their infrastructure. These ageing cobbled-together platforms are found in branch and channel solutions, ATM, credit card and payment systems.
But besides updating the old, system refreshes initiatives are also driven by modern front-end processes. "As you add mobile platforms and apps, you need to have systems within the bank that can support them," said Gill.
Meanwhile, mobility is going to be the main theme for payment models this year, according to the report. Survey respondents have indicated that they will be focused on customers' mobile devices like smartphones and tablets as mediums for payments.
The IDC report observed that several banks have already introduced innovative projects based on mobility. One bank in Singapore has been utilising near field communications (NFC) smart posters that allow vouchers to be stored digitally on cards and SMS-based payment systems for bills. A Thailand-based bank has a program that allows anyone with a smart device to become a merchant for credit cards by using a dongle device.
However, there remain challenges that banks need to overcome. The report pointed out that an existing confusion over different formats and standards in payments has held back banks from fully driving their initiatives forward. Within the space of NFC, the numerous standards rolled out by banks have created different and incompatible systems for customers to adopt.