The channel has doubtless been dragged along for the ride in recent years as the financial services industry has been through a rollercoaster of ups, downs and even more downs.
The sector has long been one of resellers’ most fertile hunting grounds, but the halcyon boom days of the early noughties have long since passed for both industries. However, finance firms will always have an appetite for technology that delivers workplace efficiencies, productivity gains or, better still, cost savings. And channel players that can deliver on this will always be able to flourish in this sector.
The CRN on Banking and Finance event, which took place in central London in November and was attended by about 40 channel representatives, sought to give delegates a comprehensive overview of market trends, while taking a closer look at key opportunities and how to unlock CIO investment.
Our research of 67 mid-market and enterprise IT decision makers, conducted for the event, paints a positive picture of budgets for the coming year. Just 13.6 per cent are expecting to see their budget decline in 2013, with no one anticipating a reduction of more than 20 per cent.
Some 22.7 per cent forecast an increase to their spending pot of between five and 20 per cent, while 6.1 per cent will enjoy a 20 per cent-plus boost to their coffers. A third of respondents believe their 2013 war chest will be more or less flat on this year.
Ben Wilson, head of financial services programmes at IT trade body Intellect, told delegates that he expected banks’ IT spending in the coming months to focus on strategic investments in technologies that improve customer retention, rather than big-ticket refresh projects.
“Banks are saying they have a lot of money, but they do not necessarily want to spend it; it is all about building around the edges,” he explained. “We are going to see a big focus on the underlying infrastructure within the banks, but there is not going to be a rip-and-replace culture.”
When it comes to budgets, our survey delivers even better news for VARs working in the security space. Some 34.9 per cent of respondents are expecting their IT security budget to be increased next year, with more than one in five of those forecasting a boost of more than 20 per cent. Just 6.1 per cent foresee a cut.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, IT chiefs report that they are fairly well equipped to combat a variety of security threats. But for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, data theft and advanced malware, about 15 per cent of respondents in each case believe they are only partially equipped.
Leon Ward, EMEA field product manager at Sourcefire, explained that the threat landscape has changed greatly in the past 15 years. In the late 90s, he claimed, there were 12 known vulnerabilities that could affect your PC, all of which could be combated by a single McAfee floppy disk. Last year Sourcefire received reports of 14,443,920 strains of malware. “You cannot fit all those on a floppy disk or a DVD,” he pointed out. “There is no silver-bullet solution to solve all your problems.”
Many firms still have big plans to undertake projects that will deliver demonstrable efficiencies. About half of those surveyed are plotting a datacentre optimisation project, while 29.1 per cent intend to adopt cloud computing.
Martin Abbott, channel sales manager at Riverbed, said finance houses need to adopt cloud to control costs and drive efficiencies. “The cost will be astronomical to keep doing it the way they are currently doing it,” he said.
The good news
The factors fuelling CIOs’ investment next year also provide some heartening reading for VARs; our respondents ranked a variety of issues from one to five based on how much they are likely to influence their spending decisions next year.
Inevitably, saving money emerged top of the pile, with an average score of 4.4. But improving customer service and increasing productivity levels were not far behind, scoring 4.15 and 4.19 respectively. Lower down the list were an urgent need to replace new technology and the need for new or greater functionality, both around 3.6.
Bruce Hockin, head of solutions strategy at Avnet Technology Solutions UK, claimed CIOs are now more cautious than in the past, with a focus on efficiencies rather than bleeding-edge technology.
“Eight or 10 years ago, the banking sector was probably one of those sectors where you could come in with something new and sexy, and people would say ‘I want to invest because it is fast and it has more bells and whistles and I want to be better than the next guy’. The market is much different now”, he said.
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