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Testing of financial services infrastructure is inadequate, says SunGard survey

The testing of technology infrastructure relied upon by financial services firms to carry out their day-to-day operations is insufficient to protect against failure.

That’s according to a survey undertaken by SunGard Consulting Services.
The smooth implementation of upgrades or new technology is crucial in helping ensure that financial services firms can offer new or improved products and services to their customers and retain a competitive advantage.  Failure to properly test technology, however, can result in outages and downtime that may lose the firm business and cause reputational damage.
While testing is crucial to maintaining performance, satisfying customers and meeting compliance demands, the cost is a growing concern for financial institutions.
Cost represented the single biggest challenge for survey respondents, followed by insufficient time to meet deadlines, incomplete or ambiguous requirements and insufficient resources.
For 23 per cent of respondents, the cost of testing exceeded a quarter of a project’s entire budget, while nearly three in five respondents said that budget restrictions impeded the improvement of the testing process.
The survey found that system testing often causes disruption to a firm’s day to day operations, with three out of four survey participants saying that having a testing operation underway has a medium-to-high impact on normal business processes and operations.
Perhaps as a result, nearly three out of five survey respondents indicated there is an appetite within their organisation to improve testing processes.
Today’s hypercompetitive industry and growing regulatory scrutiny are the main drivers for financial services firms to improve testing capabilities.
Asked to name one or more factors influencing improvements in testing, 50 per cent of survey respondents cited the introduction of new product and service offerings, 45 per cent cited regulatory requirements, while 53 per cent cited the rollout of upgrades and new releases, which in many instances are related to meeting either industry or regulatory demands
Of the regulations driving increased focus on system testing, Basel III is the most prominent. Some 40 per cent of those who saw regulations as a driver cited this international standard as boosting the need for improved system testing.
Aside from general banking requirements, local regulations were the next strongest drivers, including SEPA, FATCA and the Consumer Protection Code
Institutions are relying heavily on their own staff to perform testing. Some 43 per cent of respondents indicated that they employ internal testers who are industry trained, however, 32 per cent rely on untrained internal personnel or line-of-business resources.
More than half of respondents are not considering outsourcing some or all of their system testing, potentially losing as a result economical improvements and efficiencies, while nearly three quarters of respondents reported having ten or fewer test personnel, meaning that the strain of managing today’s complex IT environments is typically being met by limited resources
Michael O’Connor, project manager for information systems & development, ACCBank, says: “Impending regulatory deadlines, such as SEPA in the European Union, present a number of challenges to firms to be in compliance.  Having a smoothly operating technology infrastructure is crucial to satisfy both regulators and clients.  Engaging SunGard to assist us in the testing of our systems ahead of the SEPA deadline has meant that we can be confident that we will meet the needs of both on an ongoing basis.”
Stephen O’Reilly, quality assurance practice lead, SunGard Consulting Services, says: “Testing has become a crucial part of any financial institution’s operations. Regulatory pressures and client demands are driving them to do more things faster and with fewer resources. At the same time, software failures can cost financial institutions dearly in terms of loss of business and reputation. How testing is conducted and by whom is therefore paramount in helping ensure that as much of the risk associated with potential failure is identified early in the testing process and then mitigated where possible.  Outsourcing testing processes to a third party and engaging test professionals can help reduce cost and increase performance, helping ensure that operations run smoothly and smartly.”

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