Banks Avoid Blow-Ups with New IT Pros

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Rocked by blow-ups after the release of large software projects, financial services firms are moving away from big releases and towards a more agile approach. This is changing the way banks’ IT teams work and the types of people they want to recruit.

Last year was marked by a series of IT failures that proved catastrophic to the financial services firms involved. The faulty release of new trading software at Knight Capital lost the firm $440m, nearly forced it into bankruptcy and led it to eventually accept a $1.8bn takeover bid from rival Getco last month. Meanwhile, the glitch at RBS Group – caused by botched upgrade to its payment system – left millions of customers without access to their cash for four days and could ultimately cost the bank £125m.

Other firms have taken note. Now, rather than a big release at the end of a significant project, software updates and releases are being eked out, so any new system is more of an evolution than a revolution.

“Banks have an increased focus on risk reduction in all aspects of their business. This includes the risk associated with releasing software that may jeopardise their business practices, processes or credibility,” said David Chapman, managing partner at Sungard in New York.

Smaller releases enable banks to be more competitive, and respond more rapidly to changing business and regulatory demands, he said.

That need is making banks look for IT professionals with more collaborative skills. There’s already an increased demand for those with knowledge of Agile software development methodologies – an incremental approach where projects are completed in smaller, more manageable chunks – and the next step is embracing DevOps, says Chapman. This also encourages smaller releases, but also greater collaboration between the development, IT operations and quality assurance (or testing) divisions.

“There’s an increasing demand for project managers and developers with a flexible mindset, as banks take a more piecemeal approach to software releases,” said Ben Cowan, director at recruiters Astbury Marsden. “This can be knowledge of the Agile approach, but also just being comfortable managing multiple projects at one time.”

The lines between development and IT operations are also becoming increasingly blurred.

“This has already occurred somewhat in the IT development space where software programmers are expected to have baseline knowledge around development tools, continuous integration, automated testing, open source tools and agile development methodologies,” says Chapman.

Knowledge of Agile isn’t exactly a rare thing in the financial sector, however. There are currently 18 candidates for every available role requesting Agile skills, according the jobs advertised on eFinancialCareers.

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