Last week I presented an overview of cloud adoption trends in the banking sector in Asia to a panel of financial services regulators in Hong Kong. The presentation showcased a few cloud case studies including CBA, ING Direct, and NAB in Australia. I focused on the business value that these banks have realized through the adoption of cloud concepts, while remaining compliant with the local regulatory environments. These banks have also developed a strong competitive advantage: They know how to do cloud. Ultimately, I believe that cloud is a capability that banks will have to master in order to build an agility advantage. For instance, cloud is a key enabler of Yuebao, Alibaba’s new Internet finance business. 80 million users in less than 10 months? Only cloud architecture can enable that type of agility and scale (an idea that Hong Kong regulators clearly overlooked).

While regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore must create regulatory environments that are more conducive to cloud adoption, local and regional banks must develop cloud capabilities by collaborating with cloud service providers and regulators. Even if they do not embrace public cloud just yet, I believe that banks in Asia should familiarize themselves with the clear similarities between cloud-based approaches and more traditional managed services models. It’s a way for them to learn how to start sharing risk and responsibility with external service providers. Case in point: in a recent report, I detailed how Nomura Holdings moved from purchasing storage products to sourcing managed storage services from Hitachi Data Systems as a way to bring agility to the business. Banks need to further build on their managed services experience and:

  • Socialize the managed services concept. Banks tends to view managed services — let alone cloud services — negatively, so getting buy-in from key business stakeholders is critical. Technology management teams must communicate the transformation story in a way that helps the business and the compliance and legal teams understand the value and the risks and motivates them to sign off on the deal.
  • Expand managed services to an off-premise delivery model. Principles like "If you're on our premises, you're trusted; if you're off-premises, you're not" are still very prevalent in the financial industry. Still, dedicated connectivity and infrastructure environments can be logical extensions to the banks technology capabilities and deliver significant value in terms of cost effectiveness and agility while keeping the bank’s core functions in a highly secured and controlled environment.
  • Augment internal capabilities to improve customer engagement. Creating successful customer engagements – via mobile for instance – will require the right engagement mindset and leveraging partners including cloud service providers. This can happen while complying with local banking regulations. Digital banks are an example of institutions adopting such a mindset.

Embracing external cloud services can be a massive cultural challenge for banks but it is a necessary transformation for them to go through to protect their competitive advantage in the Age of the Customer. Banks in Hong Kong and Singapore need to view cloud as extension of managed services approaches they’re already familiar with and use their experience as a way to effective expand and control cloud adoption.