As the financial sector grows increasingly dependent on technology, a review by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has found that glitches due to tech transitions are one of the main sources of operational trouble for firms.
The FCA has published the results of a review of technological change at financial firms, which finds that failed systems changes account for approximately one quarter of all “high severity” operational disruptions that harm clients and the market.
The review aims to provide guidance to the industry on avoiding the sorts of tech issues that can lead to serious disruptions.
The FCA said that while technology transitions can’t be expected to be entirely incident free, “firms can work towards reducing the disruption caused, making themselves and the wider industry more resilient.”
For instance, the regulator found that “firms with strong governance and risk management strategies are more successful,” when it comes to successfully implementing new systems.
“There was a positive correlation between the longevity of governance arrangements and higher change success rates in the sampled firms. Our data showed that robust governance can help reduce the number and impact of operational incidents resulting from change,” the report said.
The FCA’s review also found that firms with a greater reliance on legacy infrastructure suffered more problems when implementing technology changes.
One strategy that helps, it added, is when firms make smaller, more frequent updates to their systems, leading to fewer major incidents.
“Firms with a lower proportion of legacy technology also had a lower proportion of changes being deployed as emergencies and had a higher chance of those emergency changes being successfully deployed,” the report said.
Additionally, it noted that firms that had greater success at adopting changes devoted a larger share of their technology budgets toward those activities.
Firms that have fewer glitches dedicate between 50% and 75% of their technology budgets to change-related activities, the report said.
“Robust testing is an important part of the change process, and while testing automation has benefits, it also presents challenges,” the report said.
Finally, the FCA said that it’s “vital” to match technical expertise with a clear understanding of the firm’s strategy.
“While the coronavirus pandemic has caused some delay to planned technology changes and system updates, it is very important for firms to understand how technology change activity can affect the services they provide, and [they should] invest in their resilience to protect themselves, consumers and the markets,” the FCA said.