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An Evening with Buck Hui Koh
On our latest edition of Evolvous Partner Showcase, our marketing team recently spent a very quality evening with industry expert – Buck Hui Koh who describes himself as a seasoned banking professional with over 25 years of extensive and diverse experience in the financial sector. Buck believes that “advanced technology consulting will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the financial industry”.
Sitting in his Singapore office, Buck went back to the time when he started his career, he has held various roles in account management, credit documentation and administration, and risk-related functions. He also went back discussing his recent experience at an international bank where he was heading the Middle Office who were responsible for credit reviews, loan transaction monitoring, covenant tracking, and other control functions.
His relentless financial energy has always brought to bear on whatever issue is before him. He has spearheaded initiatives that significantly reduced work errors and enhanced productivity. In his previous roles, he successfully introduced workflow improvements that led to a more than 30% increase in overall productivity. Slipping back to his experience, Buck quoted “As a senior executive, I have gained a reputation for consistently delivering high-quality output”. Constantly delivering a substantial impact within his sphere of influence have always been a priority fir Buck.
Our team had asked six specific questions to Buck considering his decades of experience in assisting financial institutions with technology adoption. Here are the interview questions followed by his detailed responses.
EVOLVOUS: We hear frequent complaints about pain points in financial institutions due to legacy systems. Can you elaborate on this?
BUCK: Legacy systems in financial institutions refer to the outdated or antiquated hardware, software, and technology infrastructure used for an extended period. These systems were often designed and implemented decades ago and have since become deeply ingrained in the operations of these organizations.
In addition, many financial institutions have also undergone mergers and acquisitions, and the merged entities usually try to integrate the different systems into their business. While legacy systems may have been effective in the past, they increasingly present a variety of challenges for financial institutions, including:
Lack of flexibility and scalability: Legacy systems are often built on monolithic architectures that make them rigid and challenging to modify or scale. This inflexibility hampers the ability of financial institutions to adapt to changing business requirements, customer expectations, and market conditions.
Integration issues: As financial institutions adopt new technologies; they often need help integrating these solutions with their legacy systems. The lack of interoperability can create data silos, operational inefficiencies, and increased complexity in the technology landscape.
High maintenance costs: Maintaining and supporting outdated systems can be expensive, as they often require specialized skills and resources that become scarce over time. These costs can divert financial resources from more strategic investments in innovation and digital transformation.
Security and compliance risks: Legacy systems may have yet to be designed with modern security standards and regulatory requirements in mind, which can expose financial institutions to increased cybersecurity risks and compliance challenges.
Hindered innovation: Legacy systems can slow innovation within financial institutions, as they need help implementing new technologies and services on top of their outdated infrastructure.
Talent retention and acquisition: As the technology landscape evolves, professionals with expertise in modern technologies are in high demand. Financial institutions relying on legacy systems may struggle to attract and retain top talent, who may prefer to work with cutting-edge tools and platforms.
Poor customer experience: In the digital age, customers expect seamless, fast, and personalized experiences. Legacy systems can impede financial institutions from delivering these experiences, as they may be slow, unreliable, or unable to support the level of personalization required.
Decreased competitiveness: As competitors adopt modern technology solutions to streamline processes, improve customer experiences, and enhance their product offerings, financial institutions reliant on legacy systems may fall behind.
Business continuity risks: Legacy systems may be more susceptible to failures or outages due to age and lack of support. This can pose significant risks to business continuity and the financial institution’s reputation.
Inefficient processes: Outdated systems can lead to inefficient processes, as they may require manual interventions, workarounds, or multiple systems to complete tasks. This inefficiency can lead to increased operational costs and reduced productivity for financial institutions.
To overcome these challenges, financial institutions must invest in modernizing their technology infrastructure, adopting newer solutions, and fostering a culture of innovation. This will enable them to remain competitive, meet evolving customer expectations, and address the increasing complexities of the financial industry.
EVOLOUS: Buck, with your more than two decades of experience, you have seen a major technological shift. How do you see the future of the Financial Sector for advanced technology consulting (use of cloud, AI and ML, big data, blockchain)?
BUCK: As we look into the future, advanced technology consulting will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the financial industry. Here’s how I see the end of the financial sector concerning these emerging technologies:
Cloud Computing: The adoption of cloud technology has been growing steadily, which will continue in the financial sector. Cloud computing offers increased scalability, flexibility, and cost savings, allowing financial institutions to access cutting-edge technologies without significant upfront investments. This, in turn, will enable faster innovation and more streamlined operations.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML have transformed various aspects of the financial industry, from customer service to risk management. In the future, AI and ML will be further integrated into financial processes, enabling more efficient and accurate decision-making. This will help financial institutions optimize their operations, identify new opportunities, and mitigate risks more effectively. Just look at how fast ChatGPT penetrated the market to know the potential, possibilities and pitfalls.
Big Data: As the volume of data generated and collected by financial institutions grows, big data analytics will become even more critical. Financial institutions will leverage big data to uncover insights, identify patterns, and make data-driven decisions. This will enable them to understand customer needs better, improve products and services, and optimize their overall business strategies.
Blockchain: Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the financial sector by enabling secure, transparent, and efficient transactions. In the future, we can expect to see an increase in the adoption of blockchain technology in areas such as payments, remittances, and identity management. This will help reduce fraud, streamline processes, and lower costs for financial institutions.
Overall, the future of the financial sector will be heavily influenced by the adoption and integration of these advanced technologies. Financial institutions that effectively leverage these technologies will be better positioned to drive innovation, reduce operational costs, enhance customer experiences, and maintain a competitive edge in the ever-evolving financial landscape.
EVOLVOUS: What will be your recommendation for all organizations that have yet to adopt the cloud to use the technology fully?
BUCK: For organizations that have adopted cloud technology but are not entirely using its potential, I would recommend the following strategies to maximize the benefits:
Assess your current cloud usage: Begin by thoroughly assessing your current cloud utilization. Identify areas where you may need to use more utilized cloud services or where there may be inefficiencies. This will help you clearly understand where improvements can be made.
Develop a comprehensive cloud strategy: Establish a well-defined one that aligns with your business objectives. This should include defining your cloud goals, selecting the right cloud services and providers, and determining the optimal mix of public, private, and hybrid cloud environments based on your organization’s needs.
Upskill and train your workforce: Ensure employees have the skills to manage and use cloud technologies effectively. This may include offering training programs, workshops, or certifications related to cloud computing. An upskilled workforce will be better positioned to maximize the benefits of cloud technology.
Optimize cloud costs: Monitor and optimize your cloud costs to maximize investment. This may involve rightsizing your cloud resources, using reserved instances, and leveraging cost management tools provided by cloud service providers.
Embrace automation and DevOps: Adopting automation and DevOps practices can help streamline processes, reduce manual intervention, and increase agility. This will enable your organization to take full advantage of cloud capabilities, such as auto scaling and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD).
Enhance security and compliance: Ensure your cloud infrastructure is secure and compliant with relevant regulations. Implement robust security measures such as encryption, access controls, and monitoring tools to protect your data and maintain compliance.
Continuously innovate: Stay informed about the latest cloud technologies and services and be prepared to adopt new solutions to help your organization remain competitive. Continuously innovate and experiment with new cloud services to identify additional opportunities for optimization and growth.
By implementing these recommendations, organizations can unlock the full potential of cloud technology, optimize costs, and enhance operational efficiency, gaining a competitive edge in the market.
EVOLVOUS: Choosing an optimal tech stack for financial solution development can be a significant decision. What should be the top 5 priorities before making the final decision?
BUCK: Selecting the right technology stack for financial solution development is a critical decision. Here are the top 5 priorities to consider before making your final choice:
Security and Compliance: Financial solutions often deal with sensitive data and must adhere to stringent regulations. Priorities a tech stack that offers robust security features, such as encryption, secure authentication, and access controls. Additionally, ensure that the chosen technologies comply with relevant industry standards, such as PCI DSS, GDPR, and other regional or sector-specific regulations.
Scalability and Performance: Financial applications often must manage large volumes of data and transactions. Choose a high-performance tech stack that can quickly scale to accommodate growth in users, transactions, or data. This will ensure that your solution remains responsive and efficient as your business expands.
Flexibility and Extensibility: As the financial sector evolves, your solution may need to adapt to new requirements, regulations, or technologies. opt for a tech stack that is flexible and extensible, allowing for easy integration with other systems, as well as the ability to add new features or modify existing ones.
Developer Expertise and Availability: The success of your financial solution development depends on your development team’s expertise. Choose a tech stack that your team is familiar with or can quickly learn and ensure a large talent pool is available for hire. This will speed up the development process and make it easier to maintain and enhance the solution in the future.
Cost-effectiveness and ROI: While selecting a tech stack, consider the total cost of ownership, including licensing fees, infrastructure costs, and ongoing maintenance expenses. Evaluate the return on investment (ROI) by considering development speed, long-term scalability, and the ability to attract top talent. Choose a tech stack that best balances cost and value for your specific project requirements.
By prioritizing these factors, you can make an informed decision when selecting the optimal technology stack for your financial solution development, ensuring that your solution is secure, scalable, and future proof.
EVOLVOUS: A gradual transition of financial software to modern software without disrupting critical operations is desirable. How can companies adopt new Technology stacks seamlessly?
BUCK: Here’s the general guidance on seamless transition when modernizing financial software without disrupting critical financial management operations.
Plan and strategies: Begin by creating a detailed plan that outlines the steps required to modernize your financial software. Consider factors such as the desired functionality, the innovative technology stack, and how the transition will be executed without impacting ongoing operations.
Adopt a phased approach: Gradually introduce incremental changes to your financial software. This allows you to focus on specific components or modules, minimizing the risk of disruption to critical operations. A phased approach also enables you to evaluate and validate new features and technologies without affecting the entire system.
Establish a parallel environment: Set up a separate domain to develop, evaluate, and deploy the new financial software. This allows you to introduce changes safely without impacting your current operations. Once the modernized software is thoroughly evaluated and proven dependable, it can be gradually integrated into your production environment.
Leverage APIs and microservices: Utilize APIs and microservices to create a modular, flexible architecture for your financial software. This lets you incrementally replace or update individual components without affecting the entire system. Additionally, APIs allow seamless integration between your modernized software and existing systems, ensuring smooth interoperability.
Train and support your team: Ensure that your team is equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to manage modernized financial software. Provide training, resources, and support to help your team adapt to innovative technologies and processes.
Monitor and optimize: Continuously monitor the performance of your modernized financial software, identify potential issues, and optimize accordingly. Regular monitoring and optimization will help ensure your new software remains stable and efficient during the transition process.
By following these general principles, you can achieve a seamless transition when modernizing your financial software, minimizing disruptions to critical financial management operations.
EVOLVOUS: What are the technical requirements specifications for any organization considering a financial management solution?
BUCK: Organizations should consider various technical requirements and specifications when considering a financial management solution to ensure it meets their needs. While these requirements may vary depending on the organization’s specific goals and circumstances, here are some general specifications to consider:
Functional Requirements: Identify the core features and functionalities required for your financial management solution, such as general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, budgeting, financial reporting, cash flow management, and more. Ensure the solution accommodates your organization’s unique financial processes, including industry-specific or regulatory requirements.
Integration and Compatibility: Evaluate the solution’s ability to integrate with existing systems, such as ERP, CRM, HRM, and other business applications. Seamless integration ensures data consistency, reduces manual data entry, and streamlines workflows across different departments.
Scalability: Assess whether the solution can accommodate user growth, transaction, or data volumes. A scalable financial management solution will allow your organization to grow without compromising performance or requiring a complete system overhaul.
Security and Compliance: Ensure the solution offers robust security features, including data encryption, user authentication, and access controls, to protect sensitive financial data. Additionally, verify that the solution complies with industry-specific regulations and standards, depending on your organization’s requirements.
Customization and Flexibility: Choose a solution that offers customization options and flexibility to adapt to your organization’s unique needs, processes, and workflows. This may include creating custom reports, designing unique user interfaces, or modifying existing functionalities.
User Experience: Consider the solution’s user interface and overall usability. A user-friendly financial management solution will be easier to adopt, reducing the employee learning curve and improving overall productivity.
Support and Maintenance: Evaluate the level of support and maintenance provided by the solution provider, including software updates, bug fixes, and customer support. A reliable support system ensures that issues or concerns are addressed promptly, minimizing downtime and disruptions to your financial operations.
Deployment Options: Consider whether you prefer an on-premises, cloud-based, or hybrid deployment for your financial management solution. Each option has advantages and drawbacks regarding cost, flexibility, and maintenance requirements.
Cost and ROI: Analyse the total cost of ownership, including initial investment, ongoing maintenance costs, and potential savings from improved efficiency. Calculate the expected return on investment (ROI) to ensure the solution offers the best value for your organization.
By considering these technical requirements specifications, organizations can select a financial management solution that best aligns with their needs, ensuring efficient and effective financial operations.
EVOLVOUS: What are the solutions for process improvement in the financial industry?
BUCK: There are several solutions and strategies for process improvement in the financial sector. These solutions aim to enhance efficiency, reduce operational costs, and improve customer satisfaction. Some of the critical solutions include:
Automation: Implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and other automation technologies can streamline repetitive tasks, reduce manual intervention, and improve accuracy. Automation can be applied to data entry, reconciliation, and report generation, increasing efficiency and reducing error rates.
Data Analytics: Leveraging advanced data analytics tools and techniques enables financial institutions to gain insights, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions. This can improve risk management, fraud detection, customer segmentation, and marketing strategies, enhancing overall business performance.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): Integrating AI and ML into financial processes can improve decision-making, optimize operations, and personalize customer experiences. Applications of AI and ML include credit scoring, investment management, customer service (e.g., chatbots), KYC risk screening/assessment and predictive analytics.
Workflow Optimization: Reviewing and optimizing workflows can help identify bottlenecks, redundancies, and inefficiencies in financial processes. Streamlining workflows can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance customer experiences.
Digital Transformation: Embracing digital technologies and channels can improve customer engagement, reduce transaction times, and expand service offerings. This may include developing mobile apps, implementing online banking, and offering digital payment solutions.
Cloud Computing: Cloud solutions can increase scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. Financial institutions can benefit from cloud services for data storage, analytics, and infrastructure management, enabling faster innovation and reduced operational costs.
Training and Development: Investing in employee training and development helps staff have the necessary skills and knowledge to manage and optimize financial processes effectively. A skilled workforce can drive innovation, improve efficiency, and enhance performance.
Compliance Management: Implementing effective compliance management systems can help financial institutions stay up to date with regulatory requirements, minimize risk, and avoid costly fines or penalties. Solutions may include automated compliance tracking, reporting tools, and risk assessment methodologies.
Customer-centric Approach: Focusing on customer needs and preferences is crucial to process improvement in the financial sector. This may involve gathering customer feedback, conducting market research, and analyzing customer data to develop targeted, personalized solutions that enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
By adopting these solutions and strategies, financial institutions can drive process improvement, enhance operational efficiency, and maintain a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving financial landscape.
Buckseems to relish nothing more than challenging business as usual, often by applying a dose of more ambitious thinking while implementing technology solutions. Buck’s broad experience and expertise in the banking industry and his proven record in process improvement and risk management have made him a valuable resource for organizations seeking to optimize their financial operations and maintain a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving financial landscape. Currently he is the Business Strategist at Hybrid Analytica Consulting Pte Ltd, based in Singapore. Their team aims at helping businesses to innovate, digitalize, make data-driven decisions and achieve a competitive advantage.
Apart from Financial industry, they have assisted institutions from various industry verticals. If you or your business is based in the Asia-Pacific region you can directly get in touch with Buck over LinkedIn or email him at <firstname.lastname@example.org>