PERSPECTIVES

4 Missteps for Banks to Avoid When Migrating Payment Services to the Cloud

2021-08-19


Banks and financial services providers can realize the efficiency and cost savings of cloud-based payments by taking proactive steps to guard against these common mistakes.

The cloud’s lure of simplification is a powerful incentive for payment providers, as its role enabling modernization and permanently switching off legacy applications. Where banks struggle, however, is in shaping a strategy to get their payment services to the cloud. By understanding the common missteps, banks can create a plan for payment migration that maximizes benefits while minimizing risks.

The pandemic was a digital tipping point for banks, forcing them to implement in just a few months capabilities that otherwise would have taken several years. Research published in 2019 found that financial services firms lagged in adoption of public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS), with just 18% broadly implementing IaaS for production applications, compared to 25% of businesses overall. Now many banking leaders we talk with are taking a serious look at cloud-based payment services, motivated by the age and complexity of their core payment applications as well as their business’s growing confidence in the security of cloud platforms such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

As banks contemplate migrating payment services to the cloud, here are some common mistakes to avoid that will ensure a smoother journey:

  Assuming the cloud is cheaper.

Cloud-based services are indeed less expensive to run — once applications and services have been migrated. To manage a successful payments migration, be aware of the costs along the journey. The cloud can be a heavy lift. While banks and financial services providers often consider themselves proficient at consolidation and rationalization, the extensiveness required for cloud migration frequently far exceeds the effort of previous initiatives. For example, we helped a bank reduce its infrastructure footprint by 25% and lower its total cost of ownership by migrating its applications to the cloud. That outcome, however, required careful analysis of the bank’s application source code and development of a migration strategy and cloud deployment architecture, as well as assessing and migrating more than 800 applications over three years. Cloud-based services are more streamlined and less expensive to operate, but accurately budgeting for the upfront time and resources of a cloud payment migration is challenging due to the many unknowns. Careful attention to planning is critical for a realistic cost assessment.

2    Underestimating the amount of prework.

The cloud promises to reduce complexity but getting to that point takes a thoughtful migration plan that’s complete and doesn’t skimp on details. What steps will be taken to ensure there’s no disruption to clients? Which applications make sense to retain and manage in-house, and which can be leveraged as payments as a service? For instance, fund disbursements for a retail consumer bank that administers 529 plans are typically a low-volume service for which cloud automation is a great fit, replacing paper checks with significantly less costly cloud-based payments. But when it comes to payments as a service, managing risk and ensuring value also come into play. Wire transfers might appear to be good candidates for migration to cloud payments, but if most of the bank’s transfers are for high net worth individuals with equally high customer lifetime value, then the transfers may require levels of personalized service best handled with an on-premise platform rather than in the cloud. A well thought out strategy that addresses all impacts and value opportunities helps bank leaders avoid the unintended consequences that keep them awake at night.

3    Failure to prioritize.

A payments migration needs to be phased in a way that provides strategic competitive advantage. Setting priorities is key. For example, a bank may choose to align its payments migration with a specific strategy, such as a planned de-emphasis on branch offices. Another approach is to migrate the costliest payment applications first. Some banks may reserve cloud adoption for when they’re ready to add new payments capabilities. Each bank’s path to cloud payments is nuanced, yet there’s often a feeling among banking leaders that moving to the cloud is an all-or-nothing proposition. That is, payments are either entirely cloud-based or all on premise. A more realistic goal is to craft a migration roadmap for a hybrid environment that accommodates both types of infrastructure for the near future, and to then prioritize and phase the payments migration in a way that makes strategic sense.

4    Testing in a dissimilar environment.

Replicating legacy operating environments for testing is expensive, so it’s not uncommon for banks to settle on environments that are similar but not identical — though the variation often leads to production environment errors that can derail cloud migration efforts. Performance falls short of expectations, typically due to the tangle of payment applications resulting from years of mergers and acquisitions. For example, post-merger banking platforms often utilize more than one legacy payment hub, and there’s little chance that a bank’s current IT staff fully understands or can predict the unintended consequences for the hubs when making changes to the platform. Don’t fret over creating the perfect testing environment. Rather, build an environment that’s as close as possible.

By avoiding these common missteps, payment providers can reap the benefits of a simplified, modern infrastructure and application environment and minimize the risks.

This article was written by Rustin Carpenter, Global Payments Solution Leader for Cognizant’s Banking & Financial Services Industry Services Group.

To learn more, please visit the digital payments section of our website or contact us.