Seven challenges facing CIOs in 2022 – and how to smash them…

March 28th 2022

Seven challenges facing CIOs in 2022 – and how to smash them…

Fintech companies in 2022 are treading a continuous tightrope. On the one hand, there’s pressure to rapidly expand into new markets - and get there first. On the other, technology needs to accompany them on this heady growth journey - to allow innovation to flourish and keep ‘always on’ consumers happy. After all, IT is where the customer is.

Here, BestPath’s Technical Directors - James Williamson and Nicholas Bridgeman – weigh up seven challenges currently facing CIOs. And importantly, how Fintechs can overcome them - and thrive.


Challenge 1: Skills vs speed

Nicholas Bridgeman: From our experience, many Fintechs struggle to get to where they need to be because they don't have the right expertise. There's a lot of new technology flying around. But, internal staff are often not trained adequately to adopt it. A recent project with a multi-million pound budget was less than 30 days away from go-live. But their own internal staff weren’t trained on the new infrastructure projects. If it had gone live, they wouldn’t have been able to support it. If it goes bang in the middle of the night, there would be no one to fix it.

James Williamson: The Fintech sector has always been driven by innovation. And yet, as Gartner quotes, talent shortages are a rising and significant challenge for the successful adoption of emerging technologies. In fact, 64% of IT professionals said that talent availability is the largest challenge to emerging technology adoption.  There’s great excitement about new tech, but the skillsets are lacking to allow them to fire on all cylinders.


Challenge 2: Growth, with little forethought...

Nicholas Bridgeman: The global Fintech market is burgeoning, that’s for sure – with its value increasing at an incredible rate, despite the huge challenges (and opportunities) brought about by the pandemic. But, there’s a paradox here: Fintechs want to be agile and nimble, and yet for some, especially the larger more long standing ones, internal people and processes are extremely cumbersome – and are holding them back from great things. To bring them up to speed comes at a cost.

James Williamson: I agree, Nick. What should be an efficient route to market can end up being unnecessarily costly. Forethought is so important, but often lacking. What we’ve seen is that a bit more than half of Fintech employees want to adopt emerging tech and are willing to work hard to drive change forward. But, a decent chunk don’t want any change – because it’s hard and perhaps they fear their workplace security.


Challenge 3: The culture within

James Williamson: Culture – or lack of a digital culture - is a significant reason why emerging technologies may be working against, not for, Fintechs. ‘We need this connectivity tomorrow’ – is a common request. But, in order to do this, you might need Board approval. That can take weeks. The back end processes to enable technology to be deployed quickly have to be updated; the culture needs to change so teams can act at speed. Cultural transformation is as important as the digital transformation itself.

Nicholas Bridgeman: Exactly, James. If internal processes mean a six month delay while the Board signs off on delivery, then that’s a ‘Catch-22’ for Fintechs. And it’s slowing them down. Of course, this is less of an issue for agile start-ups. But, for bigger, older companies, sign-off comes from a number of senior roles and this can be a long, drawn-out journey.  In an ideal world, cultural change should come from the top down, rather than always trying to drive it from the bottom up.


Challenge 4: Security & moving boundaries

James Williamson: Emerging technologies are pushing the boundaries of what used to be a physical aspect of a company. Now, as we have users and applications moving to the cloud (and to the home), the security boundary is completely different. Rather than just having one administrative point for security, now you've got (depending on the size of business) up to 5 to 10 thousand places to consider. Fintechs want things quickly, as we’ve discussed. Some data is on premise and some in the public cloud. And you have to secure the two. It can be cumbersome to stitch them together to make things work quickly. People compromise on security because due diligence is hard and time consuming. 

Nicholas Bridgeman: That’s true – and a lot of security challenges surface within organisations. The biggest problem is around visibility. Emerging technologies are giving rise to insights and analytics about what's going on within the network. But, they haven't enabled that capability within the infrastructure; within the platform. You can only secure what you can see, so to speak – and that’s having a profound knock-on effect on security, in my opinion. If you don't know what's going on in your infrastructure, it's very hard to have the strategic understanding needed to build a security blueprint, to secure your environment.


Challenge 5: Continuous compliance concerns

James Williamson: Security and compliance, of course, go hand in hand – and this is always a thorn in Fintechs’ sides. When the regulators come in to do their annual audits, they have to be covered. And it's a never-ending task. Here, things like automation and new tooling can make that job a lot easier, instead of the network team doing the donkey work.

Nicholas Bridgeman: Compliance is still a massive concern and headache for Fintechs. We recently worked with a payment processing company. Everything had to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Not to mention the security rules that have to be adhered to, to get the accreditation needed to process payments. 


Challenge 6: SASE-fication

James Williamson: This is a term we’re not that keen on, but ‘SASE’ (Secure Access Service Edge) is an increasing trend for Fintechs. SASE is designed to deliver the principles of quick delivery, security at the edge, and value for money; an all-encompassing solution that gives you all three of these things, together. But there are lots of components. Security is one, but you've got SD-WAN. The market doesn’t really understand what SASE is yet. 

Nicholas Bridgeman: There's a lot more of a move to virtualisation, especially with cloud technologies. So being able to virtualize some of those components and offer them out quickly in terms of standard designs is crucial. What we're seeing is that IT decisions are no longer just made by IT. Decisions are being influenced by the end user. And some of that is because the end user is actually more aware of technology than say five years ago 


Challenge 7: Automation – and beyond

James Williamson: In my mind, the biggest upcoming challenge is automation – although it comes with great opportunity. Organisations are looking at automating networks, servers, security and so on. But, not many are looking forward to how they consume infrastructure in a more composable way – providing components that can be selected and assembled in various combinations to satisfy specific user requirements. For example, transforming existing data centres into a new SDN solution. And that’s very siloed and specific in its nature; the remit is very narrow. Instead, Fintechs need to look at where their business will be in three or four years’ time – whether this is delivering consumer services or the technology capabilities in general. The focus is too much on the now.

Nicholas Bridgeman: Yes, I agree. Many Fintechs are focusing on the next six months. Even if they have a vision of where they want to get to, their existing infrastructure can be too hard to retrofit. This affects automation and many other aspects of emerging tech. It’s important to draw a line in the sand and decommission what’s not needed, or let it come to its natural end. You can’t move the whole business at 100 miles an hour. The holy grail is end-to-end infrastructure – agile and secure – that can be fired up as and when it’s needed – and got rid of when it’s not. It has to be compartmentalised – and the new, shiny stuff needs to be truly thought-through, focussed and forward-thinking.


Forewarned is forearmed and awareness of these seven main challenges for CIOs in 2022 is the first step in overcoming them. From a digital transformation perspective, it’s clear there is a dearth of expertise within Fintech companies, as well as top-down cultures – that could threaten to slow growth down. Regulation and compliance for Fintechs is now the daily norm, and yet security issues often emanate from within organisations. Against this backdrop, services like SASE will gain in popularity, and automation increasingly introduced. Now is the time for Fintechs to work with experts to ensure they have agile, secure and trusted network infrastructures – so they can become the leaders of tomorrow.

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