[South Africa] Stanlib enables remote working on Nutanix infrastructure foundation

Nutanix, a company involved in enterprise cloud computing, has announced  that South African financial services company, Stanlib, is working with the company to secure additional nodes that enable the organisation to provide virtual desktops to employees that have been required to work from home during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in the country.

South Africa saw hard and fast Level Five lockdown restrictions being implemented in late March 2020, leading to all but essential service businesses having to close through to the end of April. However, being in the financial services sector required STANLIB to maintain trading conditions while prioritising the safety of its employees, resulting in the business enabling a host of employees to work from home. With little to no warning of the government’s intentions, STANLIB had to quickly find a practical solution that would support this move and allow employees access to their applications securely.

“Fortunately, having just completed a significant Nutanix roll out, which has seen 95% of STANLIB’s production environment being run on the Nutanix platform. We did not have to reinvent the wheel but rather identify how best to introduce new nodes to expand on our current capability. Ease of use and scalability were key considerations. Additionally, the ability to run Citrix as securely as possible given the governance requirements around data management had to be ensured throughout the process,” said Dipesh Nagar at STANLIB.

With Citrix being a group standard across STANLIB, the Nutanix environment had to enable users to have millisecond access to their applications. The guaranteed performance was a business priority. One of the advantages of the Nutanix infrastructure is that STANLIB can expand on its existing enterprise cloud environment, which it uses for crucial business applications to deliver these to its work from home users. The scaling out of STANLIB’s existing private Nutanix cloud was a straightforward process, didn’t require a significant investment of resources on new equipment, and it repurposed the hardware it already had in place for Citrix Hosted Shared Desktops and a remote work offering.

Subsequently, STANLIB has grown its 20 node Nutanix environment to now encompass 26 nodes still running Acropolis Ultimate Edition including Prism Central while now also having Citrix solutions in place. The advantages of being able to access VDI infrastructure are significant. Not only does this result in a simplified IT environment, but it also increases security that is mission-critical for STANLIB. Employees can remain productive wherever they are and can still access essential information, products, and services from the datacentre just as if they were sitting in the office.

“Nutanix has positioned us strongly to evolve as the world changes and to be able to meet any changes in an agile manner. This enables STANLIB to deliver high-quality customer service irrespective of what is happening in terms of the lockdown. While it is difficult to predict what the future work environment will look like once we have moved past the COVID-19 pandemic, using Nutanix has given STANLIB the peace of mind we need that we can reliably and securely meet any requirement. The scalability of the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform makes future growth virtually limitless, and we can plan for any scenario while still delivering the business continuity and disaster recovery aspects so essential for the financial services market,” added Nagar.

“As a longstanding customer and early adopter of Nutanix, STANLIB has always set the bar in embracing change and being able to adapt their systems to the needs of the business,” stated Paul Ruinaard, Regional Sales Director at Nutanix Sub-Saharan Africa. “The speed of completion and the agility with which it was done stands as a testament to the importance STANLIB place on IT functioning as a business enabler. They are one of only a few financial services companies that were able to effect this change as quickly as they did and as a result, ensure business continuity throughout the lockdown.”

Considering how access to sensitive data has become a target for increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks, being able to leverage Citrix in a high available Nutanix environment enables STANLIB to provide the right level of access based on each employee’s location, device, and several other factors. Today, irrespective of whether a remote worker accesses the STANLIB environment from a desktop, laptop or tablet, Nutanix and Citrix deliver the response times required to remain as productive as possible with no impact on the employee experience.

www.nutanix.com

www.stanlib.com

Cloud-computing solutions can reduce banking costs in Africa, report

More than 700 million Africans lack access to a bank or mobile money account and only 41 per cent of Africans are financially included.

This is due to the high cost of providing financial services in Africa which forces many financial services providers to remain focused on serving wealthier customers.

These are some of the many insights from the report Cloud Banking in Africa: The Regulatory Opportunityby Genesis Analytics and Orange Business Services on how the application of cloud computing in financial services can help financial services providers reach and serve the poor. 

Part of the cost problem is that financial institutions in Africa are so much smaller than elsewhere – the biggest bank in Africa (SBSA with assets of $148 billion) ranks 296th globally; most banks in Africa have assets of less than $5 billion. But African consumers are increasingly expecting these banks to provide the same range of digital services as banks in other countries. This is why consumers have been turning to mobile banking in such numbers. The telecommunications companies have been much more successful at delivering affordable financial services than banks are, but also need to find new ways to reduce costs if they are to reach out to even poorer customers. 

Cloud computing creates an opportunity for providers of financial services to rethink their technology spend and significantly reduce costs. Cloud computing involves using internet technologies to provide virtual infrastructure that is scalable and delivered as a service. Fixed costs can be converted into a subscription-based approach and upfront capital investments are converted into operational costs. Cloud computing allows banks to pay less for ICT infrastructure and services and achieve higher utilisation on ICT spend. Particularly for small banks in small markets where specialised ICT skills are in short supply, cloud computing can ease a critical operational constraint.

The most compelling reason to move to the cloud is undoubtedly cost savings, but there are other business reasons too. The flexibility of cloud-based operational models allows financial institutions to experience shorter development cycles for new products, which supports a faster and more efficient response to the needs of customers. Cloud computing provides the computer power necessary to deliver analytical insights in real time, which enables financial institutions to move towards a customer-centric model where the financial needs of customers are fully understood. Financial institutions can also gain a higher level of data security, resilience, fault tolerance and disaster recovery from cloud computing.

A few international and African banks have already realised the value of cloud banking. WeBank is China’s first digital bank that is based in a private cloud and uses innovative technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and blockchain, to effect an extraordinarily high volume of transactions at a very low cost. WeBank has been able to run at 95% lower cost than that of traditional banks’ IT operations and has passed this cost saving onto their customers in the form of low account fees. TymeBank is a new digital entrant to the South African banking sector and has made a 56% cost saving compared to other startups by using cloud services from AWS.

Before financial service providers can adopt cloud banking, regulators need to support and approve the use of cloud technology within the financial sector. Some international regulators are already allowing the use of cloud banking in the financial sector. The European Union has been at the forefront of defining an enabling regulatory environment for cloud banking services, which has involved both the regulation on the use of data and privacy and protection of data. Under the regulations, financial institutions have to ensure that consumer personal data is gathered legally and under strict conditions and that consumer data is fully protected. Other developing markets like Turkey and Argentina have adopted similar legal and regulatory environments, which has enabled the use of cloud banking in their financial sectors. 

Africa’s financial sector regulators’ approaches are very much work in progress. The report urges African regulators to develop clear policy positions and regulations on data privacy, risk and security; data sovereignty; cybercrime; protection of intellectual property; vendor risk; and migration complexity and operational risk to enable financial institutions to reap the benefit of cloud banking.

Genesis Analytics is a global African firm that has worked in more than 74 countries across the world, 41 of which are on the continent, and Orange Business Services is a network-native digital services company and the global enterprise division of the Orange Group, connecting, protecting and innovating for enterprises around the world.

The full report can be accessed here

www.genesis-analytics.com

www.orange-business.com

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[South Africa] SA Taxi adopts FICO’s cloud-based solutions to drive lending growth

SA Taxi, a financier of over 10 percent of South Africa’s minibus taxi fleet – the nation’s most affordable public transport used by 15 million people daily – has introduced FICO’s cloud-based decision management solution to drive lending growth of 25 percent. The FICO® Blaze Advisor® Decision Rules Management System has also reduced decision time on applications from two hours down to 10 minutes, while improving controls, capturing rules and creating an audit trail.

Rapid growth had meant the company’s manual processing system was becoming overwhelmed – with a lack of consistent and timely decisions adversely affecting business growth.

“When credit changes were required, they were simply added to the queue with the rest of our IT changes – which always had a higher priority,” said Itumeleng Nomlomo, senior credit analyst at SA Taxi. “This left the business with no option but to resort to manual decisioning, which really constrained our agility and created a number of issues such as inconsistent credit decisions.”

SA Taxi implemented FICO’s Blaze Advisor solution to integrate automated decision-making into its origination process. The decision management solution ensured reliable and consistent credit decisions that were in line with its strategy and business rules. Its cloud-based application lifted the infrastructure burden being placed on the business, which had become considerable. And its flexibility allowed SA Taxi’s business managers to configure rules without development/technical support from FICO, as and when its strategy changed.

“SA Taxi has embraced the power of a cloud deployed solution and reaped the rewards through incredible improvements in agility and efficiency,” said Michelle Beetar, managing director for sub-Saharan Africa at FICO.  “By automating the decisioning element, the team has been able to spend more time on strategy, analytics and enhancing the current process.”

For its achievements, SA Taxi won a 2019 FICO® Decisions Award for Cloud Deployment.

“SA Taxi has overcome the challenge of translating what seems to be a simple idea into a workable solution,” said Denise Sleem, functional specialist Afrocentric Technologies, one of the FICO Decisions Awards judges. “SA Taxi has really impressed by building a flexible solution to support the growth needs of their business and their clients through their digital transformation project.”

www.sataxi.co.za

www.fico.com