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10/9/2012
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Consumers Pushing Banks To Internet Scale: Financial CTO

Yobie Benjamin, global CTO for a large financial institution, recently joined David Berlind and Fritz Nelson on the set of InformationWeek's Valley View to discuss his top priorities.

Between significant upheaval (especially on the mobile payments front) and the imposition of seemingly impossible regulations, the banking industry is currently undergoing one of the most evolutionary periods in its history. Managing a global financial institution's technology portfolio while at the same time meeting the cutting-edge expectations of increasingly savvy customers (both consumers and business) is enough to keep any technologist up at night. Especially a global CTO like Yobie Benjamin.

Benjamin recently joined Fritz Nelson and David Berlind on the set of InformationWeek's Valley View to talk about his top priorities. Among those priorities is getting his company to Internet scale.

The way Benjamin describes it, the user experience that consumers are seeing on their iPads is setting bank customers' technological expectations. Not only must everything be available across the Internet, both the user experience and the speed must be uncompromising. For example, according to Benjamin, much the same way Internet users are accustomed to getting sub-500ms performance out of websites like Google, the same is expected of his bank's online applications.

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Unfortunately, getting to Internet scale is easier said than done. One of Benjamin's biggest challenges is reconciling his institution's large, expensive, proprietary technology portfolio with the low-cost open source solutions that not only run the Internet, but that have helped other companies like Facebook scale quite well. The regulatory environment that Benjamin must operate in doesn't make things any easier.

Another priority for Benjamin is making sure that his bank systems are well-tuned to handle whatever innovations come out of the mobile- and micro-payment sectors. According to Benjamin, he meets with hundreds of startups that promise to reinvent how banking and payments are done and they all think they're going to disrupt the status quo. However, most of them forget that at the end of the day, all transactions are backed by financial institutions like his; in other words, the "status quo."

On the question of which payments infrastructure will survive in the long run (referring to Google's, Apple's, Amazon's, and PayPal's), Benjamin says not to worry; most merchants will end up taking all of them because they'll take anything that adds to their cash flow. Benjamin cites the credit card industry as the history that will repeat itself. Merchants started by taking Bank Americard which eventually became Visa. Then, it was Visa/Mastercard. Then American Express. Then Discover Card, and so on.

Make sure to tune into our October Valley View, on October 24 at 11 am Pacific Time, where we'll have more startups -- including Taptera (enterprise mobile applications), Alteryx (big data), and Hearsay (social enterprise). We'll also feature conversations with Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Oracle president Mark Hurd. You can also register for the October Valley View show and have a chance to win some excellent gear.

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