Ciaran Chu, Head of Public Cloud for ACI Worldwide, explains what Microsoft Azure means for ACI and its customers
As a global provider of real-time payment and banking solutions, ACI Worldwide fully appreciates how the Cloud can grow its business and help banks and other organisations become more agile and enhance their products and services. It’s why ACI is looking to the digital skies as part of a major overhaul of its core business.
“We’re responding to customer demand,” says the company’s Ciaran Chu. “And we’re doing it by focussing on the public Cloud.”
In November, ACI Worldwide announced a strategic collaboration with Microsoft’s partner network programme, becoming one of Microsoft’s 10 global ISV partners in the financial services industry.This means it can expand its Universal Payments (UP) portfolio by licensing it for implementations powered by Azure.
It’s a significant development which opens many Cloud opportunities for ACI.
Banks and other organisations that embrace the Cloud can expect reduced total cost of ownership, greater scalability and improved speed to market.
“We want clients to move away from monolithic systems, which often have high compliance and regulatory overheads,” says Chu, who heads up ACI’s public
Cloud activities. “The result will be a much better customer experience, with the flexibility to access a wider range of applications and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence.”
ACI’s first global Tier 1 bank has already gone live as a result of the Azure collaboration and a second customer is due to follow it during the first half of 2020.
“We have a very busy schedule over the next 12 months,” Chu continues. “We’re going to build on the work done in 2019 to ensure we provide our clients with a simple path to realise the benefits of the Cloud at the pace their business demands. Many of our clients are very keen to migrate to the Cloud, but they don’t know how. By showing that we’re Cloud-enabled, we’re providing the way forward. Our aim is to cement the relationship with Microsoft and, by leveraging the Cloud, show that we are a valued partner to our clients.”
He believes a Cloud-based data system holds some notable advantages when it comes to regulation, which is progressively more onerous as technology evolves and consumer experience becomes more important.
“A decade or so ago, the regulatory environment meant you had to make changes maybe twice a quarter,” says Chu. “Now, we’re seeing more and more regulation, particularly around consumer experience and protection, and particularly in Europe. Thanks to the Cloud, banks can protect consumers without having to spend huge sums on running their own data centres, and they can meet the compliance requirements of card schemes and regulators in both Europe and the US. Cutting the cost of running on-premise data centres and servers is an important benefit of public Cloud computing.”
Despite its growing popularity, many organisations continue, to keep one if not both feet firmly on the ground. Apart from any concerns they may still have around security and privacy, they might just wish to demur on ‘going public’ because they wish to realise existing investments. And Chu understands that. Not everyone will hit the off switch on data centres immediately, he says. A recent ACI study throws some light on the current thinking on, and approach to, migration.
“We solicited views on the Cloud from 1,200 senior executives, 90 per cent of whom said their approach is Cloud-first because they clearly see the benefit,” says Chu. “So, I expect to see a progressive move away from data centres as banks commit to automating and optimising their processes in the Cloud. I’m not saying they’ll totally get rid of data centres, simply that they’ll move from a capex model to an opex model, which will help shareholders and the overall capital position of the bank.”
For smaller financial organisations, and particularly startups, Chu says Cloud technology has lowered the entry level and is creating more opportunities, which in turn is a good thing for consumers. This is where ACI is helping to facilitate change across the payments ecosystem.
“With our real-time focus, we’re harnessing the Cloud across payment scenarios,” says Chu. “That’s why we’re known as the ‘every payment, any possibility’ company –and collaborating with Cloud technology is what is helping us to achieve that level of service.”