AWS for Industries

Dealing with disruption: How financial institutions are using cloud technology to respond to COVID-19 and reshape the industry

“Disruption.” It’s a word that we hear often in the Financial Services industry, typically when we describe innovations that create new markets or value networks that could potentially displace established norms, market leaders, or products. The unprecedented health challenge that the world is confronting today has brought a different type of disruption to the global economy and all of its citizens. It is directly impacting how financial services are delivered today and will shape the way the industry works and interacts with financial consumers in the future.

COVID-19 has disrupted the normal course of business for financial consumers and institutions, each of whom bears a unique set of concerns and requirements they need to address. Financial consumers are focused on access to capital, where time is critical in determining the viability of businesses and continuing their ability to meet financial commitments. Financial institutions are focused on safety, security, resiliency, scalability, and the continued health of their operations. Financial regulators are focused on economic recovery, making capital accessible to those who need it, and ensuring the stability of national and global financial systems. These heightened concerns and requirements translate into increased burdens on the financial system from a technology perspective. The disease is challenging legacy applications and infrastructure in their ability to support both the immediate shift to primarily digital engagement with consumers and the extraordinary volumes and volatility that are challenging global markets.

AWS is working with financial institutions and government and regulatory agencies around the world to help tackle the challenges to the global economy that COVID-19 presents. From enabling remote work, maintaining the operational resilience of mission-critical applications, scaling global market systems to process exceptional volumes, ensuring that digital engagement offers an enriched and easy user experience, and optimizing applications and environments for cost-effectiveness, AWS is collaborating with our Financial Services customers to keep the people and systems that run the global economy working. Today, I want to share some key initiatives that we’re actively working on with our customers. (I’ve intentionally not included the names of these organizations to focus on what is possible and how we can help.) These initiatives include:

Making sure that those who make financial services work, can work

As COVID-19 has impacted citizens around the globe, financial institutions quickly altered workplace protocols, turning to remote work to minimize the impact on day-to-day productivity and ensure the health and safety of their employees. As the pandemic continues, companies are increasingly looking at options for employees to work securely from any location. Whether it is to support work from anywhere, foster global workforce collaboration, achieve agile endpoint management, or ensure business continuity in the face of disaster, organizations want remote work solutions that they can depend on. AWS provides a set of solutions built to help quickly enable remote work for employees, contractors, students, and contact-center agents.

Amazon WorkSpaces, for instance, is a managed, secure Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution that helps mobile and remote employees access the applications they need. With Amazon WorkSpaces, remote workers receive a fast, responsive desktop of their choice that they can access anywhere with an internet connection, anytime, using any supported device. Financial Services institutions need to meet security and data sovereignty requirements for desktop applications and mobile workers. End-user devices present a challenge of risk endpoints, making critical data vulnerable to attack, loss, or theft. With AWS, customers can improve security and remain compliant by centrally managing endpoints without the cost and complexity of on-premises solutions. In response to COVID-19, one of our global investment management customers deployed a remote-working solution for thousands of users in less than one week, providing more than one Amazon WorkSpace per employee while taking a security first approach.

Amazon Connect enables businesses to stand up a fully operational contact center in minutes and operate it virtually anywhere. Agents, supervisors, managers, and administrators can work at home and still perform all their normal contact-center activities. Agents can make and take calls. Supervisors can monitor and coach agents in real time, as if they were sitting in the same office. Managers can view dashboards, run reports, monitor service levels, listen to call recordings, and track performance, all from home. A global systemically important bank (G-SIB) in Europe moved quickly to deploy Amazon Connect in response to COVID-19, enabling its agents to support the bank’s customers from home, with no interruption in service.

AWS Client VPN is a fully managed, pay-as-you-go VPN service that elastically scales to support thousands of remote users. Client VPN is designed to allow employees access to company resources they require, both within AWS and on premises, from any location, with one console to manage all connections. Customers can create Client VPN endpoints, associate them with VPC subnets, and set up authorization rules so your users can access the resources they need – whether they are using laptops or mobile devices.

Making sure that the systems that make the industry work, work in unprecedented times

Financial institutions are working to enable secure, resilient operations during a time of extensive operational challenges such as bank branch closures, spikes in call-center volume, extreme trading volatility, and shifts to large-scale remote-work environments. These organizations rely on AWS to provide the infrastructure and services needed to enable continuous service despite disruption. AWS offers the largest global footprint of any cloud service provider with 76 Availability Zones across 24 AWS Regions. These Availability Zones offer customers an easier and more effective way to design and operate applications and databases, making them more highly available, fault tolerant, and scalable than traditional single-datacenter or multi-datacenter infrastructures. To help ensure customers are taking advantage of AWS services, AWS offers customers the Well-Architected Framework, a consistent approach for customers and partners to evaluate architectures and implement designs for building secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient applications. In the US, as banking and FinTech customers mobilized quickly to support the US CARES Act and lending programs such as the Paychecks Protection Program (PPP) from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Well-Architected Framework has served as a firm foundation for ensuring application resilience.

Making sure that systems that cannot fail, scale

Recent market volatility has required financial markets participants to process unprecedented volumes of trading-related events and is testing the capabilities of risk analytics systems. By building high-performance compute grids for risk analytics using AWS, Financial Services organizations are able to navigate through these conditions and take advantage of cloud-enabled benefits, such as elastic capabilities to scale to peak processing demands at a moment’s notice, automation features to minimize manual processes, and lower costs with a pay-as-you-go consumption model. AWS provides a broad suite of services that can help organizations optimize their risk analytics workloads. A global investment banking experienced significant growth in the volume of risk calculations it needs to perform on a daily basis due to increased market volatility. As a result, it added tens of thousands of Amazon EC2 compute cores to gain additional capacity. It achieved this expansion of its cloud-based high performance computing grid in a matter of days.

Making customer engagement meaningful, when digital is the only option

As financial institutions adjust their operations to ensure business continuity, they are also assessing how to engage with their customers in the most meaningful ways possible, which means providing them with the services they need via digital channels while preserving the most human experience possible. Financial consumers are turning to their trusted institutions not only for access to capital, but also for advice, information, and education in the face of uncertainty. The current crisis highlights the importance of digital capabilities and products and the importance of speed and seamless integration across channels. AWS services such as Amazon Connect, AWS data lakes, Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Pinpoint, and Amazon Lex allow Financial Services institutions to automate and optimize processes, securely capture data from customer interactions, and analyze that data to uncover what is important to users, when it’s important, and which digital channel they turn to for particular needs. Several of our global retail banking customers have rapidly deployed chatbots on AWS that help alleviate pressure on stressed contact centers, providing consumers with information regarding their accounts and financial activities as well as more general answers to their frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 virus.

Making the most of resources in a challenging economic environment

There’s never been a better time to ensure your organization is making the most efficient use of your AWS resources. To get the full benefits of the cloud, it’s essential to:

  1. “Right size” services based on the applications they support
  2. Leverage “elastic” consumption – turning-up and dialing-down resources as required,
  3. Take advantage of AWS’s flexible pricing models – using On-Demand, Reserved, and Spot Instances to effectively manage cost across your application portfolio
  4. Optimize storage tiers for your needs

The AWS Trusted Advisor online tool provides real-time guidance to help provision AWS resources effectively. You can access more AWS resources for cost management through AWS Cost Management and Optimization.

The road ahead

As this situation continues to develop, we remain focused on the safety and well-being of our colleagues, customers, and partners. For more information about Amazon’s actions to support those directly and indirectly impacted by COVID-19, please visit Amazon’s Day One Blog and AWS Initiatives and Response to COVID-19. Learn about our recently launched AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative – a program to support customers who are working to bring better, more accurate, diagnostics solutions to market faster and promote better collaboration across organizations that are working on similar problems.

While together we focus on the tasks at hand, we also recognize that the lessons we learn from this extraordinary moment in history will shape the future of our industry. The Financial Services industry is a leader in bringing innovation to better serve consumers and fuel national and global economies, and technology has long played a key role in this endeavor. For more information about the AWS services mentioned above, or how to work with AWS in support of your firm’s COVID-19 response, please contact your AWS Account Manager or visit AWS Financial Services.

Scott Mullins

Scott Mullins

Scott Mullins is the Managing Director of Worldwide Financial Services Business & Market Development for Amazon Web Services (AWS), where he is responsible for leading the development and execution of AWS’s strategic initiatives in the financial services industry around the world. From beginning his career as an equity trader, to roles in regulatory compliance and owning a P&L as a product manager, Scott’s 22 years in the financial services industry at firms including Nasdaq, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, and Penson Worldwide paved the way for his work in helping financial institutions – from the newest FinTech challengers to the largest systemically important financial institutions – bring new innovative solutions to market, and to modernize the global financial system. As the leader of AWS’ financial services industry specialists, Scott works closely with industry leaders across lines of business and technology, and global regulators and policy makers to transform the industry and evolve the technology that powers it. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Scott is a subject matter expert quoted in industry media, a recognized thought leader at industry events, and serves on the advisory board of the FinTech Sandbox and on the US FDIC’s sub-committee for Supervision Modernization.