IT Assessment Revolutionizes Banking Infrastructure

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If you’re in IT leadership at a community bank or credit union, you know how hard it is to find the right managed IT service partner to augment your operations. Finding an IT partner that understands your regulatory and operational challenges is hard enough. Then, before you sign your contract, they’re likely to upsell you on getting a paid assessment on top of all your other startup expenses. A paid assessment will likely cost you a few thousand dollars and take a few weeks off your startup times, but your MSP strongly recommends it. Should you bite the bullet and pay for an assessment? Or just let your new MSP learn as they go?

In our experience, a paid assessment is nearly always worth the investment. The money you pay for an assessment nearly always pays you back through smoother onboarding, better planning/implementation, and overall better system optimization. With the intense scrutiny banking IT faces, you’ll be glad to have an IT partner minding your system governance from the get-go.

But a cut-and-paste, standardized IT assessment won’t do. Community banks and credit unions have specific IT needs, and your assessment should be taking all that into consideration. Here’s what you need to look for in a FI-ready IT assessment.

 

How IT Assessments for Banks Are Different—and Why Should You Pay For Them

 

Do you get what you pay for with free assessments? We think so. Starting your MSP relationship off with just a cursory review is a recipe for mistakes and extra costs down the line. This is particularly true in the financial services vertical, which has some of the highest regulatory stakes.

Look for an MSP that has demonstrated expertise in working with community banks and credit unions—and has an IT assessment product/process that compares your infrastructure against IT best practices set by the industry. Find this, and you’ll have the tools you’ll need to make a meaningful transformation in your business.

 

#1—Regulatory Compliance

 

Preparing for your yearly regulatory reviews is one of the most important—and stressful—tasks your IT department faces. When you get a paid assessment, your MSP should compare your IT operation against the regulatory asks that are most likely coming down the pike. When they present you with your finished assessment, you should have actionable suggestions to help you:

  • Prepare for your FFIEC review
  • Anticipate upcoming regulatory changes, allowing institutions to stay ahead of the curve.
  • Address gaps in written policies and documentation.

 

#2—Usage and Capacity

 

Today’s consumer expects real-time banking solutions with a zippy client interface that works on any device, at home or away. This is critically important in an era where most people don’t carry cash and expect instant access to their online banking platforms. Ensuring your network is robust, scalable, and accessible is crucial. An in-depth assessment can help point out the gaps in your system by:

  • Evaluating current bandwidth usage
  • Predict future demand based on growth projections
  • Recommending infrastructural enhancements or cloud solutions as needed

This kind of evaluation can be particularly helpful if you have major projects, expansions, or new product introductions on the horizon. A forward-looking review of your system can help you build the foundation for your success.

 

#3—Cybersecurity

 

It goes without saying that banks are prime targets for cybercriminals. A proactive stance is vital; an assessment can go a long way toward hardening your cybersecurity infrastructure. A detailed assessment will:

  • Evaluate your current defense mechanisms and compare them against the cybersecurity standards set by regulators
  • Recommend state-of-the-art cybersecurity solutions tailored to financial institutions
  • Show you where the gaps and incompatibilities are in your system and recommend remediations
  • Evaluate the latest monitoring from your existing tools to determine how well they are patched and working
  • Assess employee cybersecurity training and awareness programs and where your team might be lacking in knowledge.

This kind of information can be vital. Imagine, for instance, that a major phishing scam just hit a bank. A paid assessment would help identify the gaps in your training and suggest the right program to help remediate the problems and set new KPIs for cybersecurity for your institutions. A paid assessment is nothing if it isn’t specific, actionable, and customized to your particular security challenges.

 

#4—User Experience

 

How well does your mobile app work? Can your employees work safely on your network at their desks, at home, or away? Does your system respond quickly to user commands? How much cloud storage do you have—and is it adequate to run everything? These are just some of the questions that get asked as part of a comprehensive user experience review. Your paid assessment should look at:

  • Platform responsiveness
  • User interface and design compatibility
  • Anticipating future UX trends and ensuring readiness

The best part of having this information is what you can achieve with it afterward. Ask yourself the big questions, like whether or not your mobile app is good enough to reduce the number of people who come into the bank branch.  Or whether your system capabilities make them more likely to add new services or accounts. A good user experience lies at the heart of that.

 

#5—Lifecycle Management

 

When was the last time you did a deep dive on your tech inventory? Efficiently managing the tech lifecycle ensures consistent service delivery. A thorough review will:

  • Identify outdated or redundant equipment, helping you find and eliminate waste
  • Recommend phased technology replacements
  • Find unused or wasted software licenses
  • Ensure seamless onboarding of new solutions without business disruption.

Many banks today are struggling with legacy systems that are causing compatibility issues with the newer software platforms they want to use. The right MSP should be able to assess the situation and help you devise a plan to safely and carefully make transitions to new tools while maintaining trackable inventory management.

 

#6—Risk Management

 

An MSP that understands banking systems can help you find the latent risks in yours. They can look beyond the “first glance” to see where the bottlenecks are in your system, where there’s a lack of redundancies, or where capacity issues threaten to slow your operations down in the long term. A paid assessment can help your bank or credit union:

  • Maps potential risk points—including poor patching/uninstalled fixes, software/hardware that’s out of date, system slowdown points, and more.
  • Suggest preventive measures, including new software and processes.
  • Map out contingency strategies–with budget spend and a specific implementation plan.

#7—Business Continuity

 

Disasters, both cyber and physical, can strike unannounced. How up-to-date is your disaster recovery plan? Many community banks and credit unions fall into a familiar trap, upgrading their systems without upgrading their disaster recovery efforts accordingly. A paid assessment can help your financial institution weather the storm, pinpoint areas where you need to increase your backup capacity, update your written disaster recovery policies, and implement new redundancies. An assessment should include:

  • A review of current data backup solutions, comparing them against your usage patterns
  • A review of your current productivity tools and where data backs up to
  • An assessment of your server health and capacity
  • Recommendations for data storage, backup procedures, and new tools, along with needed budgetary spend

An estimation of how long it would take to get your systems up and running again in the event of data loss, weather events, system outages, or cyberattacks.

#8—Third Party Vendor Reviews

 

One of the great benefits of a paid assessment is that third-party vendor reviews are built in. A solid paid assessment will review all the third-party tools being used on your system, evaluating whether they stand up to your usage, are compatible with your systems, and whether they are compliant with current banking regulations. Many banks rely on third-party solutions. Ensuring their compliance and security is paramount. A detailed review will :

  • Evaluate vendor security protocols against current regulatory requirements
  • Assesses service level agreements to ensure the service being delivered is what you’ve paid for
  • Recommends vendor management best practices for interoperability, patching, monitoring, etc.

The recommendations you get back afterward should tell you whether you need to drop a vendor, buy more of their services, or remediate with more safety protocols. It’s invaluable information and should be just another part of the package you receive.

 

Paid IT Assessments for Community Banks and Credit Unions:  Well Worth the Price

 

In an era where cybersecurity attacks on banks are increasing, year over year, and usage levels are rising, banks can’t afford to skimp on IT planning. A paid assessment is one way to pack major value into your IT spending, providing you with the insight you need to make sweeping improvements in your infrastructure.  An in-depth, paid IT assessment from Integris ensures that your financial institution remains agile, secure, and primed for the future. It’s an investment in foresight, ensuring your IT infrastructure becomes one of the main pillars of your success.

Are you ready to revolutionize your IT financial institution’s infrastructure and prepare for the future? Contact us today for a free consultation, and let’s embark on this transformative journey together.

Susan Gosselin is a Senior Content Writer for Integris. A career communicator and business journalist, she's written extensively on IT topics and trends for IT service providers like Iconic IT and ProCoders Ukraine, as well as business publications such as Technologyadvice.com, Datamation.com, The Lane Report and many others. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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