By Kathy Gibson – Standard Bank plans to migrate production workloads that include customer-facing systems and strategic core banking application to the cloud, and has signed up Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its preferred cloud provider.

Group CIO Alpheus Mangale believes Standard Bank could be the first financial institution in South Africa, if not Africa, to announce a cloud migration of such magnitude.

He adds that the bank will be making additional announcements around cloud and new partnerships in the coming weeks.

The ultimate outcome of the AWS cloud partnership will be accelerated innovation and better customer experience, he adds.

Cloud will allow the bank to leverage services like machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). This will include using Amazon SageMaker for off-the-shelf services such as fraud detection or to drive new business initiatives.

Mangale cites, as an example, being able to track customer interactions with the bank so the correct products or services can be offered at the right time.

Importantly, he believes that the ability to provide cloud services will help the bank speed its development initiatives, to quickly develop tailored services and solutions.

“IT has tended to respond slowly to customer requirements,” Mangale says. “With cloud, we will be able to quickly spin services up in the cloud.”

Among the services he envisages are personalised offerings that take into account all the customer’s circumstances. “By using analytics predicated on customer requirements, we will be able to offer the services they require at the point of need.”

The first such services are already in testing and will be launched to customers soon.

“The shift in terms of cloud is already here,” Mangale adds. The bank has already migrated its forex capability and internal productivity tools to the cloud.

However, the AWS partnership signifies that the move is scaling up now – although Mangale cautions that the journey will take some years to complete. “We need to consider the workloads to migrate and ensure compliance.”

The migration to AWS will take place across all business units, subject to approvals from local regulators, including personal banking, wealth, corporate investment banking, and insurance.

Standard Bank migrated its core banking systems to SAP within the last five years, Mangale adds, and this had enabled the move to the cloud.

SAP is available in the cloud now, and Mangale believes most independent software vendors (ISVs) will soon follow suit.

As part of the move, an AWS Cloud Centre of Excellence will be established within the bank, featuring a dedicated team focused on facilitating the migration to the cloud and building AWS training and certification programs to up-skill all employees.

AWS and Standard Bank Group will also collaborate on building an education and digital skills program, to be launched across Southern Africa, to train the next generation of African cloud experts.

Our vision is to be Africa’s leading financial services organisation and to achieve this we have chosen to work with the world’s leading cloud,” says Sim Tshabalala, group CEO of Standard Bank. “For Standard Bank Group to remain a leader in African financial services, we recognize we need to adopt a cloud-first approach to our business.

“AWS Cloud technology will create a springboard for Standard Bank Group, helping us to rapidly roll out our digitisation and data strategy to better cater to customers whose needs are constantly evolving.

“The combination of AWS’s rapid agility and high levels of security, combined with Standard Bank’s customer obsession and desire to constantly raise the bar, will allow us to build Africa’s financial services organisation of the future and to be positioned as more than a bank.”

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, comments: “The cloud is transforming the financial services industry as organizations look for new ways to enhance customer experiences, and power their entire enterprise operations more efficiently and effectively on the world’s leading cloud.

“Standard Bank Group has been a trusted financial institution for more than 150 years. We look forward to working closely with them as they become Africa’s first bank in the cloud, leveraging AWS to innovate new services at a faster clip, maintain operational excellence, and provide secure banking services to customers around the world.”