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Banking and Technology — Reaching an Inflection Point

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

The banking industry today is one of the drivers of innovation in Information Technology in Canada and around the world. Yet, many of the established big banks have legacy systems that threaten to drag them down in the coming tsunami of change. In times of great change and confusion, there are opportunities for the wise consultant.

It wasn’t that long ago that banks were using green-screen technology and were still doing so long after rolling out the first ATMs. They weren’t often thought of as being leading-edge users of newer technology; after all, they needed certainty of operation, maximum uptime, few errors. Bleeding-edge technology was often a bit risky in these respects. Furthermore, the processing that they did need required very large and very expensive (and very consistent/predictable) mainframe computers. They were a large investment that was needed to scale with the banks’ growing businesses. Much of this changed with advent of internet banks who limited the physical requirements of typical brick-n-mortar facilities and offered ubiquitous convenience of anytime, anywhere banking (providing you had access to the internet). These new banks were nimble, technologically-advanced and great marketers. Seemingly all-of-a-sudden, new products, new ways to reach people, and new technology became key differentiators for market disrupting upstarts and innovation became a necessity to the slower-to-change institutional banks.

Number of ICT Workers in CanadaThe big banks’ world was changing and they were being ‘leap-frogged’ by these borderless entities. The change was on! Today, Toronto and Montreal have a large share of the IT talent supply in Canada (45%+ of all talent in Canada) and at least some of this is the result of the strength of demand/needs coming from the strong banking sector. New technology and new ideas are being envisioned, piloted and rolled-out by even the stodgiest of banks. Digital and business transformation, the new paradigm taken up by so many of today’s companies and organizations, is absolutely rampant in the banking industry.

Ok… You’re saying, ‘So tell me something I don’t know’.  Well… How about a short history lesson that might shed some light on what the banking industry may be facing?

For those of us with some grey hair, this situation is quite reminiscent of what happened around the turn of the century in the Telco space. What happened there was that large, ponderous, Regional Bell Operating Companies (to use the old vernacular) had been implementing massive telephone technology systems, incurring huge costs to do so and then amortizing the expense of it all over decades. They had near (or actual) monopolies, long distance calling rates were atrocious, and they had time on their side with little enticement to innovate. Canadian company, Northern Telecom (later Nortel), was a mainstay in the industry, selling their telephony solutions to the world. Then came Internet Protocol (IP)… and the game changed for them and for the RBOC’s, seemingly overnight.

In reality, it wasn’t really all that fast (not by today’s standards) but they were about to be one of the first large industries to learn the lessons that disruptive technology has taught to so many since then. Smaller, more nimble telephone companies began popping up everywhere (CLEC’s – Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) leveraging newer technology that took advantage of high-bandwidth data trunks and new switching technology. Although still expensive, they were able to piggy-back on the networks that the RBOC’s had built (Gov’t regulators demanded the RBOCs allow them to do so). The cost per call was dropping dramatically as a result and data was able to be transmitted in volumes that actually made sense for businesses. The internet had its highways. What came of this was that the well-financed old equipment companies and the quick-and-nimble upstarts were pitted against each other — companies like Nortel coming from the high-reliability world of telecommunications and those like Cisco coming from the world of data-networking. Initially Nortel joked that they’d learn to spell ‘IP’ before Cisco could learn to spell ‘reliability’ and, for the most part, they were able to hold their own. At one-point, Nortel employed over 60,000 people in their research-and-development facility (BNR – Bell Northern Labs) alone. Both sides created great new products. Nortel had age-old client relationships with the telco’s on their side along with excellent quality products, and the likes of Cisco produced innovative and cheaper alternatives. It was the ‘space race’ of the telecommunications industry. Fantastic new products were coming out quicker and quicker… which sounds great …until it wasn’t.

Their customers — the RBOCs and the CLECs — were in a feeding frenzy of buying. It seemed that every 6 months, a better, faster, more progressive solution was coming out. CLECs were leap-frogging the RBOCs to offer better and cheaper service to consumers. Then the RBOCs would leap-frog them back again. The problem for all the players in this industry was that they no longer had time on their side. They didn’t have time to amortize the very high costs of the new technology before the next iteration came out and they were forced to buy/implement/replace or be unable to compete. It was a global race to the bottom and RBOCs and CLECs alike were running out of money — especially the CLECs, many of whom were relatively new business start-ups, part of the dotcom craze. Nortel’s clients couldn’t afford the new gear anymore so Nortel began ‘selling’ their new products and taking equity in these companies as payment. The whole industry and their supply chains became dangerously over-leveraged, a veritable house-of-cards. Then the dotcom bubble burst and most of the CLECs went out of business, dragging the over-leveraged Nortel (and many of their suppliers) down with them.

So, back to the Banking/Finance Industry today. Some of the obvious parallels are the ‘old guard’ who were titans in the industry with wide moats to protect their market share and had relatively little technical innovation for many years. Then come the upstarts, leveraging new technology to change the game. And then the response from the established banks to modernize to be able to compete and, in fact, push on the boundaries of what was possible before. The big banks also have a similar challenge to the Regional Bell Operating Companies, and that is they are somewhat handcuffed by the older, legacy systems that they’d deployed. The new companies don’t have this to worry about. They can move 100% to new technology, whereas the big banks have huge investments tied up in their mainframe technology and, worse, no easy or quick or cheap ways to get off this technology.  As the legacy banks struggle with this piece, the staff that they have managing this infrastructure move dangerously close to retirement — and there are not a lot of Cobol programmers out there ready to step into the vacated roles!

Of course, there are a lot of differences between the Telco and Banking scenarios as well. It has been almost 20 years since the dotcom crash, and everyone has seen lesson after lesson on the disruptive impact technology can have on entire industries, and people are quicker to react to the challenge. And banks are definitely not cash strapped — they have the ability to invest in new technology, in transforming their business, in moving into or out of markets. And, most important to IT experts/contractors, they have the ability to hire many of the best IT people the market has to offer!

Banks, old and new, need to get their technology/business process mix just right. Their continued market success and very survival depends upon it. Innovation = Technology + People. With enough money, the Technology part of this equation is easy… the People part is what is strategically important! As I mentioned earlier, in times of great change and confusion, there are opportunities for the wise consultant.

Disclaimer:

I’m going to pre-acknowledge (before anyone chooses to call me out) that, for the purposes of this blog post, I’ve oversimplified the Telco/Nortel/Cisco/market crash scenario. There were many, many additional factors that played out. However, this is how I remembered it and the lessons that I took away. I worked during those years for Northern Telecom, and a failed CLEC (Norigen), and was part of companies (Anixter and ADNS – Ameritech Data Networking Solutions) building out the data-highways to which I refer in this blog post. I was part of the industry at that time and lived through the ups and downs of it. So, I ask that I be allowed to share my opinion based on what I witnessed directly.

That said, if you have other opinions or experiences of your own and would like to share with our readership… please do so by leaving a comment below!

Some of the Best IT Jobs are in Canada’s Financial Sector

 

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Interested in a Technology Career in the Banking Industry? Get an Exclusive Invitation to a Networking & Hiring Event in Toronto

Some of the Best IT Jobs are in Canada's Financial Sector

Forget everything that you thought you knew about working in a big bank’s Technology Group. The financial world has changed and FinTech is driving the way they do business!

The traditional banking model is undergoing massive change. Banking clients expect more from their banks than ever before so getting the right technology in place is more critical now than ever. Being ahead of the game in technologies including AI, mobile apps, data analytics and cloud computing is a huge differentiator for banks and is essential in gaining an edge over their competitors.

In the past, banks followed and implemented the latest technologies as they were released. Now, Canadian banks are actively involved in building the latest technologies. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and waiting, they’re putting themselves at the forefront of change by getting involved with technology labs like CommunitechMaRS Discover DistrictOneEleven and DMZ.  Several banks have also launched digital factories and innovation labs of their own to help cultivate ideas that address clients’ needs, as well as streamline processing all with a focus on technology.

Eagle works with all of Canada’s top banks and in the past year, we have seen a massive influx of both contract and permanent opportunities with their technology groups.  The focus has changed from merely acquiring the latest technology to leading technology innovations. Banks offer ambitious techies the opportunity to lead the way with new developments in AI and blockchain, and be part of creating new software.

For instance, many banks are employing an increasing number of data scientist and data engineers.  The engineers and developers work in an active DevOps environment where code can be deployed in months… and sometimes even weeks.  The technology world, in large part due to FinTech, has changed and the Banks are evolving with it. Teams are agile and work in cross functional groups. The technology environment within today’s banks resembles the environments traditionally associated with Silicon Valley companies such as Google.

There are great career opportunities at all of Canada’s major banks.  Many offer hard core technology resources the chance to be part of a culture shift and take their career to the next level, while being supported by institutions with long histories and sound financial backing.

Eagle is currently working with a major banking client to build an exclusive guest list for an upcoming IT networking and hiring event. As well as the opportunity to meet with the organization’s top hiring executives, attendees will enjoy the opportunity to hear from an industry-leading Big Data guest speaker and will gain preferred access to current full-time job openings in the data space. For the opportunity to attend this event, complete this quick online form.

Exciting times are ahead within the technology groups in all of Canada’s major banks.  When you consider your next job move, take a fresh a look at this exciting industry.  You may find your own little part of Silicon Valley on Bay Street.

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3 Reasons Why You Need a Business Bank Account

This post by Nellie Akalp originally appeared on the Freshbooks Blog in February 2017

Keeping It Professional: 3 Reasons Why You Need a Business Bank AccountAs a small business owner or freelancer, you probably encounter a lot of overlap between your business finances and personal finances. On the surface, it seems simpler to just have one bank account—after all, it’s a centralized place to keep tabs on client payments that come in, and personal and business expenses that go out.

However, there are several reasons why you must separate your business finances from your personal finances. For one, having a business bank account will separate itself from your personal assets, while streamlining your tax records. But that’s not all. Below are the three reasons why opening a business bank account is crucial for your business and your financial sanity.

Reason #1: A Business Bank Account Keeps the “Corporate Veil” Intact to Protect Your Personal Assets

Many small business owners form a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation because it helps shield their personal assets from things that might happen in the business—for instance, if the business is sued or can’t pay its debts. This is known as a “corporate veil” since it forms some separation between the business owner and the business.

In order to keep that personal liability protection, you need to properly maintain your LLC or corporation. This includes drawing a clear line between your business finances and your personal finances. By creating a business bank account, you ensure that your business is its own entity and separate from you as an individual.

In addition, if your business is ever sued, the plaintiff may try to pierce your corporate veil by showing you haven’t maintained the corporation/LLC to the letter of the law. In this case, they can go after your personal assets. In instances like this, that’s why it’s absolutely critical for LLCs and corporations to keep business finances completely separated from personal finances.

Reason #2: A Business Bank Account Helps You Stay Organized Come Tax Time

Combining your personal account and business account is asking for more trouble that you’d think. Ultimately, combined accounts make it harder to stay on top of your books come tax time.

You may find yourself spending countless hours wading through the past year’s transactions—including personal trips to the grocery store—just to find business expenses to write off. Having separate accounts streamlines your recordkeeping which, at the end of the day, saves you time and ensures you won’t miss any legitimate deductions.

Reason #3: A Business Bank Account Gives You More Credibility to Your Paying Clients

When you’re running a business, it can look a tad unprofessional to pay your contractors with a personal check or have your clients write a check to you as an individual. Will this ever be a deal breaker? Probably not. But, having a dedicated business banking account can send the right signals as you scale your operations and evolve from freelancer to business owner.

As a side note, if you’re running your business as a sole proprietorship, you don’t legally need a separate bank account for your business, but it’s still a good idea for the second and third reasons. Having a business bank account can help make your case to the IRS that you are indeed running a business and are entitled to deduct your business expenses should you ever be audited.

You Ready? What You Need to Open Your First Business Bank Account

Opening a business bank account is a relatively simple process. To make things easier, you can open an account at the same bank where you already have a personal account, so you only have to deal with one institution. Alternatively, you may receive reduce banking rates if you belong to a professional group or organization—such as a group for writers, veterans or performers. Check if they offer access to business checking services through a specialized credit union. This can be a great option.

No matter where you choose to open your business account, you’ll need the following documentation:

  • Your company’s EIN (or Federal Tax ID number).If you don’t already have an EIN for your business, you’ll need to get one from the IRS. You shouldn’t use your personal social security number to open a business account.
  • Articles of Organization / Articles of Incorporation.If your business is structured as an LLC or Corporation, then you’ll most likely need your Articles of Organization/Articles of Incorporation that’s signed and stamped from the state. You may also need to show your Operating Agreement.
  • Certificate of Good Standing.In some cases, you may also need to get a certificate of good standing from the state. This documentation essentially says that your business is up to date on its state taxes and other requirements.
  • Tax ID, social security number, DBA.If your business is structured as a sole proprietorship, you’ll need less documentation, since sole proprietors are considered more like consumers than a business. In this case, you’ll most likely need a Tax ID, social security number, as well as a DBA (Doing Business As) registration if you’re using a business name that is different than your personal name.

As your business grows, it’s crucial to build a proper legal and financial foundation. Opening a separate bank account is one small step in that direction, and will help keep your books organized, as well as ensure your business and personal lives remain separated. In addition, opening a bank account will help form your business’ credit history—a big milestone should you ever want to take out a business loan or line of credit in the future.

About the Author: Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business expert, professional speaker, author and mother of four. She is the Founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service and recognized Inc.5000 company. At CorpNet, Nellie assists entrepreneurs across all 50 states to start a businessincorporateform an LLC, and apply for trademarks. She also offers free business compliance tools for any entrepreneur to utilize. Connect with Nellie on LinkedIn.