How SD-WAN is transforming the finance industry

Financial companies are building a network for the long haul

by Nemertes Research

Banks, insurance companies, and brokerage firms want to get closer to their customers and prospects.

Companies specializing in Financial Services Solutions prefer this proximity so they can give customers more flexibility and choice in how and where to interact with them. In order to do this, the businesses need it to be faster, easier, and more affordable to reach out towards customers physically.

This may mean spreading a network of offices further, or deploying more ATMs or kiosks. It will certainly require the ability to deliver innovative services using video and other technologies to all locations, of whatever type.

Software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN), software-defined networking (SDN), and network functions virtualization (NFV) will make the WAN what financial services companies need it to be for the future: flexible, responsive, and agile.

Can your WAN support this?

The WAN is the conduit for delivering innovative new offerings. So, it needs to be available – no network, no services.

The WAN also needs to be high capacity, and able to deliver key applications reliably. Problems such as jerky, variable response rates, or garbled audio, or jaggy, glitchy video make new services unpleasant to use at best, and simply unusable at worst.

Consider the following:

Banking: Enhanced and autonomous branches

Some services, such as making a new car loan or beginning the process of issuing a mortgage, are more consultative and advisory than transactional. Many customers (and some institutions) still strongly prefer face-to-face interactions for such services.

When a branch is too small to have enough foot traffic to justify housing its own auto loan or mortgage specialists, those services could be delivered via telepresence room, leveraging staff in larger branches elsewhere or in a central services center.

Further out, Augmented Reality (AR) headsets might replace telepresence suites, to reduce the physical footprint even further and perhaps make services available to consumers at home, in a coffee shop or airport lounge, or wherever suits them.

Similarly, when a city is too small to support even a minimally staffed branch, a “super ATM” kiosk or lobby might offer remote access to video tellers (as well as those loan and mortgage specialists) to engage customers directly, face-to-face, via video, in the same way some car rental agencies now use virtual desk clerks located in centralized contact centers.

Brokerages: Agent on demand

Along similar lines, a brokerage can expand its reach into cities or neighborhoods too small to support a staffed agency by deploying a virtual broker kiosk to provide remote access to “agent-on-demand” services.

In some places, the right location might be in a bank branch, in others in a mall, department store, or even a municipal building. The network behind the kiosks makes face-to-face, high-touch services available with minimal investment and maximum flexibility and reach.

Insurance: Emergency offices

Agent-on-demand technology can go mobile to get close to disaster zones and recovery efforts, in the age of SD-WAN.

Agencies-on-wheels equipped with satellite dishes and LTE antennae could participate fully in all WAN services, but drive into areas affected by hurricanes, floods, fires, or other disasters. Because they have full network services, they can provide urgently needed support to affected customers, utilizing staff from across the country as virtual agents on site.

Why does your WAN need to evolve?

Its age is showing. It was most likely architected to meet a different set of expectations, with several underlying assumptions:   

  • bandwidth would be scarce and costly 
  • available services would be slow to change 
  • new services would take months or years to roll out 
  • every site would be managed as a unique entity 
  • business could go on without the network 
Going forward, to meet the needs of a more agile business model and more dynamic business environment, WAN design needs to be reframed with a different set of assumptions: 
  • bandwidth is abundant and available in many media 
  • available services will change rapidly 
  • new services can be deployed in days or weeks 
  • IT will manage the WAN holistically 
  • everything depends on the network

SD-WAN powers the future enterprise WAN

Enterprises using SD-WAN will be able to supplement and expand on their backbone connectivity – which will remain MPLS for the next 10 years, for two- thirds of financial services companies – with any and all other available options in a given location, ranging from broadband to LTE.

In addition to making it easier to add bandwidth in a site, SD-WAN manages prioritization and conditioning of traffic, to improve application performance even further. It also, critically, helps protect continuity of service through techniques ranging from traffic replication across multiple paths to sub-second cutover of traffic from a failing link to a healthy one.

Already, in Nemertes Research’s 2017 Cloud and Network Benchmark (involving 625 organizations), more than 27 percent of the more successful financial services companies have begun to deploy SD-WAN; only 16 percent of less successful ones have.

SDN and NFV will power provider services

Service providers leveraging SDN and NFV can develop and deploy (and maintain and improve) new offerings on software rather than hardware timelines. With agile, DevOps approaches, SDN and NFV can mean going from concept to initial offering in a couple of months and with minimal investment, opening the floodgates of innovation.

With SDN and NFV at their core, providers can become more responsive to enterprise needs, making it easier than ever for them to be true deliver clear business value to their customers.

You need this in your WAN

SD-WAN, SDN, and NFV, together create the WAN financial services firms need to drive all their future initiatives. They make both delivery and consumption of WAN services flexible, responsive, and agile, and position the enterprise to succeed for the long term.

Visit the AT&T software-defined network services page to learn more about these emerging technologies.