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Lecture Delivered By Oleka Ojiogo INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE FINANCIAL SECTOR At the Graduation Ceremony of London Training Centre (LTC) LTD. May 10, 2008.

May 15, 2008, 6:47 AM

The Director, London Training Centre (LTC) Ltd, Chief U.K Emezi- Mbaise, graduating students of LTC, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour to be invited as Guest lecturer at the graduation ceremony of your noble school, London Training Centre (LTC) Ltd. The topic, "Information Technology and The Financial Sector" is very relevant and interesting, considering the recent activities in the Gambia financial services sector. My bank, Access Bank could not have achieved much without a robust information technology base.

Information Technology(Definition)

Information Technology (IT) as defined by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) is the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications, and computer hard ware. IT deals with the use of software to convert, store,protect, process,  transmit and securely retrieve  information.

Financial service industry encompasses a broad range of organizations that are involved in the financial intermediation process. In The Gambia, it will include, commercial banks, insurance companies, microfinance companies, Bureau De Change, money transfer companies, e. t.c.

Modern day financial services would not have gone far without IT. Information technology systems lie at the heart of every financial services system. Financial service organisations deliver their products and services on IT platforms. These applications enable such firms seamlessly manage customer information and

manually managed resulting in delays, mistakes and lost records. Such occurrences are a thing of the past, thanks to IT innovations.

IT enables seamless processing and significantly eliminates manual intervention. This reduces errors in transaction processing and enhances the integrity of customer information. However, it is worthy to note that the right IT platform is not cheap and financial service providers must be willing to invest heavily in information technology.

IT is the conduit through which Banks and other financial service providers are able to deliver various innovative products to customers. The age of the internet and wireless connectivity has taken innovation to a new level. Traditional financial products such as basic savings, current and deposit accounts are no longer what customers are limited to. We are in the age of electronic banking, popularly known as e-banking which is mainly facilitated by IT. E-Banking offers the convenience of conducting most of your banking transactions at a time that suits you. You can access funds and transfer funds between accounts, pay bills and make purchases 24 hours a day, 7 days in a week.

Information processing and communication technologies are being used to enhance existing services, to implement new ones and to make them available in new ways. Technology is the key success factor that has led to rapid changes and growth in the financial sector. Whichever strategy firms choose in the industry in relation to service offering, IT will continue to define the scope of their vision IT has enabled banks link their operations beyond boarders. As the world continue to evolve into one global village, it is pertinent that the financial sector has the vision of operating in an environment that will enable it have access to the global financial super high way. Global Banks are now creating processing hubs that enable transactions to be remotely processed in a different country. India over the years has become a preferred processing hub for several Global Banks . It is very common for a global Bank in the UK to process transactions and handle all system customer service enquiries from India. This significantly reduces the operating costs of these institutions. The right IT compliment is very expensive and as firms continue to expand it is pertinent for survival to articulate a  run.

As competition increases in the financial service sector, pricing will be a critical success factor in the market. A robust IT strategy will significantly influence the ability of firms to compete.

Telecommunication which is significantly IT based is very key in delivering service in the financial services sector. Firms can only effectively connect across boarders through effective and efficient networks. IT has enabled banks remotely deliver services online virtually from any place. Funds can be transferred in minutes from any location in the world with the right network. This clearly shows the impact of IT.

The Gambia Financial Services Industry

 The Gambia Financial Service Industry has witnessed a lot of changes with the entry of new players which has increased competition and will lead to introduction of a lot of new products. IT will play a vital role in determining the way forward in the Industry. We are already witnessing the introduction of e-banking products in the market.

My Bank, Access Sank With our robust IT platform Flexcube 6.2 has been able to deliver premium products  to our customers. This includes e-banking products such

as;

ATM & CARDS, POINT OF SALE TERMINALS,  INTERNET BANKING, VISA CARDS

This development is in the interest of the industry and the country as banks will require skilled man power to run their IT units thereby generating employment. Staff in the financial services sector must be computer literate to fit into the system. IT platform of banks have to be manned by skilled personnel. The best technology must be supported with the right staff compliment.

As the Gambia financial services industry continue to evolve, the next phase will be to further enhance inter bank transactions which will enable customers remotely execute transfers to other banks without manual intervention, customers should be able to use their ATM cards on any bank's A TM machine or POS terminal, customer will be able to transfer cash from one  bank to the other using their mobile-phones. Again the basis of - this empowerment will be IT.

 Information Technology has a lot of vulnerabilities especially as it relates to financial services sector and every platform must address security issues that potentially expose the IT infrastructure. This includes the activity of hackers who can evade the data base of a bank and steal customer information for fraudulent purposes. It will also include activity of malicious individuals who through the internet and other devises can attack any system by deploying sophisticated virus programs that can collapse the entire IT system. While setting up IT systems and designing products, banks and other financial service providers must do comprehensive analysis to address all potential weaknesses that may lead to such exposures. This underscores the importance of competent IT staff.

Conclusion

The financial services sector would have been moribund

without information technology. IT has created limitless opportunities in this sector and has enabled players respond quickly to the needs of customers. The Gambia financial sector is not an exception and we will continue to see more transformation as the sector explore ways to become more innovative. Without doubt, the acceleration of technology has produce extraordinary effect upon The Gambia economy. This has further been emboldened by 

the vision of the Honourable President of the Republic of the Gambia, Dr Alhagi A JJ Jammeh, to transform the country into the Silicon valley of Africa. There is no limit to value creation with the right IT infrastructure and this creates great opportunity for the economy. Firms must be ready to invest in developing and training local resources to meet the IT challenges in the industry to ensure survival.

IT products have associated risks and firms must put in place robust risk management framework to ensure the integrity of data is secured at all time and that they are not vulnerable to attacks that may lead to system collapse.

As we continue to evolve in the financial services sector, there is no doubt the industry will continue to experience rapid transformation that will make it complete favourably in the Global market, with the right IT infrastructure.

Thank You.

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