How the right monitoring tools can bolster operational resilience in finance

The financial services industry has been under increasing pressure during the past several years to view operational resilience and their risk management postures as being symbiotic in the wake of rising operational incidents and increasingly frequent security threats.

The global financial services sector grew from $20.5 trillion in 2020 to an estimated $22.5 trillion in 2021, mainly due to organizations reassessing their operations as the world started emerging from the impacts of Covid-19 and as regulators sought to institute more compliance policies to rein in risk.

With that growth came increasing scrutiny on the sector to plan for and mitigate the adverse effects of wide-scale disruptions in financial markets. Operational resilience for the finance sector focuses heavily on what the user is experiencing, taking into account factors such as downtime and business continuity but it also relies heavily on risk management practices.

But what exactly does that mean? Operational resilience is at its core about keeping your business in business by understanding your critical services across the enterprise and adapting to any disruptions in real time. But it goes beyond recovery to sustainability of the business during disruptions — crucial for most businesses, but perhaps even more so for financial organizations.

The right performance monitoring practices can bolster risk management strategies,  ensure regulatory compliance, and lead to better end user experiences. Here’s why.

Recognizing the four stages of operational resilience and what do about them

As mentioned previously, the goal behind operational resilience is to identify potential problems before they happen and devise a plan to either mitigate the effects or to allow the organization to quickly recover. Sounds simple enough but these are four stages of operational resilience:

  1. Anticipating problems before they occur. Businesses that figure out what events have the greatest potential of occurring and blocking the organization’s ability to do business are in better positions to recover quickly.
  2. Producing preventive strategies. Once a potential risk is identified, a plan for handling that risk can be established. There can be various levels of resilience from a simple event, such as an IT systems failure, mitigated by redundant hardware and automated processes all the way to large-scale security risks involving more in-depth planning.
  3. Responding and recovering. When an event happens, how long does it take for the organization identify and enact the proper strategy for mitigation and recovery?
  4. Post-incident strategy. After an event has occurred and been successfully contained, it’s important to thoroughly examine what worked according to plan and what might need to be tweaked in the future.

Bar set higher for financial services to deliver reliability across web properties and mobile applications

While most companies require protection against things like reduced access to capital or equity, the financial sector is under greater pressure to protect against decreases in net interest income and credit loss just by the sheer number of daily transactions. In 2021, nearly 18 billion transactions were processed in the U.S. alone.

The finance sector is also typically under greater scrutiny by regulators seeking compliance as well as higher levels of application performance and customer protections following the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 and several recent high-profile security breaches affecting tens of millions of customers.

These factors call for the type of concurrent monitoring that offers a big-picture assessment of problems from multiple locations at the same time for faster problem resolution.  Uptrends provides for Concurrent Monitoring to be enabled easily for any monitor type including synthetic monitors.

The primary benefits of concurrent monitoring for financial organizations is being able to do multiple checks from three or more locations to be tested at the same time. With over 229 physical checkpoints located across key global financial hubs, knowing what real users are experiencing in their part of the world is a tremendously valuable operational resilience tool to have.

Another is high reliability. Simultaneous checks from multiple locations give you a comprehensive view of the uptime, performance, and function for your websites, APIs, and servers. The result is you get more data and faster alerting, which translates to better user experiences.

Neogrid, a SaaS provider that offers automated SCM solutions to financial organizations and other businesses, found this out first hand when an optical fiber link break recently cut off communication altogether out of Brazil. The previous monitoring company that they used before switching to Uptrends didn’t have any checkpoints in Brazil and were not aware of the problem. Uptrends has hundreds of worldwide checkpoints to help identify localized outages, including 13 checkpoints in South and Central America alone.

Simulate business-critical customer journeys with transaction monitoring

It’s a given that the user journey in business-critical transactions is comprised of many steps equally susceptible to occasional failures. Beginning with logins and balance checks to deposits and money transfers, there are numerous opportunities along the clickpath for black holes to appear and halt the journey toward customer satisfaction. Enter Transaction Monitoring.

In order to monitor these critical workflows, it’s important to put them in a script that can be run over and over again to check if everything still works as expected. This is where you can derive important data regarding service levels, system availability and more.

Uptrends offers a transaction recorder — as a Chrome extension— to easily build relevant scripts. Once you’re done recording, you can play back scripted transactions, including all the interactions made by real users and refine it yourself (self-service transactions) or ask Uptrends support to tune the script (full-service transactions). If you’re good at scripting, you can decide to skip the recording and put your own script into a transaction monitor right away.

Why Real User Monitoring should be in your toolkit

Operational resilience doesn’t just factor in performance data, anomalies, and planning on core processes — website uptime, API availability, alert, and notification routing, etc. Without data from users in real time, you cannot develop models of behavior that will allow you to author procedures for incident mitigation and recovery.

Solutions like Real User Monitoring (RUM) harness your actual user’s experience and collect and quantify website performance and user data directly from your site’s visitors, in the actual location that they are accessing your services.

Important metrics can be gained from a local analysis perspective that can be vital in formulating mitigation and recovery processes:

  • Know website speed per country.
  • Load time breakdown per dimension.
  • See exactly where local load times can be improved.
  • Cull rich data, including DOM duration, render duration, time to first byte and page ready time.
  • Track browsers and operating systems used to access your website and how fast your website loads for each of them.
  • Monitor actual mobile experience; inspect load times from visitors accessing your websites from mobile devices.
  • Spot trends in your charts and quickly see your load times during peak business hours.

Go one step further with top to bottom, full-stack monitoring

Active monitoring tools can take action to correct incidents before they become problems, but automated monitoring solutions can also offer financial firms a full picture of any given IT estate — from legacy to cloud-based systems.

ITRS Opsview gives you access to information that allows you to mitigate operational, reputational, and financial risk, shorten issue detection and resolution time, and comply with operational resilience regulations.

Monitor operating systems, networks, cloud, VMs, containers, databases, applications, and more. Over 200 ITRS Opsview-supported Opspacks and 4,500+ plug-ins via Nagios Exchange allow complete coverage where you need it most.

Moreover, it’s flexible, scalable, and user-friendly. You don’t have to be legacy financial powerhouse to take full advantage of a rock-solid monitoring heritage used by the world’s smartest Operations and DevOps teams.

The wrap up

Operational resilience can be a business differentiator protecting both your reputation and revenue streams. Having the right monitoring tools in place can help financial firms take some pressure off of operational resilience strategies by providing a big-picture, holistic view of a given IT estate — whether legacy or cloud-based — to better focus on potential external risks and your ability to adapt to incoming threats.

Operational resilience not only requires potential enhancements to capabilities but, more importantly, it requires a mindset shift in the way your IT teams view and practice cross-department collaboration. Operational resilience is a multi-player effort across an organization and is an outcome of effective operational risk management that must be part of today’s post-epidemic financial enterprise.

Learn more about how Uptrends can help strengthen your operational resilience posture.