Oh, what a night!

This year’s Financial Sector Technology Awards held more than excitement for the shortlisted financial institutions and suppliers – it was a very important night for the organisers. For as the clock struck 8pm, Editor Sophie Baker officially launched FStech, the new branding for the magazine.

You have probably seen the branding around – on the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine, on the website and on our new business cards – but this was the real deal: FST is no more, but long live FStech!

But back to the Awards – we celebrated excellence and innovation across the financial sector; from anti-fraud and security strategies to the best use of IT in retail banking, via the Award for systems integration of the year.

We decided to mix things up a bit by adding some supplier categories. We celebrated cloud computing innovation, risk management solutions, innovative products and technology providers in general. On the financial institution side, we decided to launch an Award reflecting a trend we have seen in the industry gathering pace over the last year: social media, and we also added our first ‘creative’ Award – the Employee’s Choice Award. We asked you to let us know why your company was the best one to work for – and you didn't let us down.

The event attracted representatives from Nationwide, NAG, Barclaycard, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Lloyds Banking Group, LMAX and RBS.

Handing out the 22 trophies was our returning host for the evening, Hugh Dennis, best known for his roles in TV’s Outnumbered sitcom, My Hero, The Mary Whitehouse Experience, and for his work on the satirical programmes Mock The Week and The Now Show. Hugh worked the audience by poking fun at IT’s hermit-like reputation. He chose to update us on the happenings in the real world, with information on Gordon Brown’s loss of power, a risqué postcard he received from a friend about their trip to Thailand, and decided to update us with some personal information…but best to leave that in the memories of those who attended!

Alongside all the laughter, however, the event had a serious side, recognising the best IT practices in the financial services space in the UK and Europe – a sector that drives a major part of these economies and finances new developments. The judges, which this year included Sarb Sembhi of ISACA and Chris Skinner of the Financial Services Club, were looking for innovative IT projects that delivered definable business benefits. All of the teams present took part in leading-edge IT projects that provided real advances and demonstrated excellence in their own field – even getting shortlisted from the hundreds and hundreds of entries we received was an achievement.

The Awards presentation was followed by dancing until dawn (well, 2am…) and a fun casino – but my resounding memories of the evening are the celebration and cheers of approval for and from our worthy winners.

The Winners
We set out on the evening by considering some of our most pioneering and original technology projects with the Award for the Most Innovative Solution of the Year. This new category was designed to recognise those firms that have responded to market pressures with originality and creativity. We opened the 2011 Awards with a highly commended, which went to The Bunker. John Colley, CISSP managing director for our sponsor, (ISC)² then announced that the winner was Fundtech, for its innovative use of GPS to detect fraud, and presented the Award to business development manager, Anthony Campbell.

The next Award also featured a highly commended, with congratulations going to PensionsFirst for their success in the field of Most Innovative Data Intelligence Product of the Year. This new Award recognised a technology supplier that has delivered innovation to the financial sector through a particular product, service offering or overall business approach. The winner, announced by Neira Jones from Barclaycard, one of our judges for the Awards, was Fidessa, and collecting the trophy was Darren Newby, product manager.

Cloud Computing Innovation of the Year came next, and the Award was presented by our judge, Chris Skinner, chairman of the Financial Services Club. Judges looked at new strategies, evidence of success by utilising the cloud, and case studies where applicable. The winning entry would be one that demonstrated how the cloud computing innovation has brought customers cost and efficiency benefits. Chris announced that the judges’ decision was unanimous, with a win thanks to clear time benefits, addressing security issues and regulatory compliance. The winner was BT Group, and joining Chris on stage was Andy Nicholson, president, global banking & financial markets at BT.

Next up was the Award for Risk Management Software of the Year, a new category which recognised success in the development, implementation and running of risk management software for the financial sector. Judges looked for evidence of how software has been developed to best benefit the financial sector. This category carried yet another highly commended Award – presented to Vichara Technologies. The winner, however, demonstrated that they were addressing a part of the industry that others are not, and had undertaken some real ground-breaking work. Announcing the winner was Steve Good, advertising manager at Perspective Publishing magazine, Financial Risks Today, and collecting was Shuyan Liang who is assistant vice president, Professional Services, at our winning firm PensionsFirst.

Our next Award celebrated the Datacentre/Storage Innovation of the Year, and on stage to present was Stephen Murgatroyd, business system designer, and one of our judges. This award recognised the best use of server networking technology and/or the best use of cabling technology by a financial services provider in a single or multi-site environment. The installation could be of any size, using any form of networking technologies. Stephen announced that the winner was Lloyds Banking Group for its huge project, and collecting the Award was Colin Everett, head of infrastructure.

Onto the award for Best Use of Networking/Cabling, and Mark Evans, one of the judges and publishing director at Perspective Publishing was welcomed on stage. This award recognised the best use of server networking technology and/or the best use of cabling technology by a financial services provider in a single or multi-site environment. The installation could be of any size, using any form of networking technologies. Mark announced that the winner was NYSE Euronext, thanks to its entry which demonstrated complexity and scale. Collecting the trophy onstage were Tariq Rashid, Darren Harkins, Dominic Edwards and Timothy Williams.

We then moved onto Systems Integration Project of the Year, an Award sponsored by Eptica. This award highlighted the most effective project to integrate disparate systems by a financial services provider. Projects involving the integration of legacy systems into e-business projects were eligible for entry, as were projects to integrate systems from different businesses, whether to facilitate operations with business partners or in the aftermath of a company merger. Paul Barnes, Managing Director, UK & Eire at Eptica presented the Award to a winner with a vast project – Lloyds Banking Group. The trophy was collected by Tony Virdi, VP Banking & Financial Services, UK & Ireland, Cognizant Technology Solutions UK Ltd.

Next up was Best Use of CRM Technology, and presenting the Award, from Perspective Publishing magazine Retail Systems, was editor Scott Thompson. This award looked for the most innovative and effective application of Customer Relationship Management technologies by a financial services provider, via either established or new delivery channels. Scott explained that the winner of this trophy delivered a project that was on time, scalable and had an affinity partnership that presents opportunity for growth. All this and it provided return on investment. The winner was Ageas Insurance Solutions, and collecting was Jason Banwell, managing director.

Compliance Project of the Year was next on the agenda, and presenting the Award was Paul Braham, director of IT and Professional Services, for our sponsor, Ricoh UK. The judges looked for an entry that demonstrated how the strategic use of technology has enabled compliance with governmental regulations, such as MiFID, SEPA, Basel III, the anti-money laundering protocols, or the raft of new rules introduced post-crunch (e.g. liquidity requirements). Paul presented the trophy to National Australia Group Europe for its project which the judges said could be used as a basis for further projects, and receiving were Ian Jones and Pauline McCrossan.

The next Award was for Outsourcing Partnership of the Year, which saw Adrian Quayle, NOA Board Member, announce the winner as Metro Bank with niu Solutions, for its scalable model. Aisling Kane, chief operations officer at Metro Bank received the trophy. This will reward the most effective relationship between a financial services provider and an outsourcing company. In judging, the panel looked for an entry that demonstrated how the partnership has helped the financial institution improve business processes, enhance customer service, reduce costs and further the organisation’s opportunities for future business success. Nominations could be on- or offshore and involve contact centre operations, security or back office administration, amongst other things.

Our sponsor Virgin Media Business gave the next Award away, with Mark Heraghty, managing director, presenting our new category, Best Use of Customer Communications and Social Networking Technology. This award recognised effective implementation of communications technology and/or social networking technologies by a financial services institution of any size and type. The category is open to traditional telecommunications projects as well as implementations involving VoIP, SIP, IM, mobile technologies, Facebook, Twitter, and PDA applications. Our winners showed customer focus and excellent knowledge sharing across the board, and receiving the trophy were Håkan Aldrin, managing director and Lars Millberg global head of GTS at SEB for The Benche.

Judge and head of Capgemini Financial Services UK and Ireland, Andy Lees, presented the Award for Best Use of IT in Insurance to Ageas Insurance Solutions, welcoming Jason Banwell, managing director, back to the stage. The efficient delivery of their service and the scalability made this a winning entry, the judges said. The judges looked for how the strategic use of technology has brought their company cost benefits, improved internal processes, enhanced customer service (where applicable) and helped further that organisation’s opportunities of future business success.

Next we welcomed Simon Barrows, one of our judges and business unit architect – UK Retail Banking at Lloyds Banking Group, to the stage, who presented the Award for Best Trading System. This award was judged on the best trading system, whether it is installed internally at a wholesale bank or into the general financial markets for wide-scale use. The winner was chosen for addressing a gap in the market, and Simon presented the Award to Martin Thompson, CTO at LMAX.

We moved onto Payments Innovation of the Year, another new category for 2011. Judges looked for evidence of new technology in the payments sector, demonstrations of innovation in the space with information on the issues leading to development, how the solution aims to meet the sector’s needs, with details of performance where possible and evidence of how the end consumer has benefited from implementation. Tony Virdi, VP Banking & Financial Services, UK & Ireland at our sponsor Cognizant Technology Solutions UK Ltd, announced a highly commended to Bank Zachodni WBK. The winner, Tony announced, was chosen for capturing the future with its impressive telecoms tie-up – collecting the Award for Barclaycard was Thomas Gregory, head of Digital Payments.

Anti-fraud/Security Strategy of the Year came next, and on stage to present was our sponsor Pirean. This award recognised the best internal or external anti-fraud/security strategy implemented by a financial services provider to protect the customer from phishing, ID theft or similarly fraudulent scams, or a financial institution from service attacks or money laundering. The judges looked for evidence of how anti-fraud technology, such as biometrics or two-factor authentication solutions, and processes have helped protect the end user and comply with regulations. Mike Cartwright, CTO of Pirean Software, said timing was of the essence when it comes to this Award, and announced that the winner was Nationwide Building Society. Collecting the Award was Mike Healey, sales director at Adeptra Limited.

At this point, we were nearing the end of our Awards with the Banking categories. First up was Best Use of IT in Retail Banking, and presenting was our sponsor, FIS. This award will recognise the most effective use of IT in bringing business benefits to a financial services provider, regardless of size, in a retail banking environment. Richard Copper, vice president, International Marketing Strategy at FIS, said the winning entry displayed an innovative approach to banking with instant issuance from desktop. Judges were impressed by immediate generation and links to processing hubs, they said it was cutting edge, customer-centric and did everything other banks could do but faster. The winner was Metro Bank with Temenos T24, and collecting the trophy were chief operations officer at Metro Bank Aisling Kane, and sales director at Temenos Des Noctor.

Next up was Best Use of IT in Wholesale and Investment Banking, an Award that highlights the most effective use of IT in improving business processes within wholesale banks, trading houses, fund managers, investment banks and other similar companies. Judge and past-president of ISACA London Chapter, Sarb Sembhi announced that Lloyds Banking Group had triumphed thanks to an outstanding piece of infrastructure on a huge project. Returning to the stage to collect the trophy was Colin Everett, head of infrastructure.

The Award for IT Team of the Year was up next, and Patrick De Bruycker, senior business continuity professional, presented the trophy to a team who demonstrated their robust project and clear timescale. The judges were looking for a team that had proven their excellence in the delivery and/or support of IT services over the course of the last year, and that demonstrated good collaboration skills and a clear vision of how technology can be applied to ensure business benefits. HSBC walked away with the Award, and receiving was Shane Lamont, Global Head of Credit Risk IT at HSBC.

Our final supplier category was for Technology Provider of the Year, presented by Sonia Patel, advertising manager at FSTech magazine. This category rewarded the provider deemed to have had a successful year in serving the financial sector. Judges looked at examples of new products and strategies, evidence of how they have been received by the industry, and performance for 2010/11. After much deliberation, the panel settled on a winner. Not only are they extremely innovative, but their approach is tried and tested and ultimately successful – and Sonia announced that the 2011 winner of this new category was Temenos. Mark Gunning, global director, business solutions at Temenos, collected the trophy.

Now we were onto the special categories for the evening – beginning with our interactive Award, the Employee’s Choice Award for Outstanding Financial Company to work For. Presenting from our sponsor Church International was Chriss Andrews, Chriss Andrews, CEO – director recruitment and search services. This category was the only FSTech Award voted for by industry employees. In association with Church International, it is awarded to the firm considered to be the best financial company to work for. The Award was open for entry by employees of financial companies, and the winner was decided by votes cast online. Chriss announced that the winner was Moneybookers, and the trophy was collected by human resources manager Agata Henschel and recruiter Emma Lyall.

Our penultimate Award celebrated the Barry Holland Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement. This award recognises the contribution of an individual to the financial services industry, looking at his or her role in the successful implementation of projects and strategies since 2000. The award commemorates Barry Holland, an advisor to FSTech and four-time awards judge, who sadly passed away on 4 August 2010. Presenting the Award was last year's winner, Wil Cunningham, Data Centre and Network Optimisation, at Lloyds Banking Group. He announced that Colin Everett, head of Infrastructure at Lloyds Banking Group had been named the winner.

The final Award of the evening was for the Overall Winner at the FSTech Awards 2011. Editor Sophie Baker announced that the winner was chosen for its completion of two outstanding projects over the last year, which had already been recognised earlier in the evening, and for breaking successfully into a difficult market. The winner was Metro Bank. Returning to the stage, with project partners Temenos and niu Solutions, was Aisling Kane, chief operations officer at Metro Bank.

So a big thank you to the sponsors, the judges, those who organised a fantastic evening, and to all our entrants for making the FSTech Awards 2011 such a success. Winners or not, the shortlist showed innovation and achievement over the last year, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with for the Awards in 2012.

We have already set our date – so make sure you mark Thursday 28 March 2012 down in your diary for another evening of celebration.

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