Most Bankers Want to Update Their Cores — But Don’t Expect To

  • Philip Ryan
  • April 19, 2016
  • 2

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / rutchapongBankers want modern cores — but most don’t plan to do anything about it.

That’s the slightly depressing conclusion of a recent study by NTT Data Consulting, formerly known as Carlisle & Gallagher.

While 80% of banks plan to assess their core systems within the next three years, just 4% expect to actually replace their cores over that same time period, according to the study.

Innovation is sweeping through financial services, but what factors are holding banks back? On the technical side, some argue the limiting factor is now design, not the technology, but this argument does not factor in the bank core. The problem is not the user interface on the mobile app, it’s the COBOL controlling batch processing of deposits.

Among other issues, antiquated core technology prevents realtime payment processing, a uniform cross-channel customer experience, and hobbles bank customer representatives trying to help frustrated customers. As a banker recently noted dryly, “There are still green screens running systems at a lot of banks — it’s just that customers can’t see them.”

NTT Data surveyed 114 bankers and 1,,010 consumers about their expectations regarding features and services. The conclusion, not surprisingly, was that consumer expectations are rising, and a consistent experience across channels is needed. Blame services like Apple Pay, Circle and Venmo, which make banking seem simple. Bankers’ expectations are rising too, and the limiting factor is the core system.

Here are the limitations bankers identified with an 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10. All can be tied to the core deposit system.

  • Cost of responding to regulatory – 35%
  • Cost of maintaining legacy systems – 29%
  • Complexity of integrating with other systems – 29%
  • Cost of product development – 28%
  • Scalability of systems to support growth – 26%
  • Improving the customer experience – 26%

Peter Olynick, retail banking practice head for NTT Data, said that many bankers in the survey “believe if they can get that core to not be the anchor, it will get them some real improvements.”

The 80% planning to assess their cores is significant — assessing a bank core is itself an investment of time and resources. But Olynick also noted a sense of resignation in the industry. “Innovation costs too much and takes too long,” is a common refrain.

“Only 15% plan to do something with the core assessment,” Olynick said. And just 4% expect a wholesale replacement. 53% expect to increase investment in the current environment — what’s known as “keeping the lights on,” or “kicking the can down the road.”

“Ten, fifteen years ago, the risk of trying to modernize was greater than staying,” Olynick said. “But that risk has flip-flopped. It’s like working with a Model T chassis, and you kept adding power windows and doors, and expect to compete with Tesla.”

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism, which makes him quite old. He can be reached at

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