The tech year in review and numbers

By Neil Ainger | 18 December 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, minds naturally turn towards the most significant technology and finance events of the year and the standout stories and numbers of the year, such as the prevalence of cyber-security attacks and countermeasures, discussions about if big data is a big deal and if the cloud is going to rain on your parade as an internal IT manager decimating staff or be a true external support network. In this spirit of yuletide reflection, bobsguide’s Neil Ainger looks back on some of the big stories, trends and figures of the past 12 months.

As the geese start getting fat, the lords-a-leaping, and partridges take to living in a pear tree - if the old English carol is to be believed - then it can mean only one thing: the end of the year is upon us and Christmas is around the corner. It is an appropriate time, therefore, to reflect upon the big stories and numbers of 2013.

In no particular order, here are some of the things that caught the eye of bobsguide editorial during 2013:

£75m – The maximum estimated price paid for treasury management system (TMS) technology vendor IT2 based upon a multiple of four times earnings and conversations with bobsguide sources at the time of the sale in January 2013. The firm was brought by Wallstreet Systems (WSS), itself owned by ION Trading, as part of its drive to assemble a TMS stable to rival SunGard with Trema, Thomson and CityFinancials already in the stable and Financial Software Systems, a US provider of treasury management, capital market and wealth management technology, later added for an undisclosed sum.

€5.4bn – The price Microsoft agreed to pay Nokia for it mobile phone unit. The two have long been partners since Nokia abandoned its Symbian mobile operating system (OS) for Microsoft’s Windows Phone tile-based OS and the full takeover deal by the US-based technology giant has long been expected as it battles to gain a foothold in the mobile computing era. That other earlier mobile pioneer BlackBerry has also suffered this year, while other big deals in 2013 include the $130bn sale of Vodafone's stake in Verizon, the $10.9bn takeover of NYSE-Euronext by ICE (the IntercontinentalExchange) and Bottomline Technologies’ acquisition of Sterci and Simplex for a combined $109m. NCR also spent $1.65bn buying Digital Insight Corp and $84m on Alaric Systems.

Ten – bobsguide bloggers (aka contributing editors) joined the website this year, contributing stimulating technology discussions, viewpoints and blogs about operations, mobile financial services (MFS), information security and capital markets from respectively Barclays’ CIO Andrew Witney, the Mobey Forum, ISACA and the FIX Trading Community. Other BG Bloggers on transactional banking and a range of other topics can be viewed here.

One – full working month remains until the 1 February 2014 migration end date for the commencement of the single euro payments area (SEPA) and treasurers and others in the payment chain should already have ticked off their compliance checklist. It is not long either until the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR), which is the equivalent of the US-Dodd Frank rules enacting the post-crash wishes of the Pittsburgh G20 for more transparency and centralised reporting, clearing and oversight of derivatives, begins on 12 February next year - another deadline for financial services (FS) technologists to hit. The issue of capital markets regulation and its technological and market impacts was much discussed this year at the 2013 Mondo Visione Exchange Forum and Trade Tech 2013 as the highlighted bobsguide show reports reveal.

7,648 – Number of attendees at SWIFT’s Sibos 2013 trade show this year in Dubai, UAE. Links to the four daily show reports from Sibos 2013 show can be seen here, alongside the key trends evident at the show such as anger over the regulatory burden now hitting FS providers; the need for collaboration as costs go up under the tighter post-crash regulatory framework and to fight disintermediation by newcomers; plus the primacy of the TARGET2Securities (T2S) single securities settlement engine in Europe as the big technology harmonisation project facing many FI technologists in the near future.

• Five – years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the financial crisis, which has led to the plethora of post-crash FS regulation and compliance technology demands that we are now seeing. The anniversary was ‘celebrated’ on 15 September 2013.

• Three – big operational outages at retail banks in the second half of the year, with RBS/NatWest falling over in March and December of 2013; Barclays in November; and Lloyds (as TSB was spun off) in September - and that is just UK retail banks. The legacy issue and lack of flexibility in older core banking systems is perhaps starting to show as those wheezing old 1970s IBM Z-series servers and various bolt-ons start to feel their age. No wonder such hope has been placed in the UK Current Account Switch Service to shake-up the UK retail banking marketplace and introduce more competition. The theory is that the shared central IT platform will make switching your bank account for dissatisfied customers as easy as redirecting your postal mail with standing orders, direct debits and so forth all automatically following you when you move account. It’s not just retail bank customers facing operational technology and resiliency problems either, with the Nasdaq exchange one of a number of exchanges to have frozen this year.

• $1,000 – The peak price of Bitcoin (BTC) this year on 28 November when the digital currency smashed through the $1,000 mark for the first time, with price fluctuations continuing throughout the year. The virtual currency has continued to cause controversy throughout the year with China seeking to limit its use, causing a fall in value at the turn of the year, and US authorities and other central banks investigating it over fears that it falls outside of their control and could be a security threat, subject to theft and a channel for money-laundering and illegal activity - fears exacerbated after the Silk Road ‘dark web’ site was closed down. Meanwhile, others are simply accepting it as a valid currency and BTC as a payment method seems to be growing.

• Single – Most controversial figure of the year has to be Edward Snowden. An iconoclast to some for what he has revealed about how our entire digital lives these days are spied upon by the US National Security Agency (NSA), UK’s GCHQ and other governments around the world, often with the acquiescence of technology firms - and you thought they just spied on you for adverts! - Snowden’s revelations also enmeshed SWIFT in another trans-Atlantic data monitoring row between the US and EU. His whistle-blowing tells you a lot about how the dream of Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, for a free open access system that could share and advance human knowledge is dying as it is increasingly commoditised, prompting him to attack the NSA for its SSL and other encryption breaking activities and general undermining of the privacy and security of the web - the body even went so far as to tap into the fibre optic cables outside of Google and Yahoo! data centres in its snooping activities. A tipping point in the development of the web may just have been reached this year, with the last refuseniks gravitating towards the less censored ‘dark web’ away from the prying eyes of the Matrix-style sentinel search engines and government agencies. Watch this space next year, as information, cyber-security and privacy are likely to continue to be the hot topics in 2014.

The above are just a small selection of some of the stories covered by bobsguide throughout 2013, alongside our show reports from InfoSecurity Europe, Sibos, the IPS payments show, SWIFT London Business Forum, Mobile World Congress (MWC), Mobey Day, and Bloomberg Enterprise Tech Summit.

Interviews with the CIO at SWIFT and Bank of America Merrill lynch CIO, Bill Pappas, can also be viewed via the highlighted links, alongside other interviews such as the series of core banking technology vendor Q&As accessible via the highlighted links in the article. More standout stories can be accessed via the bosbguide blog section, homepage and news analysis database via our search functionality – examples include IBM’s cyber-security assessments and the Abobe attack - with the rising cyber-security threat another key theme throughout 2013 - plus the news analysis piece about Sainsbury’s Bank appointing FIS as its tech provider; all these news analysis stories can be seen by clicking on the highlighted link.

In terms of new gadgets for the techie in your life, wearable technology has been a general tech trend of the year with the Pebble computing watch, Google Glass, and the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch - linked to your mobile phone via Bluetooth and enabling ‘beam me up scotty’ fantasies to be engaged in - may be good stocking fillers this Christmas. But I doubt very much if it will be delivered by one of Amazon’s alleged delivery drones, with the online store’s vision of drone deliveries replacing FedEx people knocking on your door perhaps counting as the most ridiculous PR-inspired piece of so-called ‘news’ during the yuletide period in December. In terms of predictions for next year, well ‘bobsguide’ will be back with a few of them in the new year via some guest blogs but personally I’d expect to see Hadoop and the big data industry continue to go from strength-to-strength.

… and finally • One – new word learnt: the ‘listicle’. What do you think of the word and the above article? Are there any other big stories from previous 12 months that you’d like to see highlighted and what are your 2014 technology predictions? ‘bobsguide’ welcomes your feedback to news@bobsguide.com and wishes you a good Christmas break. We look forward to covering all the latest industry news, trends and technology developments in 2014. Oh yeah, and don’t send me any Flowers for this article either; just your likes and dislikes will suffice.

By Neil Ainger, Ed., bobsguide

Become a bobsguide member to access the following

1. Unrestricted access to bobsguide
2. Send a proposal request
3. Insights delivered daily to your inbox
4. Career development