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City Practitioners creates shared services practice

City Practitioners, a specialist in the implementation and management of complex asset trading systems, has created a shared services practice, headed by Terry Cullen and David Marshall. The setting up of the practice follows the firm’s recent completion of two highly successful projects, carried out on behalf of major global investment banks, to transition application support to off-shore shared services centres.

Banks: why the interest in shared services?

Banks are increasingly turning to the concept of shared services to improve the efficiency with which they maintain their complex network of IT systems. At present, applications are largely serviced in “silos”, with support and development functions intermingled. As a result, duplication of effort is common, while highly paid developers frequently carry out lower value support work. Cost visibility is often also poor. In response to the situation, banks are looking to unravel the mishmash of IT support services and create central units, responsible for providing support to the whole organisation.

Regulatory drivers and best practice

While financial institutions are eager to develop effective and sustainable shared services environments, firms will have to overcome a number of obstacles before this becomes possible. One of the primary difficulties companies face is the lack of controls over service desks and important technological infrastructure: Sarbanes-Oxley legislation is also making it imperative for firms to address this issue. Other factors hampering progress include the limited uptake (and understanding) of best practice frameworks such as ITIL and COBIT, plus poor documentation and support of applications.

Terry Cullen, Head of Shared Services, City Practitioners, commented:

“Banks and other financial institutions are increasingly burdened by the cost and complexity of maintaining their technological infrastructure. Not surprisingly, firms are looking to streamline the labyrinth of support and development services currently in place. Creating shared support services is an excellent way of doing this: not only is this a more cost-effective way of providing support, but service levels rise and best practice is facilitated.

David Marshall, Director, City Practitioners, cautioned:

“While banks are keen to develop shared services, creating a successful model is more complex than it looks. A number of financial institutions have run into difficulties trying to set up this type of operation and, rather than improving service, have actually found themselves reducing the quality of service. Having carried out two large-scale projects, we’ve seen some of the traps firms can fall into. We’ve developed a roadmap which offers a clear approach to transitioning IT support to shared services centres, enabling firms to avoid the usual pitfalls and disruption to business”