Tag Archives: open banking

Ask an Expert: Catching up with Seshika Fernando

Women in engineering are unicorns (almost) and that’s probably why #Ilooklikeanengineer became a thing. But WSO2, with a 30% female representation, tells you a different story. Plus, we consider everyone at WSO2 a handpicked lot. So is Seshika Fernando. She’s a Chevening scholar, a speaker at conferences around the world, backed by both finance (London School of Economics) and computer science. Outside her workspace she’d be playing basketball as if it were rugby or making sure her son Ezra is getting enough sleep.

We caught up with Seshika recently to speak to her about her transition from the WSO2 analytics team to financial solutions, why open banking is taking over the world, and why she encourages more girls to join the IT industry.

1. How have your experiences at WSO2 been so far?

It’s been great! I was originally involved in data analytics while in the Research team. Now I manage the financial solutions initiative at WSO2 where I am able to capitalize on my background in Finance and create specialized solutions on top of WSO2 products, catered towards the specific business requirements of the financial industry.

I’ve had great experiences at WSO2. From being able to speak at atleast half a dozen international conferences a year, to interacting with some of the largest brands in the world, to playing basketball. WSO2 has been a great place to work irrespective of the team I belonged to.

2. How did the idea for building an open banking solution come about?

Open banking is taking over the banking world – not only in Europe but globally. And our open banking solution, built on top of the battle hardened WSO2 products, is proving to be very useful in all these markets.”

WSO2 gave me a challenge – “create solutions for the Financial Services industry using WSO2 products.” With a background in Computer Science as well as Finance, I took this up with open arms. At the time we started this initiative, PSD2 was taking over every conversation in the European banking sector.

With many of our existing customers coming to us with the PSD2 requirement, we forged ahead and created WSO2 Open Banking. Now in retrospect, this was the best decision we made. Open banking is taking over the banking world – not only in Europe but globally. And our open banking solution, built on top of the battle hardened WSO2 products, is proving to be very useful in all these markets.

3. This leads us to believe that the market for PSD2 solutions is open to many forms of competition. How did you formulate a technical and sales and marketing strategy to ensure WSO2 stands out?

Yes, there was stiff competition when we started. However, thanks to the vast capabilities of WSO2 products, surviving and thriving within this landscape have been easy.

There was stiff competition when we started. However, thanks to the vast capabilities of WSO2 products, surviving and thriving within this landscape have been easy.”

First of all, even though we entered the race late, we realized that most of the requirements of the PSD2 regulation can be serviced through the existing WSO2 products. Technically, all we had to do was wire everything together, add any missing features, and package an end to end solution which enabled banks to achieve full compliance very quickly.

We had to go for a very aggressive sales and marketing strategy in order to gain traction in a market that was full of different types of competition (not just our usual middleware competition). So we planned different types of campaigns to first create awareness and then engage with banks that were outside our usual customer base. Once we did the first few implementations, word got around and we were getting a large number of requests from both European and non-European banks.

4. Can you tell us about your experiences with customers who are trying to become PSD2 compliant? What are the key challenges they face?

Security is the utmost concern for all banks. Since it is sensitive customer data that is being exposed, banks that engage with us emphasize the importance of the ability to secure data and its access, above all other requirements. The WSO2 Open Banking solution overcomes all security challenges, since it incorporates WSO2’s very strong and proven IAM offering.

Most of our customers are also looking for ways to make their regulatory investment worthwhile, by being able to earn some revenues from their implementation of PSD2. With a digital transformation focused open banking implementation, our open banking customers are easily able to achieve this.

5. It seems obvious that banks will need to think beyond API when planning a technology strategy for compliance. How difficult/easy is to convince them to do so?

When we look beyond the regulation and discuss implementation details with each bank, the need to integrate with existing internal systems, the requirement for comprehensive Identity and Access management, the capability to onboard third party providers, and the necessity to have a strong analytics component to achieve regulatory reporting requirements comes to light. These requirements are usually enough for customers to understand the necessity for an overall technology strategy rather than just an API strategy.

However, we don’t just stop there. We understand that each customer (big or small) is making an investment to extend their technology platforms in order to satisfy these requirements. We help the customer identify ways that they can reuse the technology they are investing in, to further digitize and optimize their existing processes in a way that promotes market expansion and create new revenue streams.

6. What are your thoughts on how open banking will be adopted globally?

It’s only a matter of time before open banking becomes a must have for all banks globally.”

Well, all regions are moving towards open banking albeit at different paces. Australia is next in line to implement open banking through regulation and there are many other regions such as New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, etc., that have stated their intentions to mandate open banking through regulation.

In the meantime in all other parts of the world, even without regulatory pressure, individual banks are adopting open banking due to the many benefits they can achieve especially in an environment where they could be the first movers to a new ecosystem. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before open banking becomes a must have for all banks globally. WSO2 is excited and ready to work with each region on their specific open banking journeys.

7. Finally, as a woman playing a leadership role in a technology company, what is your advice to other women in the field on how they can reach the highest pillars of success?

I’d encourage more and more girls to join the IT industry, and contribute towards development of great products that are created by a diversified workforce for a diversified consumer base.”

I believe that being female does not have any disadvantages for a career in IT. Since women are the minority in this industry, it provides women a superb opportunity to easily standout within a male dominated workforce. Furthermore, the IT industry’s flexible working arrangements really enable us to balance work life and family life.

I would encourage more and more girls to join the IT industry not just to profit from its various benefits but also to reverse the gender imbalance and contribute towards development of great products that are created by a diversified workforce for a diversified consumer base. In fact, I’ve even written a blog post on the subject for the World Bank.

Seshika, 2nd from the right, Winner of the Young Engineer of the Year award for 2017 by IET Young Professionals-Sri Lanka

Three Months in to PSD2 – Confessions of the WSO2 Open Banking Team

It’s been 3 months since the PSD2 compliance deadline and the dust is settling in. Or is it really? Just like when it started, the post PSD2 landscape is viewed from different angles. It has been called everything from a ticking time bomb to a slow burn to a never ending honeymoon period. We think the biggest surprise was that everyone thought that January 13 was the end. It wasn’t, it was the beginning.

When we created WSO2 Open Banking, we knew customer needs would be diverse and every technology experience we deliver would be unique. Turns out we were right. Our journey with WSO2 Open Banking has unraveled some interesting experiences while working with different stakeholders in this compliance ecosystem. Here’s what we learned.

Confession #1: (Almost) Everyone was late to the party

Everyone (including us) started counting down to PSD2 from 6 months to 3 months to 1 month. But the reality was, January 13 was just the date when PSD2 was implemented by the EU parliament as a European-wide regulation.

Several regions across Europe chose to deal with imposing PSD2 in their own way. We’ve been tracking the country-specific deadlines quite closely and about 46% are yet to set an official deadline for compliance. We believe that the final date for compliance will be when the Regulatory Technical Standards (RTS) come into effect in September 2019. That’s good news for us because there’s still a large viable market for compliance technology! ;)

Confession #2: Compliance confusion did not discriminate

Over the past several months, we’ve worked with many banks of different sizes across Europe and they all had similar questions:

This led us to believe that banks, regardless of size, require a lot of guidance in the compliance process. It’s a good thing we have a team of experts to do just that!

Confession #3: They came, they saw, they vanished

When PSD2 first started gaining traction in 2016, the knee-jerk reaction of every API management and integration vendor was “this is a goldmine of opportunity we cannot miss”. So they went head on into the market with an existing product. Come 2018 when the need for compliance technology has evolved, these “first mover” technology vendors have gone quiet.

It remains uncertain whether it was the lack of a well thought out strategy to keep consistent market demand, fintech domination, or not giving the compliance market the attention it deserved. One thing is for sure, this is a highly competitive market for technology vendors like us. But no complaints, we love a challenge and are pretty good at winning them!

Confession #4: API standards (and the organizations writing them) are a solution providers BEST friends

A lot of shade gets thrown at not having a common API standard across Europe (version 1.1 of the Berlin Group API specification is yet to come, we’ve got our eyes peeled for that). However, Open Banking UK has got this in the bag by having a comprehensive API specification that WSO2 Open Banking supports.

When we first started out, these standards really helped set the base for building our solution. Our development team continues to spend a good couple of hours every week identifying latest improvements in the specifications and contributing to their development by participating in working groups.

Confession #5: Compliance is not a back breaker…it just needs a well thought out strategy

A lot of banks think of compliance as a major headache and seek a “quick fix” to compliance just so they can tick off the checkbox. The reality is, quick fixes can do more damage than good. PSD2 compliance is a big deal and if you go into it without a strategy, that’s cause for alarm. Even if you don’t have a dedicated open banking or compliance team you can still get the job done.

You just need to rally the right members, set your goals for compliance and figure out what you need from a technology vendor. Then you need to pick the technology that gives you value for money and won’t take eons to work with your systems and deliver compliance. It’s a matter of working closely with a solution provider towards a common goal.

Confession #6: Do your research or go home – The learning never stops

There is a minimum of 3 articles written a week on open banking. Everything from thought leadership material, opinion pieces (like this one), and publications from standards continue to explore and discuss this ecosystem. And what we learn from our conversation with customers is an invaluable source of research to keep abreast of where the market is heading. We treat each of these as a unique source of intelligence and they continue to nurture our product management, sales, and marketing strategies. It’s the only way to survive in an ecosystem as dynamic as this one.

It’s been a great ride so far and we can’t wait to see what comes up next! No doubt there will be plenty more surprises and exciting developments to look forward to!

The WSO2 Open Banking Team