Customer experience in digital banking and insurance today is rarely compared to other banks or insurance companies. Instead, financial customers are far more likely to measure their online experiences against Amazon, Apple, or eBay. Consequently, financial services and insurance companies need to prioritize speed and continuous availability of their online applications without compromise of functionality or security.  

There is a wide range of other factors driving technical innovation in the financial sector. As summed up in Accenture Research’s latest report on digital banking, “For banks, digital transformation isn’t just about improving efficiency or controlling costs. It’s foundational to their competitiveness.”  

Not only do challenger startups in the fintech space potentially represent a major threat to the big retail banks, but so might some of the big tech companies, including Amazon, Google, and PayPal. 

The Challenge that Digital Banking Poses to Retail Banks 

Updating their legacy technology to deliver digital banking services while maintaining an impeccable customer experience across many different channels is perhaps the biggest challenge for the big retail banks.   

This is no small challenge. However, as per Accenture research, “Doing so will provide immense competitive benefits.”  

Why APM is No Longer Enough for Financial Institutions 

Application performance monitoring (APM) has long been the de facto monitoring tool for banks and insurance companies.  

While the financial services industry held on tightly to on-premise solutions, APM has worked well. Its ability to discover, track and pinpoint performance issues with code-level visibility across an internal service infrastructure is without parallel. APM allows you to monitor the entire delivery chain, understand user behavior and optimize network infrastructure. 

However, as increasing numbers of banks and insurance companies migrate their services to the cloud, traditional APM solutions are no longer enough.  

Companies want to see, in real-time, how their software is being delivered and experienced by users. The move towards cloud environments, whether public or private, has led to the growing complexity of distributed applications.  

These are frequently multi-tier and typically involve an increasing number of third-party vendors. Financial institutions can therefore no longer rely on data gathered only from traditional application performance monitoring.  

Most modern companies will combine other monitoring solutions with APM to gain extra visibility into the end user’s perspective. Bringing together synthetics with APM will lead to a comprehensive monitoring strategy. You will be able to gain insight into the performance of third-party content, protocol-specific issues and regional, network and browser-related performance issues.  

How to Retool APM for the Digital Banking and Insurance Industries? 

To help IT leaders understand how to retool their APM within this challenging landscape, we have put together five actionable tips: 

1.     Implement Enterprise-grade API Monitoring  

APIs are increasingly seen as the answer to helping the financial services industry move quickly enough to keep pace with looming digital threats while not compromising on security. As we have looked at elsewhere, fintech startups like Rapyd and Stripe have come to market with entire suites of products based on API infrastructure. 

Legacy banks are increasingly partnering with challenger banks or innovating internally to speed business transformation. Often, core business functions, such as mobile applications, utilize APIs.  

For ITOps, this typically necessitates real-time orchestration of an array of different components. These might include partnerships with fintech and insurtech startups, third-party data aggregators, mobile service providers, social media integrations, and more.  

This is where digital experience monitoring (DEM) comes in. Code-level APM solutions need retooling to add API monitoring so that you can guarantee the availability and reliability of all your API services and management providers. Proactive enterprise-grade API monitoring means you can detect problems in both the backend and frontend before they impact your end-user.  

2. Add SaaS Monitoring from a Neutral Standpoint 

While moving to SaaS apps can bring many benefits, including increased flexibility and scalability, it also creates several challenges for IT ops leaders.  

To adapt to the changing digital landscape with minimal risk, caution must be exercised. Even though most of the delivery paths of your SaaS services exist outside your control, you will still be held to the same standards by your customers when there is a problem. Furthermore, unlike on-premise in-house applications, with SaaS, application code can’t be easily accessed.  

Traditional application performance monitoring doesn’t offer enough level of insight or enough granular detail to effectively monitor SaaS applications. The only way to do so and resume control over customer experience is to implement SaaS monitoring from a neutral standpoint. By gaining end-to-end visibility over customer and employee experience, you can understand how your SaaS applications are functioning across the entire delivery stack.  

3. Integrate Effective Tag Monitoring 

Just as in other industries, tag technology has become a serious business in financial services. Tags are used for an increasing array of functions, including customizg product recommendations, retargeting ads, and offering new customer service functions, such as live chat.  

Through tag technology (usually achieved through the addition of third-party JavaScript), ITOps and digital marketers can harness new ways of tracking consumer behavior to help meet customer experience goals.  

Banks and insurers may find themselves using up to 20 or more unique third-party tags to create dynamic customized digital experiences for their customers. While the benefits can be significant, third-party tags (particularly when used en masse) can also slow or stall page speeds and loading times. A recent study looking at Fortune 100 websites showed that the use of third-party scripts can lead to a total average latency of 5.2 seconds.  

When 47% of users expect websites to load in 2 seconds or under, these kinds of numbers can have serious repercussions. As well as impacting website performance, third-party tags can also introduce security vulnerabilities and leave sites open to a data breach.  

Setting up a tag monitoring service is essential. In the words of Darren Guarnaccia, Chief Strategy and Product Officer at Crownpeak, “Businesses need to ensure they have intelligent systems in place to assist them in gaining a holistic view of the tags operating on their website and allow the control of such tags.”  

Tag management systems (TMS) like Launch by Adobe or Tealium are designed to help you easily control the deployment and management of all tags and mobile vendor deployments. A comprehensive monitoring solution can complement a good TMS.  

You will need to retool your APM to monitor a range of tags, from first-party tags added directly to a web page’s source code to hidden third-party tags. These are also known as piggyback tags because they latch onto first and third-party tags unintentionally. 

4. Ensure SLA Management Covers Third-party Cloud-based Services 

As financial service companies increasingly migrate to the cloud and eliminate aging data centers, the role of IT is changing. ITOps may find themselves moving from managing performance and availability to greater amounts of monitoring and governing the many third-party vendors involved in the smooth running of applications.  

A fundamental part of this is the managing of service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure that performance levels are being met or exceeded. A comprehensive SLA management solution will allow you to track service level indicators (SLIs) and service level objectives (SLOs) on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  

Tracking SLAs is essential for both the customer and vendor of a SaaS application. SLAs protect the customer from poor service by providing them with objective grading criteria and remedies or penalties if agreed-on service levels are not met. The vendor benefits from being able to set appropriate expectations for how their service will be judged, incentivizing them to improve customer experience.  

Most service providers make statistics available to their customers so they can directly check if their SLAs are being met. Nonetheless, for business-critical services, it is widely recommended that customers invest in third-party tools to automatically capture SLA performance data and provide an objective view of performance. 

Application performance management tools were designed to monitor applications at the code level of infrastructure within the company’s control or data center. However, APM cannot provide the monitoring visibility necessary to govern third-party services against service level agreements. Comprehensive SLA management capabilities can monitor all types of cloud-centric third-party service, from tags to APIs to DNS providers.  

5. Gain Direct Visibility into End-User Experience 

In Gartner’s first-ever Market Guide for Digital Experience Monitoring, the Gartner analysts conclude, “traditional monitoring practices and technologies are limited in their ability to effectively monitor the end-user experience, limiting I&O leaders’ ability to identify and impact digital experience performance gaps.”  

Gartner reverses conventional advice of starting at the hardware level and moving on up the stack. Instead, they recommend that I&O leaders focused on infrastructure, operations and cloud management should deploy “DEM technologies that monitor the performance of applications from the end-user perspective.”  

To retool your application code and infrastructure monitoring capabilities with effective end-user experience monitoring, both synthetic and real user monitoring (RUM) tools need to be deployed.  

This allows you to combine synthetic monitoring of a wide range of different types of user transactions to preempt problems before they happen with measuring real user engagement. It is also important to test performance and availability for end-users in real-time across many different test types and geography. 

In 2019, Catchpoint united Synthetic Monitoring, Network Monitoring, and Real User Monitoring into one expansive service. This includes a Managed Monitoring team to oversee all the tasks necessary to plan, execute and manage a comprehensive monitoring strategy. Using Catchpoint’s managed end-user monitoring service gives a holistic view of the entire delivery chain. This includes those infrastructure layers and third-party services that are beyond your direct control, yet which still directly impact the end-user. 

To further understand how DEM is a solution for financial services and insurance, attend the upcoming webinar, 3 Reasons Financial Services Bank on Digital Experience Monitoring.