Banking Interviews

Global Fintech Interview with Arun Krishnan, SVP and Head of Engineering at Infosys Finacle

Global Fintech Interview with Arun Krishnan, SVP and Head of Engineering at Infosys Finacle

Please tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at the company. How did you arrive at Finacle?

Finacle is an industry-leading digital banking solution suite from Infosys. Banking service providers in more than 100 countries rely on Finacle to enable over a billion people and businesses to save, pay, borrow, and invest better. We work with emerging and traditional financial institutions as their technology partner to enable them scale digital transformation at speed.

In my current role, I am responsible for leading product development of the Finacle suite. I came to this role after 25 years in various product development and service roles in the technology teams powering Telecommunications Network, Web conferencing/Instant Messaging, and Healthcare Products. Leading product development at Finacle is a privilege because the passionate team, the powerful suite, and our amazing clients together form a fantastic platform to innovatively support people’s dreams and have global impact.

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What is the most contemporary definition of ‘financial technology’? What solutions/services does Finacle offer to customers? 

We find it useful to see financial technology as a combination of digital science and art applied to the creation and consumption of customer-centric financial services.

Finacle offers a cloud-native front-to-back digital product suite and SaaS services empowering financial services providers to engage, innovate, operate, and transform better- enabling delivery of superior customer experiences. Finacle solutions address a comprehensive spectrum of needs of financial institutions ranging from deposits, lending, digital engagement, payments, cash management, treasury to analytics, AI and blockchain.

Also Read: Global Fintech Interview with Scott Purcell, CEO and Chief Trust Officer of Prime Trust

What kind of IT infrastructure should a fintech company have to succeed in 2021? Could you tell us a little bit about your IT stack?

Today, a fintech company should be ready to provide immediate value by becoming part of a provider’s landscape. This is likely best done by being cloud-native and strategically agnostic to the consumption model, deployment model, or cloud provider. Further, a fintech may want to design for integration via APIs, events, and data streams using standard monitoring and telemetry tools. We believe it is essential for Fintechs to consider a largely open source software stack, preferably a polyglot technology stack that figures in the CNCF landscape.

As a silver member of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Finacle’s technology stack choices are largely inspired by projects that are either being incubated or have reached a mature level in the CNCF umbrella. Every tier of Finacle is based on open source components. Image distribution is based on Red Hat UBI images, container orchestration is on Kubernetes and pod monitoring is done using Istio. Istio also plays the role of Ingres gateway, helping secure microservices.

No tech stack can remain static. Finacle’s architecture is polyglot by design at every layer, enabling the co-existence of multiple technologies as they mature or are introduced. For example, Finacle includes support for multiple databases – Oracle, Postgres and Mongo. Docker containers in a service mesh on Kubernetes enables fit-for-purpose technologies to work together in a seamless, elastic fabric. Eventing using Kafka allows Finacle to leverage the power of Redis as a distributed cache to get even more from the polyglot approach.

Hear it from the pro: How do Open Source services/solutions help in better adoption of cloud computing and IT modernization platforms?

As can be seen from Finacle’s suite of offerings, we believe that open source plays a huge role in furthering enterprise technology. First, open source technologies help accelerate technology adoption using proven best practices available in the public domain. Second, open source reduces time to value by enabling product creators to maintain sharper focus on key business logic and unique value. Third, open source technologies enable improved standardization and interop between components. Fourth, open source code is more responsive to security.

How have IT migration tactics evolved in the last 8-10 months? What role has the pandemic played in influencing these trends?

As providers were forced to reorient themselves to more effectively serve customers during the unprecedented pandemic, a clear trend over the last year has been the sharply increased focus on Cloud-ready technology to improve elasticity and manageability. Secondly, there is greater emphasis on modular and OTT (over the top) approaches to solution modernization. The third trend is an increased focus on a durable platform capable of coherently leveraging multiple fit-for-purpose technologies over a mix of point solutions. While all of these were themes discussed pre-pandemic, the pandemic injected a clear sense of urgency into these priorities.

One of the most popular questions that DevOps leaders are asked — Is Open Source a safe platform to adapt/plan IT Ops and cloud migration? How have fintech companies like Finacle taken to Open Source services in recent times?

Open source offers a rich set of proven tools for DevSecOps and Cloud Migration, many of which we have leveraged for Finacle’s suite of solutions. For instance, Finacle’s DevSecOps uses a template-based model built on Spinnaker.  The build tools include Git, Sonarqube, Maven and Jfrog Artifactory. The test automation uses Selenium. Performance testing is built around Jmeter. Configuration management is externalized into Ansible. Monitoring is based on Kibana, Splunk and open tracing agents. We use Coverity for Security coverage. Black duck scans are also performed on the product. Continuous integration and deployment is built on Jenkins.

Finacle Telemetry is largely based on open tracing tools. We have embedded open tracing agents in our web and app layer to get an end-to-end view of transaction telemetry. We support Jager and Zipkin out of the box. Some of our customers are also using Dynatrace and Splunk/Kibana to visualize this data. We also support tools like Dynatrace and Appdynamics for Finacle monitoring. As part of our SaaS offering, we comply with an ISO27001 level of information security. The solution thus comes with a complete SOC and NOC model for monitoring security events and threat modelling.

As you can see, Finacle has embraced Open Source as a way to provide quality. We also find it an excellent way to provide choice to our clients. In fact, we have ourselves contributed a cloud-native, Rapid Application Development framework – OeCloud – to the open source community. Along with the members of CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation), Finacle supports a robust landscape of high-quality open source choices offering a safe way to adapt/plan IT Ops and Cloud migration.

Also Read: Global Fintech Interview with Robert Visentini, Chief Product Officer at Profectus Group

Tell us more about the work you do with AI, ML and deep learning? Is data science specialization necessary to understand how Open Source works?

The key role that we see for ourselves is in providing a coherent way for AI, ML and deep learning to be embedded into financial services using the Finacle platform. Finacle’s approach has always been about being open to the best approaches that our clients choose to develop models and generate insights. Therefore, in addition to the insights that the Finacle platform generates, the best value from AI, ML and deep learning for us comes through the customer centric delivery of those insights via the Finacle platform within the context of the business services that are being consumed.

Also, what we have found useful is to reframe the question about whether one has to know AI/ML to use open source as “How can open source help us apply AI/ML in different contexts?”. Specifically, we believe that knowledge of AI/ML using open source is likely to be super relevant in creating new functional value, in reimagining User Experiences, in advancing operations insight, in discovering new opportunities and many more such areas of our work.

What is changing for Finacle in the next two years? Do you see IT teams working extra hard on the security and data management/regulations now?

We see time to value dramatically shrinking. This places increased emphasis on the value of the architecture brought by technology partners like Finacle over the next two years. This means that no architecture can remain static and needs to be open to adopt new technologies and integrate new solutions. For instance, an architecture that requires code in one single language is unlikely to remain relevant for very long.

Over the next couple of years, we expect to see an acceleration in the adoption of Finacle’s cloud-only polyglot proposition, along with dramatically increased consumption of services via APIs and eventing. We are already seeing and expect deeper leverage of Finacle’s powerful functionality using our configurability, extensibility, and modular composability capabilities. In addition, we are seeing increased innovation and application of personalization capabilities of the platform. At Finacle, our aim is to deliver all these functionalities at a truly planetary scale.

On the regulatory front, we see strong emphasis on security and data protection; and we expect IT teams to be working a lot harder to better balance security and convenience.

Please share your advice for IT/cloud computing teams for 2021.

As we get further into 2021 and beyond, IT teams may need to move more quickly from adopting a purely LOB (Line of Business) orientation toward reimagining solutions and services with the consumer at the center. This orientation and focus can bring exciting new possibilities for IT to create massive new value to the digitization of the business.

Containerization and APIfication will play a central role in bringing composable, elastic, and manageable services to market quickly. Relentless and robust automation with a DevSecOps pipeline will be a key enabler of agility. We expect that data and insights will take higher prominence as teams embed machine learning to adapt and personalize services using a Backend for Frontend (BFF) model.

In sum, we expect that the focus for IT and cloud computing teams will dramatically increase on personalized, contextual, and empathetic customer experiences conceived and delivered with agility using the power of APIs, cloud, automation, analytics, and machine learning.

Also Read: Global Fintech Interview with Christopher Smith, Head of Group Benefits at Guardian Life

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Finacle is the industry-leading digital banking solution suite from EdgeVerve Systems, a wholly owned product subsidiary of Infosys. Finacle helps traditional and emerging financial institutions drive truly digital transformation to achieve frictionless customer experiences, larger ecosystem play, insights–driven interactions and ubiquitous automation. Today, banks in over 100 countries rely on Finacle to service more than a billion consumers and 1.3 billion accounts.

Arun Krishnan is a SVP and Head of Engineering at Infosys Finacle

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