Dealing with Legacy Fintech Systems

Upul Weerasinghe

November 11, 2022


4 Mins

Legacy systems prove to be the scourge of UX improvement projects time and time again. Many of these lumbering behemoths hail from more than 20-40 years ago, span across the functionality of large multinational and governmental organisations, and remain highly resistant to any effort to make them slightly more usable. Reliance on legacy systems is one of the main reasons for companies and financial organisations to fall behind on the road to digital innovation, mobile friendliness, and better UX. Many newer financial organisations are able to enter the market and entice users with more innovative and user-friendly products due to the restrictions placed on existing and established organisations by their legacy systems.

Disadvantages of legacy systems

Legacy systems are a collection of hardware and software that had been generally purchased and configured during the inception of an organisation decades in the past.

Lack of support

While these systems were cutting edge technology at the time of purchase, many of the companies that produced the hardware or wrote the software no longer even exist, or have stopped offering maintenance and support for these systems.

Cost of maintenance

Due to the unavailability of formal upgrades and maintenance, organisations that run on legacy systems are forced to maintain an expensive internal talent pool, who's only job is to know how these systems work, and to ensure they keep running smoothly. These niche engineers don't come cheap, nor do the custom parts for these systems if there is ever a need of maintenance. 

Performance issues

While these systems were fast in their day, technology has evolved to leave them far behind. Given the poor UX of these systems most organisations run a different front end, which relies on communicating with the legacy systems, increasing the response time. 

Security vulnerability

Most legacy systems have not evolved to be resilient to attack, adding further limitations when using them alongside a more modern application.

Mobile unfriendly

Given the decades that separate mobile applications from legacy applications it is no surprise that many of them don't support any form of mobile usage. That said, some applications do allow mobile applications through a separate front-end app. 

Restricts cloud migration

At a time when many organisations are considering if not already moving, or even moved to the cloud, legacy systems like to sit in large air conditioned rooms, taking up both space and power, while denying organisations the security and peace of mind that comes with cloud infrastructure.

Modern FinTech vs Legacy systems

Many FinTech solutions aim to solve the same problems as older financial systems, but they do it with panache. Since modern FinTech solutions evolve with emerging technology, they are not shackled by the same restraints as legacy systems.

Constant evolution

FinTech follows the red queen theory, in running as fast as possible, if only to remain in the same place. As such, FinTech application developers are constantly looking for the next breakthrough technology that can help them to better their offerings. As they don't suffer from the same constraints as legacy systems, they frequently test out new technologies as they emerge to the market such as block chain, machine learning etc to find how they can improve their products and increase customer satisfaction.

Better analytics

With better connectivity and access to real time data modern FinTech applications are able to provide insights and predictions faster and more accurately than legacy applications can hope to.

High focus on UX

FinTech organisations invest heavily in user research and user testing, to identify the problems that are both communicated and felt by the target market. They use the insights gained from user research together with their augmented access to real time data to provide a better experience for customers, both in terms of the quality of the application, and the quality of the insights and analytics.

Modernising legacy systems

While modernising legacy systems can be a tedious task, the rewards to be gained both within the organisation and by the end users make it more than worth the effort. Partnering with a UX team to help pave your path can help to reduce some of the heartache during this journey.

UX audit

One of the first steps of this journey will be to conduct a thorough UX audit. Find out the gaps between the requirement and the solution, identify usability issues, and calculate the cost of continuing with a legacy system.

UX research

Understanding the requirement is a key part in designing a proper solution. Conducting in-depth and well designed user research can help to identify requirements and empathise with your users.

Desirability, affordability, and feasibility

Navigating between what the customers want, what they need, and what the organisation can afford to build, and whether the solution works and is feasible for the organisation can be tricky. However, by finding the intersection of these you may be able to design a product that delights both internal and external clients.

Planning for success

Lastly, once you have gathered all your initial information it's time to sit with your team and plan out your strategy. Depending on the scenario this might be simply to build support applications around your legacy system, or maybe even a complete port to new infrastructure and software. In either case, a UX design team can help you start building the right solution from the get go.

In conclusion

Legacy applications proved their worth for many decades, and helped to innovate the financial sector in ways we cannot imagine. However, their heyday is well over, and new FinTech applications are taking the centre stage. If your organisation is still bogged down due to your legacy applications, don't lose hope. It may be a great opportunity to relook at your offerings and design a new solution tailored to the modern consumer.

Upul Weerasinghe

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