Open Source Programs in Financial Services Stand to Benefit Greatly from C-Suite Commitment, Policies, and Internal Communication
London -- October 5, 2021 -- Despite 69 percent of financial technology leaders saying open source consumption increases productivity, a lag in implementing governance programs reduces contribution and slows innovation. This insight and much more were the results of the Fintech Open Source Foundation’s (FINOS) 2021 State of Open Source in Financial Services Survey, conducted in partnership with the Linux Foundation Research, Scott Logic, Wipro and GitHub. The comprehensive analysis was revealed at today’s Open Source Strategy Forum hosted by FINOS and the Linux Foundation in London. It evaluates key aspects of open source adoption in the financial services industry across leadership, consumption, contribution, governance and culture.
The quantitative survey of over 300 respondents was designed to engage key stakeholders at the intersection of open source and financial institutions, including developers, IT leaders, executive management, security, legal, procurement and HR. It confirmed the prevailing view among many in the financial open source community, that despite open source adoption in financial services being widespread, there is a huge opportunity to leverage it to make gains in efficiency and innovation.
One key insight is that many financial firms exhibit a lack of understanding about the role of open source within their business and governance strategy. When asked about whether organizations were "open source first" in the survey, 75 percent said “no” or “they didn’t know.” Only 8 percent of respondents in this study have policies that always encourage open source contribution, compared to 36 percent in other industry sectors. Only 35 percent of respondents are aware of their organization having an Open Source Program Office (OSPO) – internal organizations built to support secure and efficient open source consumption and contribution.
“The results are clear – if financial industry leadership fully commits to open source and fosters a culture of collaboration within their companies, they can expect to make a positive impact on their business and the entire industry,” said Gabriele Columbro, executive director of FINOS. “Open source should be a strategic technology pillar for this industry, like cloud or fintech. While we have seen the outlook on open source drastically improve in the last few years, across an historically closed industry, we still need dedication across all leadership levels at financial institutions and fintechs to build a truly open financial ecosystem to ultimately deliver the much-needed next generation technology stack the industry requires.”
The survey revealed that much can be done about formalizing policies and providing structure to, and developing open source strategy across the financial services sector. Much of this is determined by having top echelons of leadership at many institutions committed to deploying human resources and operational infrastructure in an effort to more comprehensively leverage open source software and standards to deliver value.
Below are some of the key findings from the report:
● Innovation & Reduced Time-to-Market Key Motivators for Financial Services to Engage in Open Source: The survey found that at least 80 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that innovation, reduced time-to-market and total cost of ownership are now recognized as key reasons for financial services firms to engage in open source. This confirms the industry is on par with the broader understanding of open source seen across the wider tech landscape.
● Financial Services Needs More Open Source Leadership: The survey showed that only approximately half of respondents had a single leader for various open source activities, such as contribution and consumption.
● Open Source Consumption Policies are Becoming More Prevalent: Although open source leadership is still becoming part of business operations at many firms, fully 58 percent of respondents to the survey attested that they have a policy around consumption that allows it to some degree. This is an encouraging sign for the momentum building in open source adoption at financial firms.
● Inner Source Contributions are Significant: Inner source -- the application of open source development practices inside an organization -- is a growing trend with 59 percent indicating that they or their colleagues contribute to work-related software projects that are open to their business unit or to their entire company. Although there is some debate about whether inner sourcing leads to more open source projects, it’s a sign that financial firms are moving in the right direction.
● Need for Governance Policy Education Around Open Source: 32 percent of the respondents either don’t know if their organization has a policy or assert that it does not have a policy. This shows a lack of understanding of open source and its role within many firms’ business models and strategy.
● A Culture of Innovation Can be Realized: Respondents indicated that they want to contribute to open source because “it’s fun” (53 percent) or they “learn to code” (54 percent). Although only some (40 percent) get to spend time at work contributing to open source projects, most (66 percent) spend some personal time on this activity. Culturally speaking, employees at many firms are enthusiastic about open source, but haven’t quite built the structure to help it flourish.
● The Financial Open Source Community is Becoming More Diverse: While still far from ideal, women are better represented (6.86 percent) in the financial open source community than in the open source community at large (3.17 percent), when compared to the FOSS contributor study.
“There’s clear enthusiasm for open source in financial services, but the survey has also identified the concerns that constrain its adoption in this highly regulated sector,” said Colin Eberhardt, CTO at Scott Logic. “I’m greatly encouraged, because this is a solvable challenge. Tried-and-tested policies, processes, and tools already exist that financial institutions can use to break through these barriers and benefit from the innovation that open source software and standards deliver.”
The global survey centered on various questions related to trends and concerns, usage and governance about the financial services industry’s open source environments and was conducted from June 1 to July 26, 2021. It was distributed and promoted across research partner social media channels, websites, newsletters and via direct email campaigns. The report draws on survey data, industry data and insights culminating from a series of qualitative interviews.
FINOS (The Fintech Open Source Foundation) is a nonprofit whose mission is to foster adoption of open source, open standards and collaborative software development practices in financial services. It is the center for open source developers and the financial services industry to build new technology projects that have a lasting impact on business operations. As a regulatory compliant platform, the foundation enables developers from these competing organizations to collaborate on projects with a strong propensity for mutualization. It has enabled codebase contributions from both the buy- and sell-side firms and counts over 40 major financial institutions, fintechs and technology consultancies as part of its membership. FINOS is also part of the Linux Foundation, the largest shared technology organization in the world.
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