“I’VE only got one IT guy,” says Segun Akintemi, the chief executive of Renaissance Credit, a Nigerian moneylender that opened for business in October 2012 and signed up about 3,000 customers in its first six months. “Whenever I walk past his desk he is surfing the web.” That the firm has just one bored computer specialist is not a sign of backwardness. On the contrary, Renaissance Credit is ahead of its time when it comes to technology. Its information processing takes place in the “cloud”, the term for software and services delivered over the internet.
The emergence of cloud-based banking promises to affect banks big and small. Banks are expected to spend almost $180 billion on IT this year, according to Celent, a consultancy. For the moment cloud-based services make up a tiny fraction of this amount, but by some estimates spending by financial-services firms on the cloud will total $26 billion in 2015. This increase should lower barriers to entry for newcomers, which can rent modern IT infrastructure at monthly fees of less than $10,000 rather than having to invest tens of millions of dollars upfront to build their own secure data centres. And it should also enable big banks to become much more cost-efficient.