I was on a call with Broadcom last week. A representative from a bank was also on the call and talked about how their use of mainframe computers ties into their commitment to security, reliability, and availability for their customers. In earlier IBM calls with some of the banks, they all indicated that the use of the mainframe also helped them make better decisions.

These conversations made me wonder if the recent failures of Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank had anything to do with their use of mainframes. Although this is a small sample, none of the failed banks (as of this report) use mainframes, while JPMorgan Chase & Co., the bank that bought First Republic, does.

There is a good chance that banks using mainframes have a lower risk preference, while banks that do not may be more willing to take undue risk. With people currently being concerned about where to keep their money safely, one of the questions you should be asking is, “Do you use a mainframe for your mission-critical applications?”

Let’s explore the relationship between mainframe and banking risks. Then we’ll end with my product of the week, a tiny device that can make your smartphone battery last indefinitely. I was skeptical, considering how the device looks, but it performs as advertised.

Mainframe Administration Challenges

The first big company I worked for was IBM. This was true at the birth of the PC, and then, compared to the PC, mainframes sucked. Do not get me wrong. Mainframes were far more reliable and secure, but you needed an MIS (now called IT) to do everything for you. The organization seems to enjoy getting every request wrong and using an execution schedule measured in years.

We used to joke that getting anything from MIS involved sacrificing a chicken and dancing naked around a fire, although HR shied away from doing so, so we never accepted the theory. With a PC and later, a server, you can get things done more quickly and meet your deadlines.

But with that improvement in resilience, we moved from uptime measured in years to uptime measured in hours. Both platforms changed over time: mainframes became more flexible without sacrificing security, reliability, and availability, and PCs remained easy to use, but security, reliability, and availability improved significantly, although they still lagged behind mainframes. Are.

Mainframes are more expensive and difficult to administer because of the talent shortage, but IBM, Broadcom, BMC and others have taken aggressive steps to increase training. While the lack of trained people has eased somewhat, finding good mainframe staff in general is still harder than finding good x86 server staff.

mainframe and bank

Mainframes exist in critical mass in three verticals: banking, health care, and government. But banking has been the most aggressive in protecting this technology overall. Why? Because typically, banks need to maintain a solid reputation and meet heavy regulatory requirements, and mainframes are better at balancing cost and risk than most other segments.

Therefore, the selection and continued use of a mainframe by a bank can be a direct indicator of how well the bank manages risk internally. In other words, banks that have mainframes put risk mitigation in front of the cost, while banks that don’t can put the cost on risk mitigation.

The recent failures of both Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank not to manage risk properly suggest the relationship between risk mitigation and technology selection is at least anecdotally linked. While it is clearly neither the only nor an absolute indicator of strong risk management, mainframe utilization may be one of the most easily derived indicators of a bank’s risk versus return priorities.

Unreasonable risk behavior is difficult to identify

I’m an ex-internal auditor, and I can say from experience that, even while inside a company, identifying inappropriate risk behavior before disaster strikes is challenging. What you’re looking for are things like rapidly increasing food and entertainment expenses, dating between managers and subordinates, unusual acquisitions, or executive pay and expenses in line with industry norms.

But I think mainframe usage may be a better indicator because mainframes are a capital expenditure high enough to be important to a bank, and the reasons for buying and maintaining mainframes closely match the high focus on risk mitigation. is added. A bank chooses to take the profit hit to reduce risk.

As I write this, I checked to see if the financial institution I use (which I won’t mention for personal security reasons) uses mainframes. It does, and suddenly I’m less worried that it might go down – not that I ever worried before with its recent setbacks.

wrapping up

The use of mainframes is directly linked to prioritizing reliability, availability, and security over overall profitability. Given that recently failed banks have prioritized short-term profitability, I think this is one of the ways to determine whether your bank is prone to making high-risk decisions that you don’t know about. Have to find out if they use mainframes.

Given the recent bank failures, like many of you, I worry that my retirement funds are safe. Knowing that they are at a company that has chosen to use a mainframe gives some extra peace of mind. I’m not saying that a bank not using mainframes is vulnerable, only that this decision may indicate a more significant problem with the priorities of the bank that will now be related to the recent failures.

tech product of the week

Charge-Check by Lava

Lava Charge - Check to avoid overcharging the Lithium-Ion battery.

My personal favorite phone is the Microsoft Surface Duo 2, which I’ll soon be replacing with the new Lenovo Thinkphone. Part of the reason for this is that I usually plug my phone into a fast charger at night, and battery life has been steadily getting worse over time.

So, when LAVA approached me to charge-check a device designed to prevent battery degradation, I was skeptical, though interested. I was the leading battery analyst around the world for many years and I found that gadgets like this are often scams.

That said, I’ve been using Charge-Check for several weeks now, and it does exactly what Lava said. Initially, it charged the device to peak and then shut down. I was concerned that you would often end up with a healthy but dead battery, but that was because I didn’t read the instructions (my boy genes were kicking in, of course).

If you use the button, which sets the charge time-out between, I suggest pressing the button twice and holding after the final push for 10 seconds for a two-hour cooling time. However, if the display is on while charging, an hour gap will better ensure you don’t have a dead battery. Your phone will almost always be close to capacity, and your battery should last indefinitely.

Considering that new phones can cost well over a thousand dollars and that battery replacement can cost $100 or more depending on the phone, this little $29.99 device is a good investment.

I will add that LAVA, the parent company, is Ukrainian and Canadian owned, and I love doing whatever I can to help Ukraine, which has led me to choose LAVA Charge-Check as my product of the week. Decision made easy. Plus, it keeps me from burning through phones too quickly because I hate changing phones.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.