Know Your Industry: Databases in Finance

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With more than five million people working in the finance and banking industry nationally, this industry is considered unpredictable because it is extremely sensitive to the state of the economy and international trends. Because the foundation of this industry is money, complying with a complex set of legal requirements is crucial. IT professionals play a critical role in meeting those standards and help drive the performance of these organizations. In fact, database administrators (DBAs) can literally help businesses grow. In order to do so, today’s DBAs not only need to be technically proficient across multiple database management systems, but they also must possess soft skills and knowledge specific to the industry in which they work—whether it be health care, defense, education or finance.

Day to day, DBAs have to deal with much of the compliance, consolidation, global expansion and competition that is inborn in the finance industry. That’s why employers in this industry look for business experience and foundational knowledge of the nature of the industry—knowledge of administration, management, customer/personal service, compliance and standards, and more—as well as good communication skills. Some employers look for candidates who can use specific types of hardware and software, others look for knowledge across multiple types of hardware and software. But most look for candidates whose on-the-job experience has added value to the business.

A successful DBA in finance speaks with their organization’s leaders to learn about their database management system wants and needs, and based on such conversations will estimate the time, cost and resources required to finish such a project. Too often, organizations fail to identify and understand their actual system requirements before purchasing, implementing or funding a project. However, once senior leadership approves the project, DBAs develop a data model, which lists the data elements and how they are used. Some DBAs don’t write the code for databases, but instead supervise the computer programmers who write the code and monitor their progress. A DBA in this role tests how well the database management systems work and makes suggestions for changes to improve the functionality of the system thereby improving business operations.

Other critical day-to-day tasks of a DBA in finance include developing guidelines for software use, monitoring database-management-system performance, organizing data into groups for analysis, writing technical descriptions and instructions for use of databases, and researching and setting up computer security procedures.

DBAs also must understand complex legal standards. The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which mandated tighter internal accounting controls and more extensive reporting of financial information for businesses after accounting scandals at Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc. and other companies, prompted finance and banking organizations to analyze and revamp their electronic business-record processes. Sarbanes-Oxley legislation not only affected the financial side of these organizations, but also impacted their IT departments, whose job is to store the electronic business records. Specifically, DBAs must keep up with the changing regulations in this industry by controlling, documenting and automating enterprise compliance processes to ensure accurate and timely financial reporting and adherence to Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC and NASD requirements.

In addition, DBAs must possess good interpersonal and business skills. These include excellent communication skills—both verbal and written—strong analytical skills, creative-thinking skills, project-management skills, organizational skills and more. A DBA’s work can often be very deadline driven, so DBAs must be exact in their work and make sure that all the details are completed. If a DBA is careless, deadlines might be missed and projects might cost a company more money to finish, which is extremely difficult with many organizations operating on tight budgets.

Working as DBA is no longer just about information, analyses and the quantification of such data: DBAs play a strategic role in a business’s overall success. That’s why it is critical to know your industry, have full insight into what drives your organization’s financial performance as well as possess the technical and soft skills required to perform on the job successfully.

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