The Risks of Relying on Outdated Visual Basic Applications in the Banking Industry

The Risks of Relying on Outdated Visual Basic Applications in the Banking Industry

By Joe Rafanelli | April 9th, 2024 |

In the rapidly evolving world of technology, the banking and financial sectors have long relied on various software applications to manage their day-to-day operations. Among these applications, many were developed using Visual Basic (VB), a programming language that was once widely popular due to its ease of use and rapid application development capabilities. However, as technology has advanced, Visual Basic has become increasingly outdated, with Microsoft officially ending support for the language in 2025. Despite this, some IT departments in large banks continue to resist modernizing their VB applications, opting instead to maintain the status quo. This blog post aims to explore the potential risks and consequences of failing to migrate from Visual Basic to more modern platforms like .NET.

VBMorph – Automated VB6 Code Converter

VBMorph is a Macrosoft’s propriety tool that converts Visual Basic code into the web-based ASP.NET MVC framework in C# language.

The Current State of Visual Basic in Banking

Visual Basic has been a staple in the banking industry for decades, powering numerous backend applications that handle critical tasks such as transaction processing, customer data management, and reporting. Many of these applications were developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Visual Basic was at the peak of its popularity. At the time, VB offered a user-friendly development environment and enabled developers to create functional applications quickly.

However, as technology has evolved, the limitations of Visual Basic have become increasingly apparent. The language lacks many of the modern features and capabilities found in newer programming languages, such as object-oriented programming, enhanced security measures, and cross-platform compatibility. Additionally, Microsoft has gradually shifted its focus away from Visual Basic, with the last major release (Visual Basic 6.0) dating back to 1998.

Despite these limitations, many banks and financial institutions have chosen to continue relying on their legacy Visual Basic applications. The reasons for this reluctance to modernize vary, but often include concerns about the cost and complexity of migrating to new platforms, as well as a lack of in-house expertise in more modern programming languages.

Why IT Departments are Reluctant to Migrate

There are several reasons why IT departments in banks and financial institutions may be hesitant to migrate their Visual Basic applications to more modern platforms:

  1. Cost Concerns: Migrating legacy applications to new platforms can be a significant financial investment. It often requires a comprehensive assessment of the existing codebase, the development of a migration strategy, and the allocation of resources for testing and deployment. Some IT departments may view these costs as prohibitive, especially if they are working with limited budgets.
  2. Time and Resource Constraints: Modernizing legacy applications is not only costly but also time-consuming. It requires careful planning, execution, and testing to ensure a smooth transition to the new platform. Many IT departments are already stretched thin, dealing with day-to-day operations and other pressing priorities. They may feel that they simply don’t have the time or resources to devote to a complex migration project.
  3. Fear of Disruption: Banking applications are critical to the day-to-day operations of financial institutions. Any disruption or downtime can have serious consequences, including lost revenue, damaged reputation, and regulatory penalties. Some IT departments may be concerned that migrating to a new platform could introduce instability or compatibility issues, leading to unacceptable levels of disruption.
  4. Lack of In-House Expertise: Many banks have relied on Visual Basic for so long that their IT staff may lack the skills and knowledge needed to work with more modern platforms like .NET. Retraining existing staff or hiring new talent with the necessary expertise can be a daunting and expensive prospect, further contributing to the reluctance to migrate.
  5. Resistance to Change: In some cases, the reluctance to migrate may be due to a general resistance to change within the organization. Some IT staff may be comfortable with the existing Visual Basic applications and see no reason to rock the boat. They may view modernization as an unnecessary risk or a threat to their job security.

While these concerns are understandable, they do not outweigh the long-term risks and drawbacks of continuing to rely on outdated Visual Basic applications. IT departments must recognize that the short-term costs and challenges of modernization are far preferable to the potential long-term consequences of inaction.

The Risks of Maintaining Legacy Visual Basic Applications

While maintaining legacy Visual Basic applications may seem like the path of least resistance in the short term, this approach comes with significant long-term risks. Some of the most pressing concerns include:

  1. Security Vulnerabilities: As Visual Basic applications age, they become increasingly vulnerable to security threats. Hackers and cybercriminals are constantly developing new techniques to exploit weaknesses in outdated software, placing banks and their customers’ sensitive data at risk. Without regular updates and patches, VB applications become more susceptible to data breaches, theft, and other malicious activities.
  2. Lack of Support: Microsoft has announced that it will end support for Visual Basic in 2025. This means that after this date, there will be no more official updates, bug fixes, or security patches for the language. Banks that continue to rely on VB applications beyond this point will be left to fend for themselves, potentially exposing themselves to unpatched vulnerabilities and compatibility issues.
  3. Difficulty in Finding Skilled Developers: As Visual Basic becomes increasingly obsolete, fewer developers are learning or maintaining expertise in the language. This makes it challenging for banks to find qualified personnel to maintain and update their legacy VB applications. As existing VB developers retire or move on to other opportunities, banks may struggle to find replacements, leading to a skills gap that could hinder their ability to keep their applications running smoothly.
  4. Integration Challenges: In today’s interconnected world, banking applications often need to integrate with a wide range of external systems and services. However, Visual Basic’s limited compatibility with modern technologies can make integration a significant challenge. This can lead to inefficiencies, data silos, and missed opportunities for innovation and growth.
  5. Scalability and Performance Issues: As banks grow and their customer bases expand, the demands placed on their backend applications also increase. Visual Basic applications, with their inherent limitations, may struggle to keep pace with these growing demands. This can result in slow performance, system crashes, and other issues that negatively impact the customer experience and the bank’s reputation.

The Benefits of Migrating to Modern Platforms

Given the risks associated with maintaining legacy Visual Basic applications, banks and financial institutions should seriously consider migrating to more modern platforms like .NET. Some of the key benefits of modernization include:

  1. Enhanced Security: Modern platforms like .NET offer a wide range of built-in security features and best practices that can help banks better protect their applications and customer data. Regular updates and patches ensure that applications remain secure against the latest threats, reducing the risk of data breaches and other security incidents.
  2. Improved Performance and Scalability: .NET and other modern platforms are designed to handle the demands of today’s high-performance, data-intensive applications. By migrating to these platforms, banks can ensure that their applications can scale seamlessly to meet the needs of their growing customer bases, delivering fast, reliable performance even under heavy loads.
  3. Greater Flexibility and Interoperability: Modern platforms offer a wide range of tools and frameworks that enable developers to create flexible, modular applications that can easily integrate with other systems and services. This makes it easier for banks to adapt to changing business requirements and take advantage of new opportunities for innovation and growth.
  4. Access to a Larger Talent Pool: As more developers focus on learning and working with modern platforms like .NET, banks that migrate to these technologies will have access to a larger pool of skilled professionals. This can make it easier to find and retain the talent needed to maintain and evolve their applications over time.
  5. Future-Proofing: By migrating to modern platforms, banks can ensure that their applications remain viable and supported for years to come. This helps to avoid the risks associated with relying on outdated technologies and positions the bank for long-term success in an increasingly digital world.

Conclusion

The continued reliance on legacy Visual Basic applications in the banking industry poses significant risks that cannot be ignored. As Visual Basic nears the end of its life cycle, banks that fail to modernize their applications face growing security threats, skills shortages, integration challenges, and performance issues. By migrating to modern platforms like .NET, banks can mitigate these risks and position themselves for success in the digital age.

While the process of modernizing legacy applications can be complex and resource-intensive, the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term costs. Banks that invest in modernization today will be better equipped to meet the evolving needs of their customers, stay ahead of the competition, and thrive in an increasingly technology-driven world.

In light of these considerations, IT departments in the banking and financial sectors should prioritize the migration of their Visual Basic applications to modern platforms. By doing so, they can ensure the continued security, reliability, and performance of their critical backend systems, while laying the foundation for future innovation and growth. Despite the understandable concerns and reluctance to change, the risks of inaction are simply too great to ignore. It is time for banks to embrace modernization and take the necessary steps to secure their future in the digital age.

VBMorph – Automated VB6 Code Converter

VBMorph is a Macrosoft’s propriety tool that converts Visual Basic code into the web-based ASP.NET MVC framework in C# language.

Joe Rafanelli
Director of Migration Services at Macrosoft Inc
Joe Rafanelli is the Director of Migration Services at Macrosoft. In this capacity, Joe acts as the single point of contact for Macrosoft’s migration solutions. Additionally, he collaborates with internal technology analysts to understand requirements, work scope, and maintain client relationships ensuring their satisfaction .

Prior to joining Macrosoft in May 2017, Joe had over 25 years of experience in the Banking Industry. Equally, Joe focused on Account Management, Project Management, Implementation Management, and Product Development. Moreover, Joe is excellent at improving the client experience by driving change management projects to completion. Previously, Joe held the following positions in the following institutions: JPMorgan, Citigroup and Brown Brother Harriman.

Joe has B.S. Finance, MBA Investment Finance, Project Management certificate & Database Management certificate.
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