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A third of UK finance sector firms are planning to increase their IT spend this year as focus shifts from cost-cutting to improving customer experience, a report has claimed.

The independent study, commissioned by Fujitsu, surveyed CIOs and senior IT decision makers at 176 organisations in retail and investment banks and insurance firms in the UK. It showed that the biggest investment concern was enhancing customer-facing services, cited by 28% of respondents.

The findings contrast with a similar survey published in 2012, when the most pressing issue was cost-cutting, highlighted by 51%. The latest study shows that reducing costs are now an issue for 27%, on a par with improving efficiency.

"The findings reflect a sector that understands what it needs to do, and is poised to make the leap to invest," said Anne MacRae, head of Financial Services at Fujitsu UK & Ireland.

"Focus on enabling growth and driving innovation are crucial in organisations moving forward in an increasingly competitive market under threat from technology-led entrants."

However the report highlights reduced focus on certain areas of IT innovation within the business. For example, moving to the cloud is less of a priority compared to two years ago – dropping from 18% in 2012 to 13% currently – as is mobile banking/payments, which falls from 20% to 11%.

"I don't think that the reason that IT doesn't 'deliver' is that the resources aren't there," said Matthew Oakeley, CIO 100 member and head of group IT at asset management firm Schroders, commenting on the research.

"Even if you had an infinite supply of resources, I just don't think that it would be possible to deploy them."

He added: "There's a tolerance threshold for change in any organisation, and I think that there's a balance that needs to be struck between doing more and the level of concurrent change that the organisation can actually sustain successfully."

Nevertheless, the report contends there are signs that investment is not just being earmarked for 'keeping the lights on'.

On average, 47% of IT budgets are being spent on maintenance – traditionally a high cost for banks - while 28% is now estimated to be invested in innovation within the organisation, such as generating new revenue streams and cost reduction initiatives.