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EMBRACING HYBRID CLOUD IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR

By Javid Khan, Chief Cloud Officer, Pulsant

In the mid-1960s, an American computer scientist named J.C.R. Licklider came up with an idea for an interconnected system of computers. He also envisioned a world where everyone would be connected and have the ability to access specific programs and data, regardless of where the access point might be located. While he didn’t refer to this as cloud computing, he was essentially describing how it would work.

However, we didn’t see this in action until Salesforce.com pioneered the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website in 1999. Since then we’ve seen the development of different cloud services in the as-a-service approach, rhetoric on different models (public, private, multi-cloud), and a lot of comparison between hyperscale public cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

When assessing which model to adopt, hybrid cloud has always been positioned as the ultimate solution to address the argument of which cloud model was better. The basic premise is still the same but today an organisation’s primary focus is optimising its existing use of cloud to get the most benefit for its business, as identified in the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report.

Many financial firms have concerns around regulatory compliance which may hold them back from adopting a hybrid cloud model. However, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) doesn’t see any reasons why cloud services cannot be implemented in a manner that complies with their rules. Indeed, Accenture recommends that financial institutions follow a ‘cloud first’ approach and future-proof their IT by establishing a hybrid cloud environment.

What does hybrid mean and what does it have to offer?

The term hybrid is concerned with combining different elements to make something new. What it doesn’t define is the exact combination of each element and it’s the same with cloud. There is no universal description and the balance of public and private cloud can be defined to meet the needs of each individual financial institution and bring maximum benefit to users.

Gartner defines hybrid cloud as: “policy-based and service provisioning, use and management across a mixture of internal and external cloud services.” But, for many, it is more of an umbrella term — using the right mix of capabilities and resources for each and every business. And this mix includes a variety of things, from on-premise hosting and colocation, to leveraging services within public cloud as well as private cloud. How this mix is brought together will be dependent on each and every customer’s needs and expectations.

As with many things’ technology related, adopting an effective hybrid cloud strategy is all about taking the right approach. There are a number of possibilities. You can go full throttle into adoption, focus on transforming your organisation, embracing methods such as DevOps and automation and changing your business model. Or you could take a more sedate approach, evolve over time and maximise your current investment in infrastructure, upskill staff and ensure the business experiences minimum disruption.

There are also multiple ways of beginning your transition, but conducting a cloud readiness assessment to determine your organisation’s current state and where you need to go on your journey is a good place to start. Only then can you begin to formulate a cloud adoption transformation programme

Working with a cloud partner can be invaluable here, not just in terms of drawing on their expertise and capability, but also about determining which solution is best for your organisation, your outcomes and your requirements. Even if cloud isn’t necessarily the answer for your business, taking a transformative approach and developing a roadmap to drive IT efficiencies can help. It also determines the future capabilities your organisation can adopt alongside a scale of determined change and, more importantly, your return on investment.

Why a hybrid approach is the right one

On this journey to adopt hybrid services it’s important to realise that it’s not necessarily just about cloud. Cloud adoption isn’t just a technology update; it affects your staff, your processes and your wider business. Importantly, migration requires a change in attitude and mindset across the entire organisation to make sure it’s successful. If you consider that the journey should be more of a digital evolution rather than a transformation, it becomes clear that while technology is important, the journey and the process of change incorporates so much more.

Hybrid cloud, for example, is a broad concept, which means that selling the concept to the board, stakeholders and staff will be tough. More often than not, it’s about a mindset shift, again thinking about the outcomes that technology can enable. Looking at the people element also requires analysing skills; what’s needed, where the gaps are, and how you’re likely to fill those gaps, either through upskilling or recruitment. For the most part, this refers to your IT teams but can also include other users who need specific functionality from the tech they’re using.

On a wider level, you need to determine if your business is ready for cloud. Is it the best option? If so, how will migration affect your processes? Your operations? Which is why looking at your cloud readiness is vital. A move to the cloud will affect your processes, making them more complex, especially in a hybrid environment where you are managing both tangible assets and those in the cloud.

Reaping the benefits of hybrid cloud

Gartner says that by 2020, 90% of businesses will have adopted a hybrid infrastructure but which platforms and services are implemented will be very much dependant on the individual organisation. Financial Services organisations, like others, will need to interact with data and systems which could be anywhere. PWC offers cloud as a good use case and advises using hybrid cloud due to its ability to aggregate data and analyse activity, as well as reduce capital and operating expenditure.

This is why one of the most important elements in adopting hybrid services is working with the right provider. There’s a lot to consider from a technology, business and personnel point of view, so ensuring you have the right partner to guide you through the whole journey, offering expertise along the way, is a key indicator for future success.

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Finance

AI: CUSTOMER FACING EMPLOYEES’ BEST FRIEND IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY

By Ryan Lester, Senior Director, Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn

 

We’ve all heard the old saying “money talks.” Well when it comes to customer loyalty and retention, good customer experience talks much louder, with 30% of customers leaving a brand and never returning due to a bad experience.

The truth is, there are a lot of companies with similar products and services, but that doesn’t mean that differentiation is impossible. So, what’s the solution? For financial services, large and small, customer experience is becoming the key competitive differentiator and the best way to deliver an impactful experience is to empower customer-facing employees to do their best work. Artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling these employees to create remarkably better customer experiences, resulting in customer loyalty, advocacy, and overall growth.

For financial institutions that have been considering new strategies for improving the quality and efficiency of their customer experience, here are a few ways AI can enable them to deliver the “human factor” that good customer experience demands whilst ensuring customer facing employees can provide a more positive experience for customers.

 

Increase employee productivity

How much of employees’ time is spent searching for answers to questions? Do they ever have to put customers on hold or even step away to get additional help? AI helps provide front-line employees real-time guidance so they can spend less time looking for information and more time solving problems. An AI-powered chatbot, for example, can be listening in the background of a conversation helping point employees to the right data, solutions, and processes to resolve customer issues faster than ever before.

 

Deliver a consistent customer experience

When banking customers engage with their financial institutions, they measure the speed and accuracy of the service through two criteria. First, how quickly can the system access their account and deliver the correct information? Is it faster than a human could type it in and share it? And second, if they eventually do need to be connected to a live customer support agent, is their information captured and passed along accurately? AI technology takes those general queries off the customer support team’s plate, providing a quick, accurate, and effective response. If a query needs a more in-depth response, AI can hand it off to support staff to address.

Not only this but leveraging a centralised, AI-powered knowledge solution ensures every employee has access to the same, updated information, so no matter who the customer speaks to, they can be assured that employee responses are both consistent and accurate across the board.

 

Accelerating employee training and onboarding

Like any industry, employee turnover is inevitable and can be costly. But, not training new employees correctly or in a timely manner could be much more costly. When it comes to financial services there is a lot to learn, whether it is something simple like the process for checking an account balance to all the nuances associated with mortgage loans. AI can support on-the-job training by helping new employees answer questions confidently, correctly, and much quicker than they could before.

 

Improving employee satisfaction

Today’s banking customer has all kinds of new ideas about their banking experience. “The Amazon Effect” has successfully raised consumer expectations to the extent that a consistent, personal, and relevant experience is the new normal. As a customer, how many times have you been told “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer?” Customers want solutions to their problems and employees want to be able to deliver those solutions as efficiently and effectively as possible. AI assisting in the background helps minimise those negative moments – making employees job easier, less stressful, and overall more enjoyable.

 

Identify knowledge gaps

Do you know all the questions employees are getting asked? Do you know what’s easily answered and what’s not? Real-time insights allow knowledge managers to keep up to date on frequently asked questions and gaps in current resources. This allows them to strategically improve or add content where needed.

 

Augmenting customer service

Whether talking with an AI chatbot or a personable customer service team member, the modern banking customer has high expectations for convenience, speed, and security. Which means that the technology you choose to deploy and how you deploy it is now just as important as who you hire and how you train them.

Today’s AI solutions won’t replace customer service agents or get in the way of the human factors that drive the customer experience. On the contrary, they augment it, allowing the business to do more without adding human resources. The higher the quality of a AI chatbot solution, the better it will be at taking the routine requests off the plate of customer service agents—giving them more time to provide a personalized and positive experience for customers.

 

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Technology

BEFORE THE INK IS DRY: CORRECTING BIOMETRIC SPOOFING MYTHS

Eric Setterberg, System Design Engineer at Fingerprints

Biometric authentication is highly robust, and the latest solutions offer considerably greater security than their authentication predecessors: PINs and passwords.

But as biometrics moves into new areas such as payments and access control, privacy and security concerns are rising. Biometrics has long been subject to scrutiny, with many elaborate examples of people working to trick biometric sensors to crack devices in the media and online.

To ensure the continued adoption of biometrics, it is important to shine a light on the reality of biometric spoofing.

 

The Evolution of Biometric Solutions…

The first use of fingerprints as forensic evidence was in an Argentinean court case in the late 1800s. With the technology still in its infancy, this was done manually and by eye, comparing latent residual prints lifted from crime scenes to charts of inked fingerprints obtained from the suspects at arrest.

A few decades later, the FBI began collecting fingerprints of criminals and civilians. They also introduced the automated comparison of fingerprints by computers in the 1970s. These “traditional representations” have now been standardized by ISO and ANSI.

… and their Spoofs

The earliest and simplest of these matching devices were easy to spoof. Really, all you needed was a photocopy or a good image of a fingerprint to make a successful spoof.

But as biometrics moved to more advanced technology, the game for biometric ‘spoofers’ has changed and the task of crafting fake fingerprints is considerably more difficult.

The biggest boost for biometric security, however, came with its introduction into mobile phones.

 

How Mobile Changed the Game

Before the widespread integration of fingerprint sensors in smartphones, the technology underwent significant evolution. No operator wanted to use large biometric sensors in modern phone designs. Sensors had to become much smaller to reach the perfect price and design point for the mobile world, but this meant needing to capture data from a smaller surface area of the finger.

To maintain the security of these smaller sensors, algorithms evolved significantly in order to utilize a greater amount of data per unit area. These mobile-driven hardware and software changes resulted in the optimized image capture of modern touch sensors.

As a result, tricking these systems now requires a considerably higher level of detail to be reproduced correctly for a match to be successful, far beyond rudimentary gummi bear spoofs and photocopies

 

Setting the Perfect Spoofing Scenario

Compromising fingerprint authentication via spoofing can still be done, even with all the technological advancements. However, it now requires considerable care, skill, money, and time. And to start, a good latent print…

To retrieve a latent print that’s high quality enough to work, you either need a willing volunteer to lend you their finger, or the commitment to stalk a victim until a viable fingerprint can be retrieved. Even with a decent latent print, modern spoofs then require advanced photoshop skills and/or a lab to successfully convert latent prints into effective moulds.

So – what about those articles boasting how easily they have hacked the latest smartphone device’s fingerprint sensor?

In fact, there are only two instances of fingerprint spoofing seen in the media nowadays: proof of concept and cooperative spoofs. Lay enthusiasts and media go through the effort of setting up a lab to create spoofs with latent fingerprints either from themselves or cooperative volunteers. Even the most successful of these take months of work, a highly skilled team, and the perfect scenario of circumstances.

Put simply, the effort required for spoofing modern fingerprint sensors cannot be applied at any scale. Each biometric spoof needs to go through the same laborious process and clinical conditions. So, if you can bring together a willing group of spoofing enthusiasts, tricking a biometric device could earn you fifteen minutes of fame on the internet, but it is likely to be conducive to a successful criminal business plan…

 

A “How” Without a “Why”

Spoofing biometrics remains technically possible, and there will always be those up to the challenge of trying to hack the latest technology. But the reality is that modern biometric solutions require more time, skill, and frankly, luck, to successfully spoof than ever before. Not to mention that tireless R&D work is continuously strengthening spoofing resistance. And, as use cases start to combine multiple biometric authenticators, such as combining fingerprints with face or iris to perform an authentication, spoofing will only become more complex.

By comparison, hacking PINs and passwords is considerably simpler and more scalable, making it far more lucrative. And, criminals generally take the path of least resistance.

For the average consumer, greater use of biometric authentication is not only a means of simplifying authentication, but dramatically improving the security of their devices, applications, and personal data. With PINs and passwords still the most common authentication method outside of mobile, it is imperative that the true security and advanced nature of modern biometric authentication solutions are understood.

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