Carmine Rimi, Product Manager AI and Kubernetes, Canonical – the company behind Ubuntu
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has witnessed extraordinary growth in business circles over the past few years. So much so that it feels an omnipresent buzzword in corporate technology conversations the world over. The advent of cloud computing and open source initiatives have supported the rapid expansion of these technologies, which are experiencing huge investment from both multinational businesses and smaller enterprises.
Deloitte’s Digital Disruption Index highlights that 85% of senior executives plan to invest in AI by 2020, while Stanford University’s AI Index reports a six fold rise in the annual investments from venture capitalists into AI start-ups since 2000, with significant quickening of that investment after 2010. Moreover, Gartner predicts that the business value resulting from AI initiatives will hit $3.9 trillion by 2022, rising from $1.2 trillion in 2018. These impressive figures serve to underline the huge potential AI boasts.
The trend towards the adoption of AI shows no signs of abating. In a software dominated world, AI acts as a trigger for business growth, innovation and the launching of new, advanced services for consumers. However, the deployment of AI technology is not a straightforward process, and no industry is immune from this complication. There are many considerations prior to a business being able to enjoy the advantages AI can deliver.
Business have had to discover that rolling out AI technology can be problematic. From concerns around integration with current systems, to a lack of understanding around how AI works, it’s clear that there are broad and complex challenges. A recent report from Databricks, for example, stated that 96% of organisations are experiencing data-related problems such as inconsistent datasets, while 80% reported a lack of collaboration between data engineers and data scientists. Then we come to the question of compute power. AI solutions tend to leverage large reserves of processing power, which will rise as data volumes rocket and the algorithms driving these systems grow increasingly more complex. This presents some large concerns around scalability.
It’s important to note that, from a practical point of view, AI technology is very much in its infancy but is developing rapidly. While the technology has been spoken about for some time, it is only during the last few years that deployments have started to take place and increase.
Challenges to AI deployment can even emerge before the roll-out begins. One of the major barriers for AI is IT teams and business leaders understanding how it can be used for everyday business problems; and also, how it can fit to the specific requirements of the company. As opposed to deploying AI for the sake of it, companies should look at where the technology can make the biggest mark, and what specific processes would benefit from being automated. This is easier said than done. AI requires people with knowledge who can seize the challenge of turning the theory into profitable outcomes. AI encompasses a range of processes and technologies, such as machine learning, data transformation, model creation, natural language processing and deep learning. To derive the most value from these it is essential to understand the differences between these innovations. So, what does it take to deal with these issues to realise the potential of AI?
Making the most of AI
Capitalising on the power of AI comes down to a few key factors. Primarily, it’s crucial that companies understand the importance of rolling out back-end infrastructure and systems which can support the compute-intensive tasks involved in AI and machine learning. Operating systems then have to be adjusted to these sophisticated workloads, which allows businesses to work with huge datasets, deploy applications at scale and manage the complexity that comes with that. Getting AI systems operational takes a lot of time, effort, expertise and resources – which are not always at the disposal of an organisation. AI platforms are only as good as the people who programme them. The industry skills shortage can impact businesses, so it’s important to partner with experts who are able to guide them and address any internal gaps. Enterprises need to be considered in the way they introduce AI, creating a long-term strategy and investing in the right people with the right set of skills and experience.
Harnessing the power of AI may be easier said than done, but no one doubts it presents a phenomenal opportunity. A laser-like focus on how AI can be leveraged to solve business challenges will help. AI has been growing in intelligence for some time – now businesses need to follow that lead and realise the true potential of this remarkable technology.
BANKING’S SECOND WAVE OF TRANSFORMATION: INTEGRATING THE CLOUD-ENABLED FUTURE BANK
Keith Pearson, Head of Financial Services EMEA, ServiceNow
The last six months have seen significant changes to the financial services landscape, with operational resilience, economic recovery, cost reduction and an acceleration of digital transformation key themes emerging from the industry.
At the start of this crisis, much of the banking industry was in a different position to many businesses. The 2008 recession spurred a need for improvements and combined with the emergence of tech-savvy fintechs, the industry has seen a major shift as customer expectations have adapted. The pandemic has forced organisations to accelerate innovation already part-underway in the banking industry.
As banking experienced its first wave of transformation, institutions focussed on customer engagement, uniting physical and digital channels for an improved customer experience. Banks invested heavily in front office digital technology, creating visually appealing mobile apps, engaging online banking experiences and technologies for bankers to personalise customer engagement.
However, this digital engagement layer is not enough. Regulations like PSD2 reinforce the necessity to remain compliant, adding additional pressure to the digital transformation process which in turn has been accelerated by COVID-19. Banking is therefore in the midst of its second wave of transformation, where financial institutions are creating and seeking out critical infrastructure to better connect underlying middle and back office operations with the front office, and ultimately, with customers.
A disconnected operation
Many financial organisations are still struggling because they have yet to streamline, automate and connect the underlying processes that are enabling customer experiences. Which poses the question: why is connecting operations so difficult?
In most cases, multiple systems are still glued together by email and spreadsheets to track end-to-end status. Around 80% of a middle office employee’s time is spent gathering data from systems to make a decision, with only 20% spent actually analysing and making the decision.
The disconnect negatively impacts customers. For many, experiences like opening a bank account or getting a mortgage involve clunky, manual processes riddled with paperwork and delays. When front and back office employees lack the ability to seamlessly work together, customers can be asked for the same data multiple times, elevating frustration.
Customers have little patience and can be inclined to publicly broadcast problems when left unresolved. In a world of social media and online reviews, this could be detrimental to a company’s reputation.
With digitally native, non-traditional financial services players gaining market traction by offering a seamless customer experience, maintaining satisfaction is crucial for traditional banks to ensure that customers don’t switch. Banks must focus on making it easy for customers to do business with them by offering faster cycle times with more streamlined operations.
The fintech effect
Fintechs and challenger banks like Starling have shown what connected operations can do, having been built with digitised processes from day one. Modern consumers expect round-the-clock service from their bank. As financial institutions look to the future, developing a model of operational resilience that is capable of withstanding unforeseen issues, like power outages or cyberattacks, is critical to minimising service disruption. Having connected internal communications between front and back office staff means customers can be notified about any problems, how they can be fixed and when they might be resolved, as well as receiving continuous progress updates instantaneously.
Automation can go a step beyond this. Today, customers expect companies to not only do more and do it faster but to prevent problems arising in the first place. With connected operations and Customer Service Management (CSM), banks can proactively fix things before they happen and resolve issues fast, enabling frictionless customer service and replicating the ‘fintech effect’.
What about compliance?
In the European Union and the UK, PSD2 and the Open Banking initiative are giving more control to the customer over personal account data. Digital banks such as Fidor and lenders like Klarna are seeking to reinvent banking by offering customer-centric services. But the process of streamlining underlying operations is not simply about providing customers with the fintech-esque experience. More than 50% of a financial institution’s business processes are also impacted by regulation.
Financial services leaders are focussing on streamlining and taking cost out of business operations while also placing importance on resilience. Regulators are pushing banks to have a firmwide view of the risk to delivering their critical business services.
Banks must invest in digitising processes to intuitively embed risk and compliance policies, which are generally managed separately and often manually from the business process, leading to excessive compliance costs and risk of non-compliance. With the right workflow tools for monitoring and business continuity management, banks can minimise disruption by gaining access to real-time, actionable information about non-compliance and high risk areas, encompassing cybersecurity, data privacy and audit management.
Increasing openness of financial institutions to regtech solutions, or managing regulatory processes in the industry through technology, will prove key during this second wave of transformation. Banks will increasingly move away from people and spreadsheets and toward regulatory solutions that provide a real-time view of compliance and provide an end-to-end audit trail for Heads of Compliance, Chief Risk Officers and regulators.
With a unified data environment aided by technology, financial institutions can drive a culture of risk management and compliance to improve business decisions.
Riding the wave
The banking industry is still in the midst of its second transformation, and the pandemic hasn’t made it any easier. But riding this wave and successfully digitising processes to connect back and front office employees will present a profound difference to customer service.
The bank of the future will be frictionless, digital, cloud-enabled, and efficient; interwoven into the fabric of people’s lives. It will continue to be compliant and controlled but will deliver those outcomes differently, with risk management digitally embedded within its operations.
Demonstrating the operational resilience of its key services will not only drive customer confidence but will also provide a greater indicator of control to regulators and the market, adjusting overall risk ratings and freeing up capital reserves to drive more revenue and increase profitability.
The institutions that will thrive in this increasingly digital and connected world are the ones that are actively transforming themselves and the way they do business now, by taking learnings from fintechs, following regulations and paving the way in defining the future of financial services.
MAINTAINING SECURITY: NOT SOMETHING TO LOSE CUSTOMERS OVER
By Philipp Pointner, Chief Product Officer of Jumio
They say it takes 60 days to make or break a habit. With the UK having spent over 100 days in lockdown, old habits have changed and new ones have formed. While restrictions are starting to ease, these habits will stay with us, including how we choose to manage our finances. While prior to the pandemic, we may have gone to the bank regularly to deposit a cheque, change our bank account or open a new one, this habit has now been broken, putting the role of the branch in question.
Well before the outbreak of COVID-19, bank branches were closing in large numbers. More than a third of the UK’s bank branches have shut for good in less than five years, while hundreds of those that remain have reduced their business hours.
These macro changes in how we interact with our finances impacts financial institutions, which have had to adapt to allow current and prospective customers to access services remotely with the same level of security. Digitalisation in banking has been happening for years, but the global pandemic has significantly accelerated these efforts. While newer challenger banks have a reputation for faster sign-ups and seamless customer experience, security remains a top concern, particularly when the annual value of online banking fraud losses eclipsed £112 million in 2019.
Fraud detection measures have a reputation for making the customer experience worse. How can we preserve the user experience without compromising online security?
The best experience vs. the best security
Top security at the account sign-up stage is essential, yet nearly half (48%) of all fraud value stems from accounts that are less than a day old. Experian’s 2020 Global Identity and Fraud Report found that account opening and account takeover are responsible for higher losses than any other type of fraud. The account onboarding process is one that carries many risks — financial, regulatory, and reputational — when identifying the true identity of a customer, especially when not done in person.
In ensuring fraud detection, measures with incremental friction are often put in place to keep identities secure. However, too much friction can be problematic, with nearly 40% of potential new customers quitting onboarding processes which are too time-consuming and onerous. This level of abandonment represents a significant cost for financial institutions. With friction having such an impact on conversion rates, there are lessons traditional banks can learn from their challenger counterparts when it comes to customer experience.
How do we solve this?
For many consumers digital banking is not new, but the global pandemic has forced others to try digital banking for the first time because there are no other options. How many of these consumers will return to a physical branch when lockdowns are lifted?
When onboarding, whether online or in branch, banks perform the same set of steps even though the process differs. While banks are required to perform the necessary due diligence as part of their KYC obligations, many of the onboarding steps required in-branch can be automated, streamlined and simplified to deliver a better customer experience.
Face-based biometrics have the power to help banks strike the right balance between customer experience and security when it comes to digital verification. When a customer goes to set up an account, the bank asks them to take a picture of their government-issued ID (e.g., driver’s license, passport) and a corroborating selfie. This process determines if the ID is authentic and if the person in the selfie matches it.
To make this process even more secure, online solutions are now embedding certified liveness detection in the selfie-taking process to make sure that the customer is not attempting to spoof the system with a deepfake video or a picture of a picture. By leveraging biometrics and AI, an accurate verification decision can be made in a matter of seconds, which dramatically lessens the friction and frustration experienced by most online customers.
Going beyond onboarding
With over 60% of financial institutions experiencing an increase in fraud volume over the last few years, and cyber fraud as the primary concern, top-end security needs to go beyond the onboarding stage.
Face-based biometrics can also serve as the answer to ongoing authentication. During the initial identity verification process, better online solutions create a 3D face map, containing over 100 times more liveness data than a 2D photo. When a future authentication is required, for example, when a customer tries to reset their password or initiate a wire transfer, the customer is asked to take a new selfie, during which a new 3D face map is created. This face map is compared to the original and authorises the transaction in seconds with a significantly higher level of identity assurance.
This holistic approach is required now more than ever, with fraudsters taking advantage of the surge to digital.
So, what next?
Digitalisation is no longer just an important priority — it must be a primary focus for all regulated financial institutions. When lockdowns were announced all around the world, challenger banks were better prepared to support their customers online, but while they may have had an advantage at the start, it doesn’t need to stay that way. With the extraordinary power of face-based biometrics and AI, financial institutions can level the playing field by delivering an online experience that balances account security and customer usability.
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