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HOW TECHNOLOGY IS MAKING AIRLINES SMARTER DURING LOCKDOWN

Captain Nadhem is the General Manager of Alpha Aviation UAE

 

2020 has provided challenges to all industries, but few have been as directly hit as air travel by the Covid-19 pandemic. Across the world, entire fleets have been grounded as international airports closed and travel bans were introduced worldwide.

Unfortunately, the challenges faced by airlines do not stop there. Airline economics dictate that planes be used as much as possible. For larger planes, this means keeping them in the air as close to 24/7 as is possible. For this reason, there simply aren’t enough dedicated storage facilities at global hub airports. At Frankfurt Airport for example, the tarmac on the 4th runway is now the home of many of the airport’s planes. It can also often take as long as 30 days to return a commercial jet to circulation after it has been mothballed.

As a result, many planes that are still in circulation have been transferred to the Indian sub-continent where air travel hasn’t been as badly disrupted. It will take some time for them to be rehomed to their previous routes if flight paths do reopen. In 2021, the aviation industry will also need to adapt and re-assess both its fleet sizes and operational strategies in order to re-build in the wake of this global crisis.

Pilots account for a key proportion of overhead costs and airlines will be constantly rethinking their pilot training strategy, which is likely to include a need to outsource and decentralise to maximise efficiency. At the same time, trained pilots will require training updates and renewals to their licenses, even as fleets are grounded.

Flight simulators have therefore assumed a crucial role in 2020. Usually developed to keep experienced crews sharp by creating challenging scenarios in safe environment for them to overcome, they have now become important across the industry for several reasons. Flying, like any other skill, requires constant practice to maintain the highest level of competency. That’s why airlines have recency rules that require pilots to perform a specified number of take-offs, landings and approaches within a certain period of time.

Advancements in simulator technology continue to bridge the gap between theory and reality. At Alpha Aviation we’ve recently invested in the new Alsim-AL172 flight simulator that features a Cessna 172 cockpit, with two seats and a flight deck. As pilots still need to clock up over 1,500 flying hours to receive their ATP certificate, advanced simulators like these will also be effective in providing pilot training without the operational costs of a real flight.

This year also highlighted the need for regulators to make changes to the training process. For example, there will need to be more reliance on e-learning in the initial cadet training and the acceptance of integrated technology in simulator training will also be important. Further adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also offer a vital competitive advantage.

AI technologies have already been widely adopted across the aviation industry. From facial recognition at airport passport security to baggage check-in and remote aircraft monitoring. For years these innovations have been streamlining processes, both for operators and customers. However, AI has a much greater potential beyond these practical applications.

Among other benefits, AI and machine learning algorithms excel at recognising patterns and are extremely efficient at collating data from the process of training cadets. As most flight simulators are already equipped with sensors that generate considerable amounts of data, this resource can now be used to assess pilot competency from the onset of training.

Powerful AI and machine learning systems can analyse hundreds of flight parameters and sort through thousands of hours of simulator data to produce findings that a human coach wouldn’t have been able to determine. For example, AI programmes can evaluate a pilot’s ability as they execute key manoeuvres and create a comprehensive assessment of a cadet’s strengths and weaknesses based on real-time data.

The data collected from these training sessions can also be analysed by AI programmes to evaluate how the cadets fly certain training routes, for example, considering their angle of descent and acceleration periods. From this, airlines can gather enough data to build a picture of each pilot’s unique flying style and determine the optimum routes for them to fly.

A crucial part of this assessment centres around the rate each pilot burns fuel. Real-time decisions about the throttle settings during take-off and the climb can have a significant impact on the amount of fuel burned during a flight. With airlines spending around 33 percent of their operational costs on fuel, reducing the rate that fuel is burned can have a considerable effect on the finances of an airline and its carbon footprint.

Airlines already use AI systems to collect flight data regarding route distance, altitudes, and aircraft weight to determine the amount of fuel needed for a flight. However, now the data collected from simulators can also be used to pair pilots to specific routes, based on optimum fuel usage. This will result in cost savings for the airline by optimising the potential of their pilot crew to reduce excess overheads.

As we continue to work directly with regulators and the airlines to further expand the use of technology and AI in the industry, our ability to continue to adapt and innovate in this crisis will hopefully mean clearer skies ahead.

 

Business

THE EFFECTS OF JOB HOPPING ON YOUR RETIREMENT OUTCOME

By Neli Mbara, Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes

 

Job hopping – defined as spending less than two years in one position –  is a very controversial subject. It can be an easy path to a higher salary but can also be a red flag to prospective employers, not to mention your future financial goals if you are cashing in your retirement fund every time you make a move.

When changing jobs, whether it be once a year or once every decade, one has to make decisions regarding career growth and retirement plans which affect one’s long term financial plans. One of these decisions is ‘what to do with my retirement fund?’

Neli Mbara

For many people, the first thing that comes to mind is using their pension money to pay off their debt. Alexander Forbes Member Watch statistics show that 91% of members do not preserve their retirement savings when changing jobs. As we are living in times where most household income is used to finance debt, most people use job hopping to gain access to their retirement funds, and use this money to pay off debt. However, a quick fix and instant gratification comes at a price, which in this case could be a delay in your retirement plan.

Your retirement savings are simply for that, your retirement, to pay you an income once you stop working.

 

Early access of your retirement fund can result in:

  • Not having enough money at retirement – this is simply because most of us are already not saving enough for retirement
  • Robbing yourself off the compound interest you could have potentially earned from the investment.
  • Never making make up for the lost benefit
  • Creating a bad habit that will delay you from achieving your retirement plan and desired income at retirement

It is easy to cash in your money from a retirement fund at resignation but it is much harder to make up for the lost benefit (capital cashed in plus interest). Calculations show that for you to make up the lost benefit depending on your retirement age and investment time horizon, you will likely need to invest more than double your contributions towards a retirement fund.

Since only 6% of the South African population are reported to have accumulated enough to retire comfortably, without having to sacrifice their standard of living, you will most likely have to invest much more towards your retirement fund to make up for the lost savings.

Therefore, leaving your retirement fund invested and preserved in a preservation fund is the recommended option when changing jobs, as this keeps you committed to your retirement plan.

Changing jobs is a life-changing event, and it is therefore important that you seek advice from a professional financial adviser who will guide you in your retirement planning ensuring that your retirement needs are taken care of, by providing solutions that help you to ensure your financial wellbeing.

 

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DISRUPT TO SURVIVE IN FINANCIAL SERVICES, BUT BEWARE: YOUR TEAM MUST BE IN SHAPE FIRST

Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino

 

COVID is forcing extraordinary change in the financial services industry. It’s happening fast, already uprooting insurance, transforming payments and changing the way we interact with our customers across the industry.

But for the 4000 UK financial services providers who are at critical risk due to COVID-19, these tales of success should come with a warning. Disruption in the industry certainly won’t come overnight.

Only the most interconnected web of people, technology and culture can produce effective disruption at this critical time. Discover below the key trends we’re seeing in financial services, and how to upskill, empower and equip teams in order to create the organisational impetus for this transformation and disruption, in an industry known for its monolithic ways of working.

 

Top Technology Trends in Financial Services for 2021

As we enter another year of uncertainty, financial services organisations–and their customers–are looking for technology solutions that promise above all, flexibility.

Partnerships between retailers and payments companies that can deliver greater flexibility for consumers as well as increased reliability for retailers will boom in 2021. Even before the pandemic, we saw the flourishing of partnerships between retailers and Klarna, the ‘buy-now-pay-later’ online payment processing firm. With the impact of the downturn likely to continue well into 2021, add-on services that offer more options to support merchant resilience will be essential.

Many companies have embraced ‘fluid’ payment ecosystems capable of handling multiple digital payment solutions but only those capable of capturing data insights to drive their product innovation and sales strategies will reap the full benefits. Real-time user profiles, fraud anomaly detection and personalisation, are all enabling marginal gains for payment providers that will differentiate them from competitors in 2021.

 

But don’t run before you can walk

Before businesses can jump on new technology trends however, it’s critical to ensure they have an innovative culture in place. This will form the foundation for effective disruption. Here are my four tips for building a solid foundation.

1)    Focus on data, with the customer at the centre

Customer experience is the central element to all disruption in the financial services today. Respond in real-time to customer queries. Better still, anticipate the customers’ next need before they’re even aware of it. All of this is made possible through a connected view of data.

Businesses should continue to embrace technologies such as AI and ML to harness customer insights and respond to customer needs–whether that’s approving a loan or recommend a new offer.

From answering customer queries and personalising banking experiences to revenue accounting and trade settlement dashboards, advanced data capabilities will continue to be critical.

 

2)    Be realistic about what your team can achieve–and up-skill if need be

In my own work, I’ve seen that digital transformation is most effective when it factors in the abilities of the existing team–but that doesn’t mean leaving them on their own.

First, collaboration is key. IT and data teams must form internal partnerships in order to get plugged into the business side of things. Critically, they must be present in the boardroom. For many years, those with technical skills have been left out of planning meetings. But their knowledge is absolutely critical, especially when it comes to choosing the right tech stack to enable innovation.

If it becomes apparent that the team is lacking in the necessary tech capabilities, outsourcing is extremely valuable. But beware: it is essential to focus on building up internal capability in order to create long-lasting change–and scrimping on the upskilling for cost reasons will only result in greater expense. Bring in fully trained teams to both implement tech and upskill to foster stronger teams internally.

 

3)    Enable innovation in a worry-free environment

In order to remain competitive in the modern marketplace, and to ensure long-term survivability, financial services organisations must transform their business models to focus on digital innovation and customer expectations.

It’s no secret that the cloud enables organisations to innovate at speed and scale. However, before teams can get stuck in, it’s crucial to ensure they have safe cloud environments in which to explore and innovate.

Developers must be given the freedom to evaluate new technologies and to make any necessary changes to enable rapid creation of business value. Having this flexibility and foresight when implementing and rolling out your public cloud solutions means that ideas can truly come from anywhere in the organisation.

 

4)    Don’t just get the cloud, get the cloud right

The adoption of cloud is now widespread, but those who can optimise it will be reaping the rewards in speed, efficiency and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Cloud shouldn’t just be a platform to build in–it should help to inform decisions and facilitate new ways of working, ultimately producing something greater than the sum of its parts. Building out cloud-native engineering, culture and operating models will future proof the capability of financial services organisations.

Finally, cloud capabilities should be rolled out right across the organisation. Contino research shows that, while 77% of organisations have adopted the public cloud, only a tiny proportion have actually scaled this out across the organisation. To do so means you’re able to share data across every department, to every person, creating a data-driven culture which will hugely benefit all decision-making going forward.

 

Prepare the ground and seeds will grow

Disruption is achievable for every financial service organisation in the UK market today – yes, even legacy brands. But the saving grace for those that are struggling at the moment needn’t be the debut of an exciting new product or pipping a competitor to the post with a partnership. It will be the construction of a collaborative and creative culture from which innovative ideas can grow – without being choked by unavailable data, the fear of upsetting day-to-day operations, or restrictive team structures. Innovation is what will pick today’s struggling financial services providers up and get them out of danger.

 

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