48% either have no idea what blockchain is or fail to understand its uses in finance
More needs to be done to raise awareness of blockchain technology and its benefits, as 19% of finance professionals are unaware of its uses within finance and 29% have no idea what blockchain is, according to the FinTech Barometer, an annual survey of 1,000 finance professionals conducted by order-to-cash specialist Onguard.
While 29% of finance professionals either already use or are beginning to plan using blockchain, this figure rises to 57% when looking specifically at the CFO job role. This indicates that CFOs understand the importance of this technology, but that they aren’t currently sharing this knowledge with less senior employees. When asked how often blockchain is discussed in meetings, over half (52%) of finance professionals admitted that it is never mentioned. However, when CFOs were asked the same question, 45% stated they talk about blockchain at least once a week, and 17% discuss it every day.
In terms of the technologies expected to have the biggest impact on the finance sector, cloud (38%), AI (32%) and big data (30%) came top, while blockchain was seen as disruptive by only 10%.
Despite this current lack of awareness, finance professionals seem ready for the arrival of new technologies, including artificial intelligence as well as blockchain, with 67% either planning deployment or already using them.
Financial service providers transform into IT companies
As these technologies are implemented, financial services organisations will be required to update their business models. This is a sentiment echoed by more than a third (38%) of finance professionals who expect financial institutions to be fully transformed into IT companies within ten years. While finance professionals aren’t afraid that their employer will disappear, with 78% confident that their current employer will still exist in ten years’ time, 39% believe that the arrival of blockchain and artificial intelligence will have a major impact on employment.
Marieke Saeij, CEO, Onguard commented: “Whereas in 2018 technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence were mostly discredited and labelled as ‘hype’, we can see that organisations have now actually started adopting them. At Onguard, for example, we use artificial intelligence to optimise the entire order-to-cash process for companies. This makes it possible for organisations to predict whether and when their customers will pay. Blockchain also offers a solution for financial services. For example, it makes the origin of payments transparent and a lot safer, so that there is no risk of fraud. However, more awareness needs to be raised about the benefits of blockchain, as this research shows its uses aren’t widely known.
“While the exact uses of blockchain are not yet defined, the level of activity using this form of technology is only going to increase. Businesses are already benefitting from enhanced data security and the ability to automate admin processes. With nearly two thirds of CFOs already preparing an initiative related to blockchain, I expect that this is just the beginning of a blockchain revolution.”
HOW ENTERPRISE INFORMATION MANAGEMENT, CLOUD AND ANALYTICS WILL IMPACT FINANCIAL SERVICES IN 2020
Richard Mill, director at Business Systems (UK) Ltd
Business Systems’ Will Davenport on which drivers of change will most affect the financial services sector in 2020
Recent multi-million pound fines levied on financial services firms such as Tullet Prebon have acted as a wake-up call to City CIOs. That’s because the FCA now includes Voice as a record medium, and is no longer prepared to tolerate delays in locating conversations it is examining.
As a direct result, we will witness the formal incorporation of Voice as a peer form of information storage to email, text or internal documentation. That’s not happened to date as it’s historically been an unstructured and fairly unwieldy medium, but modern technology is completely changing that picture.
City firms are starting to manage all their various data assets by using an EIM (Enterprise Information Management) approach. This is a discipline centred on being able to integrate all your data into one structure and applying the right archiving and retrieval workflows across everything you do: we therefore anticipate a great deal of interest in audio-enabled EIM project work in 2020.
Cloud sweeps all before it
In 2020, the cloud tide will be unstoppable. That’s partly because people are used to accessing applications in the cloud or storing data there, but there’s now going to be a push to use cloud as a way to centralise the bank’s IT systems. The argument as to whether the cloud is insecure has long been settled with City CIOs judging cloud as often safer than their existing on-premise solution.
As a result, there’s no reason to continue paying for expensive hardware that requires tending, patching and upgrading. In 2020, look for cloud trading turrets with the back-end being remote and offering porting of voice records into the cloud. That latter step may be a challenge for financial services firms with multiple and legacy voice recording platforms in place, so the cloud move may lead to overdue rationalisation and integration projects.
Ultimately, the cloud represents a whole new approach to consuming IT and building apps in the Square Mile. Financial services firms are frustrated with devoting too much resource to old mainframe systems when they would like the modern technology infrastructure in place to support them to be more agile. Cloud will be very liberating for the sector.
Strong analytics user cases emerge
Analytics technology has evolved and what used to be referred to as dumb data is now a source of business intelligence. Useful data hidden in audio files that used to be discoverable through hours of transcription can now be processed in modern speech analytics systems — making what was originally inert, unstructured data become structured data, which can be easily queried in order to spot patterns and find interesting anomalies.
I predict that in the new decade using speech analytics financial services firms will finally gain a richer understanding of what their customers ask for and find problematic, as data mining probes can be run over a vast set of customer interactions.
It will mean trading floor managers will have even better detection and forensic tools at their disposal to understand what’s happening, which will be a win-win for customer and regulator alike.
In 2020, Voice will be seen an important strategic asset for the financial services firm CIO.
WILL BLOCKCHAIN REVOLUTIONIZE FINANCE?
By Ken Timsit, ConsenSys
Over the last 10 years, researchers, software developers, start-ups, and large companies have been conducting experiments aimed at determining whether networks based on blockchain technology can ultimately – in whole or in part – replace the infrastructure on which financial institutions and capital markets are built.
In today’s electronic databases, any information can theoretically be replicated at will. This is why most governments allow only regulated actors to keep records of digitized assets (banks, depositories), to avoid pitfalls such as the execution of misleading transactions or the creation of artificial assets. With blockchain, these pitfalls can be avoided at the source code of the technology, which is available to all members of the network. The creation of Ethereum enabled a more robust blockchain network capable of “smart contracts”, which once programmed, can run automatically without the results being modified or manipulated.
Contrary to what some critics argue, the potential of the blockchain is not the creation of a free and unregulated space in which everyone can invent new financial instruments. Rather, the potential lies in creating a much more efficient and globalized commercial and financial infrastructure, in which many layers of control and intermediation are no longer needed as they are replaced by transparent and immutable IT rules that ensure the same risk management functions.
For example, bonds are essential financial instruments on which a large part of our economy and savings are based. The issue and exchange of a bond requires the intervention of several dozen financial institutions (issuers, intermediaries and investors). Some regulated players in this intermediary chain exist mainly to ensure that it is possible to know, at any time, who holds each bond, in order to guarantee their rights to its bearers.
It is theoretically possible to simplify these stacks of operators by linking them to a global blockchain network, open to all stakeholders in the industry. The blockchain network can thus ensure at any time that the number of outstanding bonds corresponds exactly to the number of bonds issued, and that each exchange transaction is carried out without the risk of default.
The blockchain revolution is first and foremost the reduction of costs and delays caused by the current financial infrastructure. The blockchain revolution also creates innovation opportunities for consumers, savers, and investors.
The Web3 revolution, often used to refer to the blockchain revolution, will be driven by the reduction in transaction costs, allowing the emergence of new peer-to-peer business models that we are not yet able to accurately predict, but which will probably participate in a rebalancing of the relationships between financial institutions and their clients. Some international peer-to-peer payment and loan-to-peer savings investment models are already attracting increasing interest from the most sophisticated consumers.
Where are we in 2020?
Today, the blockchain revolution is still in its infancy. Transaction volumes through blockchain networks, public and private, are low compared to those of existing systems. The fixed costs of the technology are still relatively high, and the user experience leaves something to be desired.
However, innovations abound. It is already possible for me, from my smartphone, to buy digital assets whose value is equal to about one US dollar, and to lend them in three clicks to other users who will pay me between 1% and 10% per year for this service, depending on the type of platform.
The number of large operational business projects is still small, but very promising. Numerous international commodity trading players have joined forces to create Vakt and komgo, two platforms that contribute to a significant simplification of trade and oil financing. Similar and competing projects, Voltron and Marco Polo, are being launched. On the corporate side, the Capbridge 1x platform (Singapore) already allows shares to be traded on an Ethereum blockchain network. Other important projects such as LiquidShare (France), SIX Digital Exchange (Switzerland), Daura (with Deutsche Borse and Swisscom in Switzerland), Synapse (Hong Kong Stock Exchange) are in preparation. The World Bank, Société Générale and Santander have issued bonds on an Ethereum blockchain network. These initiatives are still experimental but have attracted significant interest from financial institutions around the world.
And of course, many projects aim to revolutionize global payments by creating digital assets on blockchain networks that are fixed in Euros, U.S. Dollars or other currencies, such as those of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the South African Reserve Bank, and Union Bank of the Philippines. Since the announcement of the Facebook-initiated Libra project, many governments have expressed concern about the possibility of private companies controlling global payment flows, and have asked their domestic financial institutions to redouble their efforts to explore competing initiatives.
All of this is to say that adoption is happening, albeit gradually. The middlemen and intermediaries of the financial world will not be replaced overnight. Moreover, the exact formation or architecture of the new financial system is impossible to predict with accuracy. However, it’s safe to say that blockchain will enable a financial system that is more efficient and yields more value-add to consumers, users, and investors.
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