Connect with us

Banking

Banking on the future of digital assets

Published

on

Crypto coins

Jeremy Boot, Senior Product Manager at Temenos, explores the impact of digital assets on the financial industry and how banks must adapt to thrive in the brave new tokenized world

 

The rapid innovation of blockchain tech has led to an explosion of interest in digital assets. Investor enthusiasm has pushed crypto valuations to dizzying heights. The media is awash with new acronyms DeFi, NFTs, CBDCs.

Cutting through the noise, one thing is clear: distributed ledger technology has opened the door to a future where all our assets, both real-world and digital, could become tokenized and recorded on blockchains, completely redefining how we think about value exchange and ownership.

This begs the question; how will this impact the financial industry and how can banks adapt? Let’s look at some of the opportunities.

 

Jeremy Boot

The rise of crypto banks

Crypto assets are a hot topic as a new investment asset class, store of value, or hedge against government money and inflation. The ability to buy small amounts makes crypto financially accessible to all and a natural fit for the younger digital-native generation. Attractive risk-return ratios provide new portfolio allocation options for the wealthy at a period of record stock valuations and negative bond yields.

The digitally savvy may like to buy their crypto on exchanges and self-custody in hardware wallets, but this is out of reach for the masses. They would look to trusted institutions to give them access to these new markets, and a wave of offers led by new FinTechs and Challengers is already available.

This is where traditional banks can move in, building on their experience with securities trading to provide an additional integrated offer. Crypto infrastructure providers are evolving enterprise-grade custody and accessibility to markets using standard protocols such as FIX messaging. Banks can leverage their processes for order lifecycle management between front and back office and integrate crypto custody into their core banking systems.

The crucial advantage banks have, is a deep experience of regulatory compliance, such as with customer risk profiling and controls, allowing them to adapt quickly to the incoming regulatory frameworks that are certain to appear.

 

CBDCs and alternate payment rails

The first Central Bank Digital Currencies are appearing across the globe with many more countries refining their strategy. They seek to facilitate payments, boost their digital economies, and protect against the adoption of alternatives. Central Banks have no interest in managing the end customer directly and do not want to risk disintermediating banks. For these reasons, the standardised approach evolving for retail CBDCs is the two-tier model where traditional institutions remain the interface to the customer.

The emergence of CBDCs represents an opportunity for banks to gain ground on competitors by quickly integrating CBDC accounts into their offerings. By leveraging infrastructure partners at the back to link to the CDBC network and providing mobile apps on the front, they can offer a frictionless experience to their customers. One that facilitates exchange from current accounts to CBDC wallets and with an integrated payments experience.

Alternate payment rails – for example, Stablecoins issued on Ethereum or Lightning payments network on the Bitcoin blockchain – are also key areas to monitor adoption trends and potential for integration.

 

Open banking, new possibilities

Open banking facilitates financial product distribution, allowing institutions to broaden their ecosystems of products adding value to their customers. Digital assets open the door to additional products that could be included.

For example, on SmartContract blockchains we have seen the emergence of DeFi (Decentralised Finance) protocols. Many indeed have dubious levels of decentralisation in their current form, and the ultra-high yields on offer to liquidity providers scream Ponzi. Nevertheless, DeFi offers an exciting glimpse of new automated, non-custodial, and decentralized lending and borrowing models. Aave, one of the pioneers of the DeFi space, recently launched a first permissioned and KYC’d protocol opening the door to regulated financial institutions to tap into this tech, potentially offering new products to their clients to gain passive income in return for providing liquidity with their spare deposits.

For crypto investors holding native assets of proof-of-stake blockchains, staking would be a natural add-on service a bank could provide to their customers. Staking is the process of delegating assets to help secure the network. In return for locking up their tokens the user receives staking rewards. As on-chain economies develop and grow securing networks will become increasingly important. Asset staking could become a new form of standardised capital income generation, alongside bond coupons and stock dividends.

 

Everything tokenised

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have grabbed the headlines. Though the assets today are primarily digital – CryptoPunk JPEGs and the like – NFTs can also be used for real-world assets. Everything from stocks, collectibles, real estate and more could be tokenized, revolutionizing value ownership and exchange. The underlying blockchain provides a means to exchange value with other participants without having to rely on a centralized party.

Tokenisation opens the door to fractional ownership of assets such as art and real estate, lowering barriers to entry, and bringing in new liquidity to these markets by opening to the masses.

Beyond government CBDCs, non-profit organisations, sports clubs, corporations could issue tokens providing new ways to engage with their communities, encourage participation and loyalty, and distribute value to their network. New creator economies might emerge for digital works of art, metaverse artefacts and objects, non-propriety gaming assets.

Aside the low-value gaming or social tokens, we will need safe places to keep our valuable tokens. This will be essential for security, taxation, inheritance planning and the like.

Enter banks – banks of the future will not only hold our money but become the trusted guardians of the holistic value of our lives.

 

Banks as trusted guardians

The digital asset landscape is evolving fast. Most people will look to their trusted financial institutions to help them manage their new digital financial lives.

Banks can leverage their large customer base and deep regulatory expertise to provide new digital asset services that are trusted, secure, accessible, and compliant.

The good news is that there are infrastructure providers emerging that banks can leverage on their journey. In this way, banks can become primary players in the brave new tokenised world.

 

Banking

Augmented automated underwriting and the evolution of the life insurance market

Published

on

By Alby van Wyk, Chief Commercial Officer at Munich Re Automation Solutions

 

It’s almost inevitable. Spend your working life identifying, analysing, quantifying and ascribing monetary value to risk, and you’re likely to have a fairly strong aversion to it. Or more accurately, an aversion to undertaking new endeavours with inadequately understood consequences. The insurance industry is, on any number of levels, the very definition of risk-averse.

And yet, for all the commentary suggesting otherwise, insurance still has an appetite for innovation. If the insurtech sector is any indication, then an interest in and requirement for new solutions is being recognised and slowly addressed.

Declan O’Neill

It may not employ the language of disruption that runs through the wider fintech market, it may be short a few unicorns and unable to boast some of the record-breaking funding rounds, but a quiet tech evolution has been building in insurance nonetheless. Hence the advent of automated underwriting facilitated by more advanced algorithms and data analysis.

Where insurtech does overlap with its more vocal fintech counterparts is in the greater use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to solve age-old problems around data analysis and interpretation.

It’s about five years or so since AI first became a topic of conversation in insurance. Since then, despite the intensity of the debate, it has often felt like a reality that is always just over the horizon – a destination that kept moving even as more and more efforts were directed towards it.

But recent research suggests that the journeys made so far have not been in vain. We are at a point where embracement of AI is about to step up a gear. The global value of insurance premiums underwritten by AI have reached an estimated $1.3 billion this year, as stated by Juniper Research; but they are expected to top $20 billion in the next five years. As a destination, it is closer and more attainable than ever before.

However, AI is not an island. Its promise of $2.3 billion in global cost savings to be achieved through greater efficiencies and automation of resource-intensive tasks will not be achieved in isolation.

AI remains part of a more complex ecosystem of data gathering and analysis. It can apply new technologies to get the best out of the already established and still-emerging data sources that feature in underwriting offices around the world. It emphatically does not require these existing investments to be ripped out, replaced or downgraded.

It is more helpful therefore to see AI as the differentiating factor in the latest generation of insurance IT: augmented automated underwriting, or AAU for short.

AAU gives underwriters the ability to spot patterns and connections that are, frankly, either invisible to the human eye or which take normal, human-assisted processes unfeasible amounts of time and resource to identify.

Whereas earlier generations of automation were able to pick up the low-hanging fruit of insurance markets – the individuals whose driving history fit into clearly delineated boxes, for example – AAU can take into account all of the rich complexity of the human experience. It can spot the nuances and individualities that populate the life market, for example, and translate those into accurate policies.

That’s good news for both underwriters and their customers. AAU can significantly reduce the need for separate medicals, repeated questions, lengthy decision-making processes, and drastically increase the speed at which a potential insurer can get a quote and cover – while continually improving the way risk is calculated and managed.

It can make sure the decision-making process remains in the hands of underwriters rather than IT departments, enabling them to set and update the rules and parameters as befits their preferred business model. It consequently makes advanced, complex and precise decision-making available to a broader range of underwriting businesses – which is good for those businesses, good for customers and ultimately good for the entire industry.

AAU – augmented automated underwriting – is an example of the realisation of AI’s promise. As such, it’s set to become one of the key talking points and disruptive technologies of the insurance industry. And this time, AAU is both a journey and destination that all progressive insurance organisations need to be considering for their future operations.

 

 

Continue Reading

Banking

ESG in the finance and banking industry – are you ready?

Published

on

By Julian Moffett, CTO BFSI, EDB

 

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) has soared towards the top of banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) and other boardroom interests. Organisations everywhere know they need to take ESG and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) seriously not only because it is the right thing to do for the future of the planet or because it can help attract and retain talent, but also, because failing to do so may pose a risk to the economic value of their businesses and encourage probes by governments, watchdogs and non-execs. However, complying with complex reporting and going the extra mile to actually deliver on the goals of the rules is a challenge in many ways, not the least of which is in achieving the required excellence in data management to underpin strong reporting on ESG.

 

What is ESG? 

Julian Moffett

ESG is an umbrella term that covers a broad gamut of activities. Gartner defines ESG as “…a collection of corporate performance evaluation criteria that assess the robustness of a company’s governance mechanisms and its ability to effectively manage its environmental and social impacts.”

The CFA Institute describes the environmental element as focusing on “the conservation of the natural world” and includes measuring “climate change and carbon emissions,” “air and water pollution” and “biodiversity” among many other measures. Social considers “people and relationships” looking at areas including “customer satisfaction,” and “gender and diversity.” Governance covers “standards for running a company” and analyses factors such as “board composition,” “audit committee structure” and “audit committee structure.”

 

Status of the current regulatory environment

There are many bodies proposing rules to formalise ESG monitoring and seeking to ensure corporate compliance. Some example groups, frameworks and bodies:

  • The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)
  • Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR)
  • The International Regulatory Strategy Group (ISRG)
  • The Sustainability Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR)
  • The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB)
  • The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) support efforts such as the US SEC’s Climate and ESG Task Force.

Financial services organisations are very aware that the current regulatory landscape is far from mature (and will continue changing) both in terms of alignment between bodies and also with regard to when the new rules will come into effect. At the of time of writing:

  • The requirement for Scope 2 disclosures (see below for description) for the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) will likely come into effect in 2023
  • A proposed Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) should be agreed by the European Parliament this year for implementation in 2024 to report on performance in 2023.
  • Meanwhile, the SEC has just released its proposed rules for climate-related disclosures, which,if passed in legislation, may come into effect as early as year end 2022.

 

Reporting Obligations 

Reporting can cover a wide range of areas covering energy consumption, GHG emissions, water consumption and waste management to health and safety, labour rights, diversity and inclusion to ethical conduct, and even areas such as appropriate executive compensation.

While the regulatory reporting obligations are not yet finalised, the expectation is that compliance may prove to be an onerous task. For example, organisations are under pressure to monitor carbon emissions but even so-called Scope 1 emissions (those that come from owned or controlled emissions) can be hard to track. Factor in Scope 2 (indirect emissions such as purchased power) as well as Scope 3 emissions from up and down value chains, and the reporting task at hand is difficult indeed.

To measure, monitor and manage in addition to staying on the right side of rules, organisations need to have excellent data management fundamentals, strong reporting tools and a new class of applications, which also have the agility to adapt to rapidly changing regulatory demands. Data will be used both to support decarbonisation measures but also to identify where there are disclosure gaps. It was telling that when the SEC issued a press release on its Enforcement Task Force, it specifically referred to data:

“The task force will also coordinate the effective use of Division resources, including through the use of sophisticated data analysis to mine and assess information across registrants, to identify potential violations.”

Having reliable data comply with emerging rules isn’t the only essential requirement for organisations. Institutions need such data to understand where they are in their journey to sustainability, so that they can set sensible targets and track progress against them. Organisations will have to cover the data trifecta of availability, management and transparency. Many organisations may be stuck in the early stages of managing ESG, overly relying on manual processes, spreadsheets and email. But their target should be to get to real-time data insights that are easily visualised, understood and shared. As a foundation, BFSIs need to capture, manage and securely share data reflecting consumption and safety to emissions, financials and data from surveys measuring results against ESG targets. Data emanating from ERP and other back-office systems, performance data from third-party associates, media and social network coverage, spatial/geolocation systems and beyond should also be factored in.

 

Actually reducing GHGs

Organisations are using a wide variety of ways to reduce emissions and improve their footprints from using renewable energy sources to making secondary use of energy; for example, in the case of one university, this is done through capturing data centre heat in hydroponics. For IT, making broader use of multitenancy in cloud computing and hosting services is a popular way to reduce emissions. Not only do these large data centres offer an economy of scale, they also tend to be state of the art in their use of renewables and highly efficient hardware and other infrastructure. Gartner, in an article titled The Data Centre Is Almost Dead, says it expects 80 percent of enterprises will close in-house datacenters by 2025. For me, the jury is out on this one but an interesting one to monitor going forward.

 

Conclusion

We are at the start of a very significant inflection point in regulatory and consumer expectations around ESG. BFSIs should be under no illusion that momentum is building rapidly in terms of having to address strict reporting requirements and implement strategies to reduce GHGs.

However, we also see this as a time of positive change. As the leading provider of Postgres, EDB is excited to help organisations further their ESG goals as the journey unfolds. We are closely monitoring the implications of ESG regulations as they will give rise to a new class of applications and drive adoption of green data centres. We see OSS, including Postgres, as playing a key role in this shift as often the movement to private and public cloud helps accelerate application modernisation and enables displacement of outdated incumbent technology (including database) platforms. As the leading provider of Postgres, EDB is excited to help organisations further their ESG goals as the journey unfolds.

 

Continue Reading

Magazine

Trending

Business3 days ago

How can businesses boost employee experience for finance professionals?

By Martin Schirmer, President, Enterprise Service Management, IFS Over the course of the last year, The Great Resignation has seriously...

Business4 days ago

CBDCs: the key to transform cross-border payments

Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, Board Director at RTGS.global   If you work in finance, you’ll have been hearing a lot about...

Business4 days ago

Green growth: The unstoppable rise of climate technology investment

With the investment community focusing more and more on renewable technologies, investor interest is at an all-time high. Ian Thomas,...

Business4 days ago

Bolstering know your customer processes as regulation tightens

Nick Payne, banking services, customer advisory, SAS UK & Ireland, discusses how new technologies allow financial services companies to develop rigorous KYC...

Finance4 days ago

The penny has dropped – the finance sector needs Data Governance-as-a-Service

By Michael Queenan, Co-Founder and CEO at Nephos Technologies   In our data-driven world, the amount of data is growing...

Business4 days ago

Seven tips for financial services brands using mail

By Cameron Russell, Head of Marketing at Marketreach   Customer experience (CX) is a powerful differentiator for modern brands. If...

Top 104 days ago

Turn the data landfill into an insight goldmine

Andrew Watson, CTO, MHR Today, businesses have access to a wealth of data, with vast amounts of information created daily....

Business4 days ago

A Culture of Cyber Security Throughout Financial Services Organisations

Michael Cantor, CIO, Park Place Technologies Financial Services organisations have long been a top target for cyber-attacks given both the...

Business6 days ago

Financial Stability Board Gives Full Support to Wide LEI Use in Global Payments

Clare Rowley, Head of Business Operations at the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation The strongest recommendation yet by the Financial...

Business6 days ago

On-demand pay: why payroll needs a modern approach

Byline:  Paul Bartlett, CEO, CloudPay   While the world of work has evolved drastically over the last decade, payroll has...

Business6 days ago

 ‘What should real estate investors be doing now – has the market hit rock bottom or is now the time to buy?’

Following many years of housing prices soaring and competition steadily increasing, real estate growth has finally started to slow, likely...

Business7 days ago

Expert Guide for Email Marketing to Improving Your Conversion Rates

If you talk about email marketing campaigns, it would seem like an old-fashioned advertising style. But it is still an...

Banking1 week ago

Augmented automated underwriting and the evolution of the life insurance market

By Alby van Wyk, Chief Commercial Officer at Munich Re Automation Solutions   It’s almost inevitable. Spend your working life...

Banking1 week ago

ESG in the finance and banking industry – are you ready?

By Julian Moffett, CTO BFSI, EDB   Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) has soared towards the top of banking, financial...

Top 102 weeks ago

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Investing in Bitcoin

Marcus de Maria, Founder and Chairman of Investment Mastery.   Over recent years, Bitcoin has been steadily growing in popularity...

Business2 weeks ago

Overcoming macroeconomic challenges

By Mike Chambers, formerly CEO of Bacs and a consultant at Access PaySuite.   For businesses offering a subscription-based service, the...

Banking2 weeks ago

How unlocking the potential of tokenised markets can help banks keep pace with the digital economy

Giulia Secco is the Strategic Partnership & Ecosystem Manager at Fnality International.   In the aftermath of the 2008 financial...

Banking2 weeks ago

The role of Artificial intelligence in compliance at banks

Sujata Dasgupta, Global Head – Financial Crime Compliance Advisory, Tata Consultancy Services   There’s not a financial institution across the...

Technology2 weeks ago

Scaling securely in the automation-first era

By Brandon Traffanstedt, Sr. Director, Field Technology Office at CyberArk   Robotic process automation (RPA) has been one of the...

Business2 weeks ago

Putting technology to work on entrepreneur fund-raising

By Simon Glass, CEO, Qodeo   Human relationships are behind the most successful venture capital deals. The chemistry between an...

Trending