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Interviews

COULD ARTIFICIAL FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE REVOLUTIONISE THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR?

An interview with Fahd Rachidy, Founder and CEO of ABAKA.

 

Engaging customers in financial planning for the future: what challenges does the sector face?

The UK population is ageing – by 2066, over 65s will make up over a quarter of the population. But many could be sleepwalking into retirement without the pension savings or financial plans in place to enjoy their later years. That’s why it’s more important than ever before for financial services providers to engage customers on planning for the future.

Financial services (FS) providers face various challenges when it comes to engaging customers on issues relating to their retirement. The constraints of legacy technologies and paper-based processes make it harder for the industry to get customers excited about planning for later life.

 

What fintech tools have emerged recently that can help the sector meet those challenges?

Artificial Financial Intelligence has the potential to have a transformative impact on the retirement market – particularly in the form of both conversational chatbots and intelligent nudges.

AI-powered conversational chatbots can help financial services companies to communicate with customers in more dynamic, self-service environments rather than sending customers 20-page statements that nobody reads. They enable financial organisations to offer hybrid advice solutions, where chatbots source preliminary information needed for validation and can categorise customers relative to their needs. In a world of hyper-personalisation, intelligent nudges are a powerful way to engage with customers when and if they need it.

All of this means that advisers can spend more time actually offering advice and building trust with their customers. Similarly, providers will be able to draw on more unstructured or behavioural data acquired by the bot, augmenting the interaction with a relevant pool of rich data and insight about the customer.

 

Fahd Rachidy

 

Can chatbots be truly ‘intelligent’?

Chatbots powered by natural language understanding – such as Abaka’s chatbot Ava – are adding real value to customers.  Alongside delivering human-like conversations and comprehensive product information, natural language processing allows chatbots to build an extensive range of appropriate, relevant responses. They can answer an expanding variety of questions in an engaging, genuinely conversational way. To add to this, interactions can be fully audited. This means that the solution can work in conjunction with third party services, further personalising and integrating the services being provided.  Used well, chatbots save time, money and improve the customer experience.

 

What immediate impacts could AI-powered conversational platforms have for FS organisations?

Providers have a responsibility and a commercial imperative to educate and guide our ageing population towards suitable retirement options. Intelligent chatbots can play their part by enabling providers to begin new conversations with a wider pool of customers.

Abaka has found that these services significantly improve customer engagement, opening up channels of communication and providing ease of access to information. Older customers are used to the technology – Facebook Messenger and Amazon’s Alexa, for example, are popular with older people.

Some older customers like being able to ask a machine questions without having to worry about whether they look silly or feel they should know the answer. Bots also empower customers to ask a question several times without fear of embarrassment.

Artificial Financial Intelligence is relatively simple to adopt, quick to scale and the ROI will be apparent in a reasonable timeframe. Chatbots and intelligent nudges are part of all of our retirement futures – we need to ensure that we use this technology in the best and most appropriate way to drive better outcomes for customers.

 

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Interviews

A PROPTECH FOUNDER’S BEGINNING, THE START OF KLEVIO AND HOW ACCESS-TECH IMPROVES FACILITIES MANAGEMENT

KLEVIO

An interview with Klevio’s CEO and Co-Founder, Aleš Špetič 

 

What is Klevio? 

Klevio is a smart intercom that allows individuals to enter a building using a mobile app, providing digital access and removing the need to use a key. Teams or individuals can manage access rights from our dashboard or the app, understanding the usage of their buildings better, whilst cutting costs and improving efficiencies. As well as Facilities Management (FM) professionals, Klevio’s technology has been implemented across numerous sectors including short-stay lets and longer-term property management, a recording studio that manages room bookings and a London pub which allows temporary access to delivery professionals via its solution. Klevio is also popular with private homeowners.

 

How did the idea come about? 

The founding of the team and the products we worked on came from several influences along our journey. I was still working on CubeSensors, a company I founded that created miniature sensors for both the home and offices, feeding back data on temperatures, noise, light, humidity and the likes, something of a Fitbit for the room.

Aleš Špetič

My co-founder and now Chairman, Demetrios Zoppos, was involved in the creation of Sherlock, the digital entry system that went on to be the underpinning technology for Klevio. When Demetrios exited his previous company, onefinestay, he held onto the intellectual property (IP) of Sherlock, knowing that there was a future for this technology elsewhere.

We quickly came to the conclusion that my IoT experience and history with physical products for consumers and offices, and the IP he had kept for Sherlock, meant that it would be criminal not to pool our experiences and so Klevio was founded.

 

How do you compete with the other access solutions on the market? 

We have merged the new and the old. Keys have been around for thousands of years in some way or another, so have been ripe for a digital upgrade. With our competitors, although there is some amazing technology, most add confusion or annoyance to the process. There are smart-lock providers whose technology normally requires the changing of locks or at least the installation of an ugly and not always user-friendly pin-pad at the door.

Other options require magnetic cards and in many larger establishments receptionists are paid to ensure that someone enters their email for data capture, further adding to huge setup costs. With Klevio you do not need an extra key, token, or card. Everything is on your phone, similar to Apple Pay.Klevio is installed inside the building and is connected to the existing lock.

For office spaces, co-working and other large blocks, key cards are just one more item that can be shared and lost. With Klevio there’s no need to provide a keycard to anyone and it can be connected to an existing system. Many access systems do not have this benefit, and for offices this means you can change the access to your own unit without affecting the rest of a building.

 

What are the main challenges for your business? 

Changing a mindset. People have used and trusted keys their whole lives. Getting them to accept a simpler alternative isn’t an easy thing to do.

The other difficulty is hardware, especially when it comes to security and people’s offices and homes. With software, if you make a mistake or something doesn’t quite work, you can patch it and update things. If a hardware product has a fault, a product recall is going to be a huge undertaking, and no startup will have the budget to ride the storm like a Samsung or a VW Group. We invested a huge amount of time to make sure that Klevio performs well.

Customers need to build confidence and trust in your offering, rushing to deliver and make a splash can backfire in a huge way.

 

What trends in tech do you see shaping the future of offices and homes in the next five years? 

In the IoT space things are moving fast with the world’s largest companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook all vying to be the centre of the interconnected home and office. There are hundreds of startups carving out their own little corners too, so the next big shift will be consolidation. The industry leaders are already making moves to buy or partner with interesting startups to get ahead on IP and reach.

On a consumer level, people want smart solutions but are increasingly aware of their rights and privacy. Products that offer that on-demand feel, making lives easier and smoother, without taking too much data, will provide that personal touch consumers want and slowly start to manage the offices and homes of the future.

 

What is the one piece of advice you would give an organisation when looking to digitise its processes? 

Do your research – don’t rush to find a solution. There are companies out there that will be able to make your place of work run more smoothly. You just need to find the one that suits your systems, colleagues and budget.

 

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Interviews

OPPORTUNITIES IN FINTECH: LEVERAGING CROSS-BORDER PAYMENT SYSTEMS

As the world becomes increasingly global, the necessity for cross-border payments grows.

An interview with Aron Schwarzkopf, CEO and Co-founder of Kushki, a payment platform tailor-made for Latin America. 

What are some of the biggest challenges in the fintech sector, specifically related to POS payments?

There is a lack of standardization in the way that payments are handled in different countries, and this presents the most significant challenge because it complicates the process of connecting them all across borders. We’re working to address that by adding some standardized connecting processes and using artificial intelligence to help mitigate these complications and make smooth cross-border payments a given.

Why are cross-border payments becoming more of a necessity?

As the world becomes increasingly global, the necessity for cross-border payments grows. People and businesses are expanding their scope and reach and therefore need to be able to operate in different countries. Part of being functional is the ability to make those cross-border payments, and so the demand for better options for those payments will continue to grow.

What are the key opportunities for cross-border payments?

There are four main opportunities that I see for cross-border payments. The first is facilitating fast and direct payments, cutting down on the extra steps required, but still maintaining the security of the transactions. From this, follows the need (and opportunity) to centralize recurring payments. Smart links are also an area of opportunity, letting people make mobile payments through different platforms using personal payment links. Lastly, expanding the opportunity to store payment information, like card numbers, and using tokenization to facilitate recurring payments.

With several fintech startups launching recently, how can you tell which are valid?

One common mistake is to assume that just because a startup has built something innovative that it is going to be useful. Instead, the most important thing to evaluate is whether the company is offering a solution to a significant pain point or just offering a minor improvement. I recommend comparing the startup to the most established version of its product. Which is less expensive? Which is easier? Which is resolving a larger challenge? If the startup is doing well on both counts, they’re probably on to something.

 

What are the security concerns surrounding POS payments?

The authentication process for credit card transactions is different in different regions due to different technological infrastructure. This inconsistency can generate confusion and concern about the security of various transactions and makes it hard to verify and understand the different fraud management and security processes in place.

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