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EMBRACING HYBRID CLOUD IN THE FINANCIAL SECTOR

By Javid Khan, Chief Cloud Officer, Pulsant

In the mid-1960s, an American computer scientist named J.C.R. Licklider came up with an idea for an interconnected system of computers. He also envisioned a world where everyone would be connected and have the ability to access specific programs and data, regardless of where the access point might be located. While he didn’t refer to this as cloud computing, he was essentially describing how it would work.

However, we didn’t see this in action until Salesforce.com pioneered the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website in 1999. Since then we’ve seen the development of different cloud services in the as-a-service approach, rhetoric on different models (public, private, multi-cloud), and a lot of comparison between hyperscale public cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

When assessing which model to adopt, hybrid cloud has always been positioned as the ultimate solution to address the argument of which cloud model was better. The basic premise is still the same but today an organisation’s primary focus is optimising its existing use of cloud to get the most benefit for its business, as identified in the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report.

Many financial firms have concerns around regulatory compliance which may hold them back from adopting a hybrid cloud model. However, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) doesn’t see any reasons why cloud services cannot be implemented in a manner that complies with their rules. Indeed, Accenture recommends that financial institutions follow a ‘cloud first’ approach and future-proof their IT by establishing a hybrid cloud environment.

What does hybrid mean and what does it have to offer?

The term hybrid is concerned with combining different elements to make something new. What it doesn’t define is the exact combination of each element and it’s the same with cloud. There is no universal description and the balance of public and private cloud can be defined to meet the needs of each individual financial institution and bring maximum benefit to users.

Gartner defines hybrid cloud as: “policy-based and service provisioning, use and management across a mixture of internal and external cloud services.” But, for many, it is more of an umbrella term — using the right mix of capabilities and resources for each and every business. And this mix includes a variety of things, from on-premise hosting and colocation, to leveraging services within public cloud as well as private cloud. How this mix is brought together will be dependent on each and every customer’s needs and expectations.

As with many things’ technology related, adopting an effective hybrid cloud strategy is all about taking the right approach. There are a number of possibilities. You can go full throttle into adoption, focus on transforming your organisation, embracing methods such as DevOps and automation and changing your business model. Or you could take a more sedate approach, evolve over time and maximise your current investment in infrastructure, upskill staff and ensure the business experiences minimum disruption.

There are also multiple ways of beginning your transition, but conducting a cloud readiness assessment to determine your organisation’s current state and where you need to go on your journey is a good place to start. Only then can you begin to formulate a cloud adoption transformation programme

Working with a cloud partner can be invaluable here, not just in terms of drawing on their expertise and capability, but also about determining which solution is best for your organisation, your outcomes and your requirements. Even if cloud isn’t necessarily the answer for your business, taking a transformative approach and developing a roadmap to drive IT efficiencies can help. It also determines the future capabilities your organisation can adopt alongside a scale of determined change and, more importantly, your return on investment.

Why a hybrid approach is the right one

On this journey to adopt hybrid services it’s important to realise that it’s not necessarily just about cloud. Cloud adoption isn’t just a technology update; it affects your staff, your processes and your wider business. Importantly, migration requires a change in attitude and mindset across the entire organisation to make sure it’s successful. If you consider that the journey should be more of a digital evolution rather than a transformation, it becomes clear that while technology is important, the journey and the process of change incorporates so much more.

Hybrid cloud, for example, is a broad concept, which means that selling the concept to the board, stakeholders and staff will be tough. More often than not, it’s about a mindset shift, again thinking about the outcomes that technology can enable. Looking at the people element also requires analysing skills; what’s needed, where the gaps are, and how you’re likely to fill those gaps, either through upskilling or recruitment. For the most part, this refers to your IT teams but can also include other users who need specific functionality from the tech they’re using.

On a wider level, you need to determine if your business is ready for cloud. Is it the best option? If so, how will migration affect your processes? Your operations? Which is why looking at your cloud readiness is vital. A move to the cloud will affect your processes, making them more complex, especially in a hybrid environment where you are managing both tangible assets and those in the cloud.

Reaping the benefits of hybrid cloud

Gartner says that by 2020, 90% of businesses will have adopted a hybrid infrastructure but which platforms and services are implemented will be very much dependant on the individual organisation. Financial Services organisations, like others, will need to interact with data and systems which could be anywhere. PWC offers cloud as a good use case and advises using hybrid cloud due to its ability to aggregate data and analyse activity, as well as reduce capital and operating expenditure.

This is why one of the most important elements in adopting hybrid services is working with the right provider. There’s a lot to consider from a technology, business and personnel point of view, so ensuring you have the right partner to guide you through the whole journey, offering expertise along the way, is a key indicator for future success.

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Technology

DISPELLING BIOMETRIC MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

By Lina Andolf-Orup, Head of Marketing at Fingerprints

Gangsters cutting off enemies’ fingers to access secret locations and spies lifting fingerprints from martini glasses – the imagination of the entertainment world has been running wild ever since biometrics entered the scene.

Couple that with the limitations of some early biometric solutions from fifteen years ago, still anchored in the minds of many consumers, and you have the perfect recipe for an apprehensive and uncertain public.

 

Thawing lukewarm attitudes with a biometric touch

The biometrics industry has made great strides in the last few years – something particularly true for smartphones. Fingerprint authentication has replaced PINs and passwords as the most popular way to authenticate on mobile, with 70% of shipped smartphones now featuring biometrics.

And it doesn’t end there. Many adjacent markets are now eager to benefit from the secure and convenient authentication solutions that biometrics offer. Take the payments industry, for example, where biometrics payment cards are currently gathering real momentum.

However, some consumers are still uneasy about accepting biometrics. A recent study found that 56% of US and EU consumers are concerned about the switch to biometrics as it’s not enough understood to be trusted.

Although attitudes are shifting for the better, stats like this demonstrate there is still some work to do to disprove common biometric myths and showcase just how smart today’s solutions really are.

 

Lina Andolf-Orup

Dispel, adopt, repeat

The evolution in consumer biometrics in the last two decades has been phenomenal. And today’s solutions are far more advanced and safe than many may think.

To help bring an end to the myths, let’s expose some of the most common misconceptions around biometrics.

Myth: Biometric data is stored as images in easy-to-hack databases.

A leading myth about biometrics is that when a fingerprint is registered to a device, it is stored as an image of the actual fingerprint. This image can then be stolen and used across applications. In reality, the biometric data is stored as a template in binary code – put simply, encrypted 0s and 1s. Storing a mathematical representation rather than an image makes hacking considerably more challenging. In most consumer applications, this template is also not stored in a cloud-based location, its securely hosted in hardware on the device itself for example in the smartphone, in the payment card. Thus, it stays privately with its owner.

Myth: Fingerprints can be easily replicated to ‘trick’ devices.

The internet is full of articles and videos that claim it is possible to use materials from cello tape to gummy bears to craft fingerprint spoofs and access biometric systems. Although there may have been a time where gummy bear spoofing was the go-to party trick, todays’ consumer biometric authentication solutions have too many technological defences, such as improved image quality and matching algorithms, to simply ‘trick’ devices. Plus, on top this, the criminal needs to have access to the person’s device where this fingerprint is enrolled e.g. smartphone, payment card, before he/she notices and blocks it. This is not scalable nor common, in comparison to gaining access to someone’s PIN code or skimming a contactless card.

Myth: Physical change will prohibit access to my device.

Although our irises don’t change as we age, our fingerprints can and our faces will. Does that mean we have to update our biometric devices every few months to capture these changes? Not quite! Unless there are drastic, sudden changes, the ‘self-learning’ algorithms in modern-day biometric systems are able to keep up with our developing looks.

 

Who you gonna call? Mythbusters!

These are just some of the common biometric myths and misunderstandings perpetuating in consumer mindsets. Thankfully, though, while we’re working hard to rid the world of the myths, belief in the value of biometrics is only expected to grow. But as solutions expand and diversify, the myth-busting fight will continue.

Fingerprints has been a leader of innovation in biometrics for the last two decades. We’re proud of the expertise and R&D we’ve been able to pour into our biometrics solutions to deliver stronger security and a better user-experience. To learn more about the most common biometric misconceptions and the modern-day technology that allows us to dispel them, download our eBook here.

 

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Technology

WHAT EVOLUTIONARY AI MEANS FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES

FINANCIAL SERVICES

by Babak Hodjat, VP of Evolutionary AI at Cognizant

 

Many banks and other financial services institutions (FIs) are beginning to recognise the benefits of AI-driven solutions as a way to get ahead in the market and challenge the competition. Amongst many other benefits, the technology enables organisations to offer hyper-personalised customer experience,  dramatically improve internal decision making, and drive operational efficiency. However, many businesses are struggling to move beyond the experimental phase and reach actual AI deployment. It is those organisations that are at risk of being left behind.

The financial world has already been transformed by AI, and this transformation is continuous. A new breed of AI, known as ‘evolutionary AI’ has begun to further accelerate innovation. It is capable of automatically designing itself with little need for explicit programming by humans – innovatively creating complex AI models, and optimising decisions considering multiple scenarios.

This technology is revolutionary for industries across the world, but in particular it is set to transform the financial services sector. Enabling businesses to spot novel strategies that would never have been identified by human data scientists, and, in turn, allowing companies to take full advantage of today’s massive data sets – evolutionary AI will soon be a vital tool in all FIs’ arsenals.

 

The nuts and bolts of evolutionary AI

Emerging technologies that enable AI algorithms to design themselves are allowing organisations to transcend human limitations. Evolutionary AI operates iteratively. Firstly, it randomly generates a set of potential solutions to form an initial population and assigns a score to each solution based on how well it performs relative to other solutions. In the second round, it retains the solutions that performed best, perhaps only 5% of the total, and recombines their components, sometimes “mutating” them to create a new population. This new population is then tested, and the process begins again. Over multiple generations, the appropriate components of the more successful solutions become increasingly prevalent in the population, and eventually a solution is discovered that yields the best outcomes.

 

Advantages and use cases

Compared to human design, evolutionary AI can be deployed far more quickly, avoids biases and preconceptions, and typically performs better. Furthermore, the chosen model will evolve and improve over time based on new data.

Evolutionary AI can be applied in a wide variety of areas at FIs. Some examples include designing quantitative trading strategies to maximise returns while minimising risk and loan underwriting. Rather than relying on human analysis, evolutionary AI solutions can quickly analyse all the combinations of relevant variables to create models that more accurately assess the risk of default by a potential borrower.

 

A recipe for success

In order to reap the benefits of the technology, FIs should focus on the following:

  • Responsible AI – Behave in ways that make customers and employees comfortable, i.e. not making decisions that are unethical or exhibit bias. Companies need to monitor them to ensure they continue to act appropriately, as they learn and evolve.
  • Viewing AI through a business lens – Having AI projects managed by cross-functional teams with business executives in the lead is a good place to start. Companies also need to look across their organisations to identify opportunities to generate concrete business value from AI — not only in reduced costs but also in boosting revenues by delivering enhanced customer experiences and through improved decision-making.
  • Enhance data management – AI applications depend on access to timely and accurate data, which is a challenge for many FIs that have fragmented data architectures with multiple legacy systems. Companies need to identify which types of data are required for each AI project and ensure they can be captured in an appropriate format.
  • Approach with speed and caution – AI projects need to be rolled out quickly, while at the same time be rigorously measured, so failures are terminated promptly while successes are moved into production.

The sophistication of AI technology is set to significantly improve over the coming years as it continues to design and test itself. As a result, it will become more critical to the productivity of FIs, and soon businesses will recognise it as a vital tool for consulting on important business decisions. It will not be long before humans and AI are working alongside each other, with robots handling routine tasks, enabling employees to focus on more complex and sensitive activities. Delivering more value together than either could on their own.

 

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