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Planning for Power Outages: Why Business Continuity Matters More Than Ever



By Tom Cole, Managing Director, Abacus Group


Will the UK face power outages this winter? While mass blackouts are unlikely, they are not beyond the realms of possibility, with National Grid warning that homes and businesses across England, Scotland and Wales could see their power shut-off for three hours at a time. The potential power cuts have been laid out as a worst-case scenario by the energy group after assessing all possible outcomes. There is reportedly enough capacity to avoid temporary losses of power.

Even with the lights expected to stay on, companies with a clear and consistent business continuity plan (BCP) will be at a significant advantage. Why? Because the ability to withstand the unexpected not only minimises the impacts should the worst happen, but also makes strong business sense today. It demonstrates to investors, customers, and other stakeholders that their operational needs are being taken seriously and that the business is robust enough to overcome any incidents it may face. Furthermore, the watchful eye of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is laser-focused on operational resilience, making it a requisite for firms to identify their important business services, set impact tolerances for the maximum tolerable disruption, and carry out mapping and testing to the necessary level of sophistication.

Tom Cole

The unexpected and rapid onset of the pandemic threw the importance of a robust BCP into sharp relief, highlighting its role as a living, breathing, real-world programme rather than just words on a page. Now, as we enter a challenging and uncertain winter period, it is time for companies to assess their business impact analysis (BIA) and BCP terms. This involves fully understanding the specific risks, evaluating the strength of current contingency plans, and optimising the resources available before and after an emergency.


The costs of downtime

An unexpected power outage could bring business operations to a fast and unceremonious halt. The economic effects of this downtime can be substantial. But the impact of each event often extends beyond the obvious: downtime hampers the productivity of almost everyone in a company, leading to lower morale, reputational damage, and lost business opportunities.

Today’s volatility of market conditions means that few companies in the alternative investment industry would be untouched by widespread power outages. This is particularly true for hedge funds trading very high volumes – even a short outage could have significant impacts.


Setting out a plan

Therefore, firms should have a business continuity plan that recognises infrastructure outages during organised blackouts. While the requirements will vary between companies, the key components of an effective BCP include a thorough business impact analysis, a review of existing processes, and the creation and implementation of clear continuity strategies.

For some businesses, this may involve turning BCPs of early 2020 on their head: outages are arguably more likely to happen in rural areas, so remote employees could be ordered back into central offices to mitigate the risks of disruption at home. In contrast, some London-based banks are reported to be considering reinstating plans to shift to offsite locations and homeworking. And, of course, many businesses have already made the permanent shift to fully remote working, so they will need to consider other office-free contingency plans.


Weighing up the options

In a world of unknowns, firms need to understand their office power resiliency, assessing the effectiveness of their existing backup systems.

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) remains a primary method to provide power resiliency. While this is only effective for a short-term outage, providing continuous power for an additional 20-30 minutes can buy a firm precious time to take quick action and put its BCP into motion.

Businesses should consider reviewing the size and technology of their UPS unit. A desktop UPS could make all the difference for key personnel to save their work and log off gracefully when the lights go out, but a more central UPS that is plumbed into the architecture of an office’s electrical systems will ensure a more stable power supply. However, not every business will be able to accommodate the size and weight of such a unit, so it is important to understand any potential limitations or obstructions should you go down the UPS route.

A much more effective way of ensuring medium-to-long-term office power resiliency is to pair a UPS with a generator. The role of the UPS is to maintain a power load for the immediate aftermath of an outage whilst the generator becomes available – a process that usually takes only a minute or two. As the Fort Knox of power resiliency, generators need to be in place for an office to be truly protected from blackouts.

Many purpose-built offices in the capital already have generators, but they are restricted to life-support functionalities such as elevators and emergency equipment. While this generally fails to cover office infrastructure, it is an opportunity that should be explored with a company’s office provider, as power generators can be a lifeline when the unexpected strikes.

Of course, not every office will have the space, time, or money for power generators. Ideally, power resiliency questions would have been asked as part of the office selection process, but it is never too late for businesses to engage with their provider and query what is currently in place. Even businesses with suboptimal power resilience can take steps to adequately prepare for outages. Laptop batteries typically run for 4-6 hours, so all companies should use this opportunity to test the worst-case scenario, working via battery and tethering to employees’ mobile phones. This exercise will help everybody familiarise themselves with the steps should an outage occur while also allowing the business to assess the speed and performance of their 4G or 5G networks.


Cloud resiliency is key

Cloud evolution cannot be ignored when it comes to full, scalable business resiliency. The widespread move away from on-premises computing and towards the cloud has left many companies in a much safer place and could prove to be a blessing should the UK experience blackouts this winter.

Cloud services reside behind a fortress of purpose-built, always available, and highly resilient data centres. These secure ecosystems hold an abundance of UPS and power generators, which are frequently tested to simulate a total power failure. Furthermore, they connect to various power grids, providing that extra layer of resilience and preparedness for the unexpected.

Should the worst happen, data centres have firm service-level agreements (SLAs) with fuel providers to keep their generators supplied and online for days rather than hours. This arrangement guarantees businesses in the cloud a level of business continuity that an in-office UPS cannot provide.

For companies yet to make a move to the cloud, now is a better time than ever to engage with an IT services provider for advanced, secure, and scalable access to cloud services. Supported by a robust and continually updated business continuity plan, businesses can safeguard and future-proof their operations today to meet the challenges of tomorrow.


In-platform solutions are only a short-term enhancement, but bespoke AI is the future



By Damien Bennett, Global Director, Principal Consultant, Incubeta


If you haven’t heard anyone talking about artificial intelligence (AI) yet, then where have you been? Conversations about AI and its advantages to society have been a key talking point over recent months, with advances being made in the generative AI race and ChatGPT opening a whole plethora of possibilities. Many have highlighted the advantages of AI, but notably it’s ability to create human-like content.

But these discussions have only scratched the surface of what AI is capable of doing. It is for far more than just essay writing, adding Eminem to your rave and photoshopping dogs into pictures.

In marketing, we have been using AI for years, for everything from analyzing customer behaviors to predicting market changes. It’s enabled us to segment customers, forecast sales and provide personalized recommendations, having a huge impact on how our industry works.

It is even, for the more savvy marketers of the world, becoming a key tool in maximizing budget efficiency – which is apt, considering over 70% of CMOs believe they lack sufficient budget to fully execute their 2023 strategy.

Now, as AI becomes more intelligent, the number of efficiencies it can unlock continues to rise. Not only can it help brands get the most out of their available resources and identify any areas of waste, but it can also help highlight new opportunities for growth and maximize the impact of your budget allocation.

The trick, however, is to veer away from the norm of using in-platform solutions with a one-size-fits-all approach and create your own, bespoke solutions that are tailored to your business needs.


Pitfalls of in-platform solutions

In-platform solutions aren’t by any means a bad thing. In fact, built-in AI tools have become increasingly popular, owing to their ease of integration, user-friendly interfaces and minimal set up requirements. They come pre-packaged with the platform, offering the user the ability to leverage AI technologies without the need for in-depth technical expertise or the upfront cost of building a solution from scratch.

However, the streamlined and accessible nature of in-platform AI solutions comes at the expense of complexity and customization. They are designed to serve a broad user base, but for the most part are built using narrow AI solutions with predefined features and workflows.

This makes them great for assisting with common AI tasks, but they lack the flexibility to tailor functionality towards unique business requirements or innovative use cases, limiting the potential efficiencies and cost savings that can be unlocked. Additionally, if a business’ competitors are using the same platform, they are probably using the same AI solution, meaning any strategic advantage gained from these will be reduced.

Bespoke AI solutions, on the other hand, may carry a higher initial investment – but can offer a significantly more attractive ROI over a short amount of time.


Why customized and adapted AI is the key

The difference between bespoke AI and in-platform solutions is similar to that between home cooked food and a microwave meal. Yes, it is more time consuming to prepare, and yes it likely carries more of an upfront cost, but the end result is going to be far more appealing and will carry more long-term value (financially… not nutritionally).

That’s because bespoke solutions, by nature, will have been tailored to address your brands specific needs and challenges. These custom-built tools allow for much greater efficiencies by streamlining workflows across different channels, automating more complex tasks, and providing deeper, more relevant insights.

The increased level of optimization can significantly improve productivity and reduce operational costs over time, offering a higher ROI. The increased flexibility of bespoke AI also allows brands to implement innovative use cases that can significantly differentiate them from their competitors.

The data analyzed can be specifically chosen to match business requirements, as can the outputs of the AI tool, providing a significant advantage when understanding and acting on the insights provided.

Additionally, these tools are, by nature, more scalable. They can be updated, upgraded and expanded as needs change, ensuring they continue delivering value as the business grows. They can also be designed to integrate with any existing IT infrastructure, from CRM systems and databases to marketing platforms and sales tools – leading to more efficient and effective decision-making.


Managing finances with AI

It’s no secret that AI in marketing automation has, and will continue to, revolutionize the way marketing is done. It has a bright, if slightly terrifying, future and can help CMOs to unlock new efficiencies, maximize the impact of their budgets and increase their ROI. And as this technology becomes more advanced, its impact will only increase.

But we already know that…and so does everyone else.

So, in order for businesses to make themselves stand out from the crowd , they must look to fully adopt the power of AI. Creating a customized and unique AI solution could be the way to set yourself apart from your competitors. A bespoke AI tool can provide brands and businesses with features unique to them and their business needs. As a result, companies will benefit from more useful data and better results to make more data-driven decisions for their business. Ultimately, this will help brands to maintain a competitive edge over their competitors, deliver ROI and most importantly optimize their budgets.

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Exploring the Transformative Potential and Ethical Challenges of AI in Wealth Management




Nuno Godinho, Group CEO of Industrial Thought Group


In recent years, the advent of AI has sparked both excitement and scrutiny within the Wealth Management industry. The technology’s capabilities, including but certainly not limited to generative AI algorithms like ChatGPT, offer a new dimension to data analysis, market prediction, and portfolio management. However, while it presents a promising avenue for enhancing decision-making and elevating client interaction, AI also carries inherent challenges that demand careful consideration.

Benefits of AI in Wealth Management:

In a world where CX is key, AI enables wealth managers to provide personalised advice, improved portfolio performance, real-time insights, and convenient access to information and support. Previously it has been impossible for advisors to deliver hyper-personalisation at scale; now, AI-driven customisation lets them tailor investment strategies and recommendations to their clients’ unique financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon.

AI algorithms can also analyse vast amounts of data to identify trends and opportunities, resulting in potentially higher returns on investments. And, more widespread use of automation will gradually reduce the cost of wealth management services, meaning higher-quality investment advice at a lower price. This is critical as firms fight to stay relevant for modern investors disillusioned by traditional advisory firms and private banks.

Relationship-wise, there are many other advantages. AI-driven data analytics make it easier to gain a deeper understanding of an investor’s needs, preferences, and behaviours, all of which help to build long-term relationships. Through predictive analytics, firms can differentiate their service and proactively identify new investment opportunities, such as emerging market trends or underperforming assets. At the same time, chatbots and virtual assistants facilitate constant communication to answer queries and increase engagement. By strategically integrating AI technology into their operations, firms have the power to optimise top and bottom lines, strengthen client connections and position themselves for long-term growth.

Navigating the Ethical and Practical Challenges:

While AI holds remarkable potential, major obstacles must be overcome. With AI’s reliance on large amounts of data, ensuring client data confidentiality, managing consent, and complying with global data protection regulations like GDPR are significant challenges. Another issue is algorithmic bias – as AI learns from data, it may inadvertently perpetuate inequalities or biases present in the training datasets used. Vigilance is necessary to ensure that AI systems don’t amplify these issues. A key concern is the absence of standard governance, leading to a lack of accountability and transparency. Black-box algorithms can make decisions without providing clear explanations for their reasoning, making it difficult for clients and regulators to understand and trust AI-driven outcomes. Overall, the responsibility for AI-generated recommendations remains complex, requiring collaborative efforts to establish robust regulatory frameworks.

Striving for Data Integrity and Reliability:

The efficacy of AI-driven solutions hinges on the quality of training dataset they are supplied with and rely upon. Therefore, ensuring accurate, unbiased, and comprehensive datasets is paramount to generating trustworthy insights. The absence of standardised data sharing can lead to skewed results, ultimately impacting the quality of AI-generated advice. Transparency in data usage, validation, and generation reasoning will be pivotal to cultivating client trust and minimising systemic risks, which ties back to the absence of standard governance, as the output from AI-generated advice will only be as good as the data sets provided. We need to understand the “lineage” of all data used and generated by the algorithms. Until the industry can come to some accord on how we plan to use all of our respective data, it will be prone to various biases and fragmented advice, which will lead to liability and reliability issues down the line. It’s worthwhile wondering whether we can see the industry opening up in an age of data equals value.

The Role of Collaborative Partnerships:

Amidst these challenges, collaborative partnerships emerge as a potent avenue. Established wealth management firms can harness the expertise of FinTech AI companies to augment their capabilities while mitigating the risks associated with AI adoption. A symbiotic relationship, where innovative AI solutions are developed by trusted partners, helps safeguard against potential pitfalls and aligns with the pursuit of ethical, data-driven decision-making.

Looking Ahead: Striking a Balance for Sustainable Progress:

As we journey into the AI-powered future of wealth management, it’s evident that a balanced approach is essential. The integration of AI has the potential to expedite the transition to wealth management 4.0, revolutionising personalised client experiences and advisory services. However, this progress must be underpinned by clear ethical guidelines, data integrity, and collaborative partnerships. Striking this equilibrium promises not only a more informed, efficient, and personalised industry but also one that upholds the principles of transparency, accountability, and client trust.

In conclusion, AI’s impact on the wealth and asset management landscape is profound, offering unparalleled insights and opportunities. While navigating challenges will be crucial, a collective effort to harness AI’s power while ensuring its responsible application will pave the way for a resilient, future-forward industry.

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