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WHAT EVOLUTIONARY AI MEANS FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES

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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.

 

Business

TAKE THE NO-CODE LEAP TO DIGITAL INNOVATION WITH A FUSION TEAM

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Chris Obdam, CEO, Betty Blocks

 

In the last couple of years, a new sector has emerged alongside enterprise financial organisations—an ecosystem of fast-growing Fintech startups that develop innovative solutions for the banking sector. These small, flexible startups and scale-ups began filling a gap the ‘big boys’ left quite some time ago. Then, they gained even more ground during the pandemic. According to KPMG, Fintech investments worldwide amounted to $98 billion USD in the first half of 2021, compared to $121.5 billion over the whole of 2020[1].

 

The massive surge has financial regulatory bodies scrambling to balance the benefits of modernising the industry with the necessity of strong oversight. But, what if traditional financial enterprises could combine their durability, reliability and years of experience with the flexibility of a startup? They can! More and more enterprise organisations are becoming agile, empowering digital-savvy colleagues and improving competitive value.

 

Fusion teams

Their approach? They break through patterns and almost literally through walls in their organisation. The most successful organisations team up with genuine problem solvers. It’s a solution-oriented approach, which can be really successful if governed the right way. We like to call it a fusion team, a team that empowers digitally-skilled and solution-oriented employees to work side-by-side with the IT department while using a low-code and no-code development platform.

 

Citizen development

A fusion team brings together people with diverse professional backgrounds who use data and technology to achieve shared business outcomes. Ideally, a fusion team combines pro-developers with citizen developers. A citizen developer is a business person without coding experience that builds apps using a no-code or low-code platform.

The purpose of the professional developer, in a fusion team, is not to train the citizen developer to become a pro-developer but to bring guidance and governance to the project. Before building successful software, a fusion team will require knowledge and guidance through the software development life cycle (SDLC) phases. IT feedback is crucial to helping a fusion team understand what makes good software and how new platforms can (or cannot) integrate into an existing system. Citizen developers should receive coaching to make decisions that lead to architecturally sound, value-adding applications.

 

What are the challenges that a fusion team can tackle?

  • Modernisation of legacy systems. Many banks have been around for years, expanded their software, but regularly have to deal with legacy systems or even a vendor lock-in.
  • Regulations can change fast; that’s why financial organisations need to increase flexibility and improve adaptability. A flexible layer on top of core systems or legacy systems can profit the whole organisation.
  • Counter shadow IT. Thousands of employees means that a lot of solutions are single handedly-built. All these solutions can be beneficial for the employees and even for your customers, but the thing is that they are not checked and governed by IT. For example, you run the risk that they are not meeting all your security requirements.
  • Digitisation of processes, like the onboarding process for customers, is still a long paper process within financials. What if this could be 100% digital and automated? This could save you a lot of repetitive work, energy and money.

 

Create an environment for innovation

Banks tend to have difficulties setting up the right conditions to empower the workforce to innovate towards the future. Our first reaction to possible security risks is to impose more rules and restrictions, while the solution lies in a coaching attitude, independent of strict regulations. You can empower digital transformation by using a no-code or low-code platform.

A fusion approach encourages better software governance, allowing IT to help mitigate the risks of shadow IT projects. With a no-code or low-code platform, you can combine existing secure systems, extract data more efficiently, effectively communicate and convey between systems and thus better manage qualitative information. Governance is not a simple process or a task to check off and forget about; the essential governance feature for low-code or no-code development is a platform provider with the flexibility to adapt to specific needs of an enterprise. The provider should be a partner in expanding the role of citizen developers within the organisation.

Taking the leap into no-code software development with a fusion team will empower the entire organisation in digital transformation. It’s a strategic move that helps enterprises become more resilient against unexpected challenges – such as a pandemic or new consumer demands. Furthermore, you create a modern and innovative working environment with digitally-capable and engaged employees.

 

[1] Source: KPMG:

https://home.kpmg/nl/en/home/media/press-releases/2021/09/record-fintech-investeringen-in-eerste-helft-2021.html

 

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IDENTITY SECURITY IN THE ERA OF SOX

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By Steve Bradford, Senior Vice President, EMEA, SailPoint

 

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) is a federal law that mandates practices in auditing and financial regulations for public companies. Its original intent being to restore trust in a corporate and financial system that had been rocked by major accounting scandals such as Enron, WorldCon and Tyco. Legislators believed if there was no trust in the major corporate institutions of America, then the whole fabric of capitalism could be brought into question.

Initially only applying to American companies, every major institution that dealt with America had to comply with SOX. It was a huge a success with the number of financial scandals emanating from the US dropping dramatically since compliance. But can The UK follow suit?

 

Preparing for “SOX UK”

The UK has had its own high profile business collapses – notably BHS and Carillion. So, the government has launched a consultation programme that mimics the US SOX rules. The consultation on reforms aims to ‘restore trust in audit and corporate governance’ and applies to auditors, companies, directors, audit committees, investors, other stakeholders, and the regulator.

A focus is on companies with a significant public interest, otherwise known as Public Interest Entities (PIEs). These include financial institutions, banks, insurance companies, underwriters, and alike – many of which are already familiar with a high degree of financial scrutiny. A noteworthy difference is the stated preference to expand the UK SOX controls beyond public interest companies, which could include large companies in retail, manufacturing, logistics and automotive.

UK SOX may seem like a massive undertaking if unfamiliar, but with the right technologies in place manual tasks can become automated, reducing time which can be then redirected to greater priorities or risks, and everyday operations will be guided by a strong set of well-defined controls.

 

A growing threat

The Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance 9-Step checklist provides a series of recommendations to protect the validity of all reported information and help businesses to ensure they are following the rules. This includes the need to establish controls to prevent data tampering, track data access, test the effectiveness of safeguards and detect security breaches – any of which need to be reported to SOX auditors on time.

As both physical and digital information are affected, accurate management is an integral part of compliance. Remote working, blockchain integration, and the emergence of cloud-based banking (Banking as a Service) have led to growing cyber threats, privacy concerns and compliance requirements through the complexities of connectivity.  For example,  multiple devices now connect to networks from different locations, accessing the vast amount of information in the cloud. There is now critical need to close security gaps outside the perimeter.

Some of the greatest threats lie within an organisation – either human error or more likely, the rise in risk facing the access today’s workforce has to technology. Complex corporate structures and departmental silos hinder management’s visibility into workforce roles, responsibilities, and data access. Traditional reliance on spreadsheets and manual processes for tracking data access and user identities leads to inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

Apart from being an auditing and reporting nightmare, the situation creates system gaps that are ripe for exploitation by threat actors.

 

Maintaining security through identity

To meet security and compliance regulations, companies and organisations must act smarter in how they protect their “perimeter”, which is centred on its people – the new threat vector of choice. Companies must prepare to automate business processes and embrace new security practices that fully protect the workforce and the tools they need to  do their job.

Staying in compliance with regulation is important for the safety of the company, but it is crucial that the right safety measures are in place. Identity access management can reduce the risk of insider threat, data breaches and human error for financial reporting – enabling automated logging and report generation for companies to make smart decisions whilst uncovering and remediating hidden or unknown issues that pose inherent risk.

 

The countdown to SOX

One commodity companies don’t have is an abundance of time. With less than 18 months to go until the SOX recommendations deadline, any form of automated access system is an essential first step in ensuring companies are prepared. Starting early is critical – given an implementation programme can take 18-24 months for a company that is used to stringent financial regulations. It’s time to get identity and access compliance right – automation can save a significant amount of effort and money, whilst improving the accuracy of identity management processes.

As seen in the US, UK companies not used to financial compliance procedures will have to catch up or ask for help – learning from the financial sector – and scale up their auditing and control to comply with more stringent regulations. The rules are there to help provide the security that regulators need for a secure commercial environment. Now is the time to act in order to reduce the risk.

 

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