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AI for a new decade

AI for a new decade

By Dr Iain Brown, Head of Data Science, SAS UK & Ireland

There is no doubt that AI is up-and-coming. But, as ‘Back to the Future’ proves, only a handful of futuristic predictions end up becoming reality. It’s best to speak to experts on where AI might be heading in the coming years. Today’s innovative business leaders are the ones implementing and experimenting with AI, and they are our best bet for understanding its future.

Last year, I was invited to speak at the Boardroom Club. Among this network of C-suite executives, business leaders and technical experts, predictions were shared on how businesses can extract value from AI in the future. From growing the economy to increasing corporate responsibility and transforming employment, AI could cause seismic changes over the coming decade. To find true value, businesses must keep ahead of the curve.

AI must move out of the lab for the economy to bounce back

The clear consensus was that it has been a challenging year for business. With global economic growth hovering around 3%, 2019 has seen the slowest rate of expansion since the Great Recession. Many factors are weighing on the global economy, but one of the most persistent challenges felt by participants has been flat lining productivity – the value of output created by workers.

It’s premature to claim that AI will ride to the rescue, but it will make a big difference. When it comes to improving productivity, the most significant development over the next few years will be the operationalisation of AI in organisations. This means the innovations, new algorithms and technologies developed in R&D will finally be rolled out and integrated into the rest of the organisation.

These deployments will happen quickly and at scale. They’ll give swathes of employee’s access to AI tools that will liberate them from mundane, repetitive tasks and give them invaluable insight into the challenges and opportunities of the organisation. Staff will be empowered with better decision making and added time to focus on innovation and creating strategic value for their company, boosting productivity and profits. PWC expects this uplift will add $15tn to global GDP by 2030.

Yet where will the catalyst for this transformation come from? In recent years, organisations have invested in teams of data scientists and other innovators to brainstorm digital transformation and AI projects. However, while these new entrants bring creativity and expertise, they often lack the business context to actually translate their ideas into reality.

This has contributed to the dreaded ‘last mile’ of analytical implementations, where according to IDC only 35% of organisations say analytical models are fully deployed in production. An innovative AI project is all well and good, but what value does it generate for the business and where should it be deployed? This is a question most have so far failed to answer.

Building the bridge between an interesting idea and a practical project that generates real value has long been a struggle. However, this will change as more innovative ideas are generated from the business side of the organisation. Ordinary employees will be encouraged and rewarded to propose applications for AI that will optimise and transform how they work. Technology will also play its part to make things easier, thanks to the speed and flexibility offered through cloud deployments and containerisation.

Pressure is famously applied downwards, and inevitably it will be the C-Suite that fuels much of this transformation. Executives are waking up to the value of AI and, crucially, are seeing their rivals achieve success with the technology. That’s why operationalisation will accelerate and reach fever pitch before the close of the decade.

Tightening regulation creates an opportunity for better AI ethics

Unconscious bias is a growing concern as AI takes on more and more of our most important decisions. Given time and attention, we’ll begin to see its causes – which primarily boil down to unrepresentative data sets and data quality issues – addressed.

It’s understandable, however, to be skeptical of major improvements in the short term. One participant argued that AI would fail to be unbiased much in the way human decisions display prejudice and lead to unfair outcomes. This would be the case so long as AI relies on ungoverned big data – that is, the historical data humans already use to make decisions today without the appropriate governance controls in place. In this environment, the same imperfect insights would lead to the same unbalanced outcomes.

I’m more optimistic, however. The change won’t necessarily come from how AI uses data, but rather the attitude of businesses towards the data they hold. The old maxim ‘garbage in, garbage out’ still definitely applies to AI. Yet, we shouldn’t underestimate the will of organisations to improve, take notice and take responsibility for their systems.

I think we’re bound to see greater corporate responsibility towards the technology in the years to come. This will partly be due to tightening regulation. In the same way the Cambridge Analytica scandal shone a light on data privacy and abuse, we’re likely to see a similar watershed case of AI gone wrong.

Updated AI ethics guidelines are to be presented to the European Commission in early 2020, but these will only be the thin edge of a wedge as governments legislate to place boundaries on the technology. Companies will need to adapt or pay the price.

However, the biggest driver of all will be consumer demand. Some may think there’s no economic incentive to building ethical AI, but I think they underestimate how powerful a competitive advantage ethics can be. Business is founded on trust, and consumers are far more likely to share their data if they feel your AI system will keep it safe.

Organisations will take responsibility in many different ways. To avoid negative outcomes, AI creators will start introducing controls to ensure their creations can’t use data in an unethical manner. Greater emphasis will be placed on the training of AI systems and the process for reviewing decisions will be strengthened. On the end user side, companies will also begin holding decision makers to account for the choices they make based on AI-generated insight.

The job market and role responsibilities will be transformed by AI

Discussions on AI will inevitably turn to automation and job losses. Yet all too often the potential of AI to actually create new roles is overlooked. Technological advances have rendered many professions redundant down through history, but equally they have given birth to entire new industries and fields of employment. After all, how many app developers did you know 10 years ago?

In fact, 59% of the Boardroom Club believed AI would increase employment levels, not decrease them. Despite some fears, I think what we’ll see in the next few years is a jobs migration rather than a jobs reduction. Organisations will move into new areas, aided by the latest AI technologies, opening new opportunities for their staff.

It’s difficult to predict what these new roles will look like, though we’re already seeing signs of the shape they could take. Skills in AI development will be highly prized as organisations constantly seek to compete and innovate their models and algorithms. Equally, as organisations take greater responsibility for their data and AI systems, more validation and screening focused roles will emerge. Humans still trump AI when it comes to the understanding of context, so they’re ideally placed to review AI decisions to make sure they are fair and accurate.

Of course, as with every technology revolution there will be an adjustment period. Some workers dependent on low-skilled, manual and repetitive work will no doubt see employment opportunities diminish as robotic process automation solutions are rolled out. That’s why it’s so important for reskilling and education to begin as early as possible. I’m confident both government and businesses will continue to invest in British workers and explore new ways of training them up to participate in the future economy.

AI is bringing significant changes to businesses right now. As the rate of change increases over this decade, we will start to feel AI’s effects as new insight is discovered and jobs move away from repetitive tasks. Inevitably, there will be changes that not even the business leaders of the Boardroom Club can detect. Organisations must stay open-minded in the face of oncoming transformation; though tricky at first, integrating AI harmoniously into processes could be the key to smashing business goals this decade.


IDnow: Putting a new face on identity verification

IDnow: Putting a new face on identity verification 1

By Charlie Roberts, Head of Business Development UK&I at IDnow

Munich headquartered IDnow is an identity verification provider which uses AI-based technology to check all security features on ID documents. With its Identity Verification-as-a-Service (IVaaS) platform that combines humans and technology, IDnow has set out to make the connected world a safer place, by enabling the identity verification of more than seven billion potential customers from 193 different countries.

IDnow’s expert knowledge of German regulation, which is considered one of the most highly regulated markets globally, has become critical. Indeed, the firm is currently in talks with the UK government about creating “immunity passports” for people who have recovered from Covid-19 to determine how recently someone has been tested and whether they can return to work.

Since launching its solutions in the UK in November last year, IDnow has seen enormous demand from organisations for its AI-based products.  Compared to the same period in 2019, the firm has reported a 358% increase in order intakes as Covid-19 accelerates the need for digital processes

So why the increased demand? We caught up with Charlie Roberts, Head of Business Development UK&I at IDnow, to talk about the AI identity verification market and how AI can help financial services organisations detect and mitigate identity fraud.

So why has IDnow seen such increased demand for its identification products?

While technology is – on the whole – changing the way people do business for the better, it nevertheless carries with it a certain degree of risk to security.  In the current climate in particular, with an accelerated move towards buying and selling online, identity fraud is on the rise. In fact, our research estimates this type of fraud has doubled in the last year alone. And, while banking and financial services may be the lowest hanging fruit in terms of targets for attempted identity fraud, the threat is certainly not restricted to this sector.

The problem is the cost to the economy. In June this year, Action Fraud announced that over £6.2m has reportedly been lost in the UK due to coronavirus-related scams, making cyber fraud one of the biggest threats in our economy and the fastest growing crime.

So we have seen an enormous uptick in enquiries about AutoIdent and VideoIdent because of their combined human and machine approach. Any identity verification check that doesn’t look 100% accurate gets automatically passed through to a human for extra security, all on the same platform, in a matter of minutes.

What are the most common fraud methods?

Of all fraud methods, social engineering is the biggest issue for companies. It has become the most common fraud method in 2019, accounting for 73% of all attempted attacks. It lures unsuspecting users into providing or using their confidential data and is increasingly popular with fraudsters, being efficient and difficult to recognise.

Fraudsters trick innocent people into registering for a service using their own valid ID. The account they open is then overtaken by the fraudster and used to generate value by withdrawing money or making online transfers.

They mainly look for their victims on online portals where people search for jobs, buy and sell things, or connect with other people. In most of the cases, the fraudsters use fake job ads, app testing offers, cheap loan offers, or fake IT support to lure their victims. People are even contacted on channels like eBay Classifieds, job search engines and Facebook.

Fraudsters are also creating sophisticated architecture to boost the credibility of these cover stories which includes fake corporate email addresses and fake websites.

In addition, we are seeing more applicants being coached, either by messenger or video call, on what to say during the identity process. Specifically, they are instructed to say that they were not prompted to open the account by a third party but are doing so by choice.

How can we fight social engineering?

The first priority is to ensure people are aware of the problem, and then ensure people have the right technology in place to be able to track fraudulent activity and react quickly.

Crucially, it requires a mix of technical and personal mechanisms. Some methods include:

  • Device binding: To make sure that only the person who can use an app – and the account behind it – is the person who is entitled to do so, the device binding feature is highly effective. From the moment a customer signs up for a service, the specific app binds with their used device (a mobile phone for example) and, as soon as another device is used, the customer needs to verify themselves again.
  • Psychological questions: To detect social engineering, even if it is well disguised, trained staff can be used as an additional safety net both during detection, but also in addition to the standard, automated checks at the start of the verification process. They can ask a customer an additional set of questions once a risk of a social engineering attack has been detected. These questions are constantly updated as new attack patterns emerge.
  • Takedown service – with every attack, organisations can learn. This means constantly checking new methods and tricks to identify websites which fraudsters are using to lure in innocent people. And, by working with an identity verification provider that has good links to the most used web hosts, they are able to take hundreds of these websites offline.

Is social engineering the only type of identity fraud?

No! There is also false identity fraud. Our research indicates fake IDs are available on the dark web for as little as £40 and some of them are so realistic – including the use of holograms – they can often fool human passport agents. The most commonly faked documents are national ID cards, followed by passports in second place. Other documents include residence permits and driving licenses.

Charlie Roberts

Charlie Roberts

Similarity fraud is another method of identity fraud in use, although it’s not as common thanks to the development of easier and more efficient ways (like social engineering). This method involves the use of a genuine, stolen, government-issued ID that belongs to a person with similar facial features.

Can anything be done about this?

Biometric security is extremely effective at fighting this kind of fraud. It can check and detect holograms and other features like optical variable inks just by moving the ID in front of the camera. Machine learning algorithms can also be used for dynamic visual detection.

To fight similarity fraud, biometric checks and liveness checks used together are very effective – and they are much more precise and accurate than a human could ever be without the help of state-of-the-art security technology.

The biometric checks scan all the characteristics in the customer’s face and compares it to the picture on their ID card or passport. If the technology confirms all of the important features in both pictures, it hands over to the liveness check. This is a liveness detection program to verify the customer’s presence. It builds a 3D model of their face by taking different angled photos while the customer moves according to instructions.

The biometric check itself could be tricked with a photo but, in combination with the liveness check, it proves there is a real person in front of the camera.

This all sounds like a significant time investment for companies?

It does but, if you can find a solution that offers both a fully automated system AND a video identification solution on a single platform, then it becomes pretty friction-free and part of the workflow. In fact, customers can be checked in a matter of minutes. Organisations worldwide need to be taking this very seriously. With over 1.9 billion websites and counting, there is a huge potential for fraud, and it’s a serious problem that must be slowed down.

The threat of identity fraud is not going away and, as fraudsters become more and more sophisticated, so too must technology. With the right investment in advanced technology measures, organisations will be in a much stronger position to stop fraudsters in their tracks and protect their customers from the risk of identity fraud.

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NextGen Communications – the future of customer experience

NextGen Communications – the future of customer experience 2

By Andrew Beatty, Head of Global Next Generation Banking at FIS

As software development increasingly resembles push updates in services, how can financial institutions best take advantage of their investments? The answer is leveraging today’s technologies to empower institutions to elevate their customer experience with personalised and integrated communications.

Long a staple of the British market, digital banks are expanding worldwide. The pandemic played to the strengths of these organisations. With branches closed or restricted, the accessibility and flexibility of these banks were major assets.

To better understand just why digital banks succeed, we need to look at their operating models. Using Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) operating models rather than more traditional and slower alternatives allows them to supercharge development.

These new technologies can elevate customer experience (CX), with a specific focus on customer communications – an area often neglected in favour of purely aesthetic upgrades to flashy-looking front-end systems.

Communicating effectively

Every minute of every day, institutions globally generate 18 million texts, 188 million emails, 511,000 tweets, 232 VoIP calls and use 4.4 million GB of internet data. This colossal amount makes it difficult to provide a consistent experience that meets ever-higher customer expectations across all communication interactions and devices. Banks need to be accessible and provide a seamless experience through any and all of the channels their customers prefer, be that Native App Push, email, SMS, print, social media, Call Centre or bots.

FIs typically lack an integrated experience. What’s needed is enabled by a consistent data schema and workflow foundation that elevates the communications experience. Customers may not know to specifically request these, but they will notice their absence. Fundamental to these capabilities are application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable banks to pick and choose best-of-breed technologies, allowing banks to focus on improving the CX and increasing Operational Efficiency and Governance.

Loyalty matters

Banks succeed on the backs of loyal customers. What inspires loyalty in customers is a banking relationship that includes both listening and speaking. Research shows that 63% of customers would consider switching banking providers if communications don’t meet their expectations. For customers who said that their banks did not proactively offer them personalised services, the customer satisfaction experience rate fell to 39%.

Research shows that more than 70% of CX leaders struggle to design projects that increase customer loyalty. Contrast this number with 75% of enterprises aiming to beat their competitors by offering the best digital consumer experience, and we can gain a sense of just how crucial communications are; a seamless CX is more important than ever to meet these goals.

These last few months have been a testing ground for banks old and new. Every email, every statement about actions taken during the pandemic is a chance to prove (or disprove) that a bank has a robust, customised communication solution. Integration across all interactions is critical.

Questions to ask

Here are six questions executives who want to improve CX at their banks need to ask when evaluating infrastructure improvements:

  1. How will capabilities evolve without requiring extensive development to support new data schemas, workflow, communication types and new channels?
  2. Will the new solution allow accelerated change management (business user-enabled) of all communications to meet internal and external demand, or will we be handcuffed to an internal or external software release for these updates?
  3. Will our middle/back office and call centre benefit from this solution by having the capability to send ad-hoc communications from a previously approved library?
  4. Will we have end-to-end tracking of all our as-delivered communications for all stakeholders (call centre, back office, etc.)?
  5. How is delivery remediation handled? (e., failed email delivery to SMS)
  6. Are all required delivery methods supported in one centralised platform?

Consider these questions before embarking on a major project. This should help ensure the selected solution results in improved Customer Experience, superior Operational Efficiency, and better Governance for your financial institution.

FIs must take advantage of emerging technologies and investment in core technologies by considering service options for all key elements of their CX. A robust data integration and workflow layer along with API integrations allow the different components of technology infrastructure to have seamless real-time integrations with third-party Customer Communication Management technologies. This can accelerate existing digital transformation initiatives and take full advantage of a modern core transformation investment – putting technology to work for FIs and their customers.

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The Derry Group launches new employee engagement and communications app

The Derry Group launches new employee engagement and communications app 3

The Derry Group, a one stop shop for the distribution, storage and order picking of chilled and frozen products has today announced the launch of its new employee engagement app, Thrive.App.

Their flagship company Derry Refrigerated Transport is a leading service provider for chilled and frozen distribution throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe. Derry Refrigerated Transport is the first haulage company in Ireland to sign up to the newest self-service, rapid deployment Thrive.App which brings together the key features needed for businesses to power up their internal communications for their frontline teams.

With hundreds of employees working across multiple locations in Ireland, communication, organisational engagement and information sharing is essential for the growing business.

In order to meet the additional challenges presented by the current global pandemic and the fact that the company works out of various locations throughout the country The Derry Group recognises the need to look at new ways in which all employees can more effectively communicate and share information with each other.

Commenting on the deployment of the new Thrive.App, Patrick Derry, Managing Director, said,

“We have worked hard to build and transform our business to what it is today, and our employees are key to our success. It is important to us that we give them everything they need to carry out their roles successfully as well as feeling supported and recognised for what they do. With the Thrive.App our employees can now easily access the information they need to support them in their role, they see important updates as they occur, and they know what is happening across all areas of the business.

The launch of Thrive.App will bring everyone closer together, which is particularly important during the current challenges of Covid19 and the fact that we have teams in various parts of the country.

The Thrive team have provided the best support and guidance in helping us to launch the employee app and we are confident they will continue to support us to make it a success across our organisation.”

James Scott, CEO, Co-Founder of Thrive, adds; We are delighted to help and welcome The Derry Group as a new client and look forward to working together to ensure their employee communications and engagement app is a success and loved by their teams within the Group structure whether based in Armagh, Dublin or Cork. 

Our goal is to help organisations in shifting their communications from traditional methods such as printed newsletters, notice boards and team briefings to instant, modern apps and we have loved helping The Derry Group do this. We look forward to seeing the direct positive impact the app will have on their employee communications and engagement.”

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