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BBVA Bank Selects Fujitsu’s Quantum-Inspired Digital Annealer to Explore Customers’ Investment Portfolios

BBVA Bank Selects Fujitsu’s Quantum-Inspired Digital Annealer to Explore Customers’ Investment Portfolios 1

News facts:

–         BBVA, one of Spain’s largest financial institutions, has undertaken a proof of concept with Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer to explore new ways of optimising investment portfolios

–         Digital Annealer delivers more processing power than traditional computing, enabling it to rapidly evaluate possible combinations, based on historical data

–         Proof of concept is one of several BBVA projects to identify specific financial use cases where quantum technologies can deliver a greater advantage over traditional computing

Fujitsu today announces that it is collaborating with BBVA, Spain’s second largest bank, on a proof of concept (PoC) of its quantum-inspired optimisation solution Digital Annealer1. The bank wants to determine whether the Digital Annealer could outperform traditional computing techniques in optimising asset portfolios, helping minimise risk while maximising returns, based on a decade’s worth of historical data.

Underlining its efforts to be at the forefront of innovation in the financial sector, BBVA2 is conducting multiple studies to determine how quantum technologies could represent an advantage over traditional tools in different financial use cases. In support, BBVA launched a strategy that involves forging alliances, strengthening its internal capacity around this technology, evaluating different available tools, and developing proof of concepts in collaboration with research centers, traditional businesses and startups. In addition to portfolio optimisation, BBVA researchers are also exploring how the technology can be applied to areas such as the simulation of financial scenarios, currency arbitrage and credit scoring processes.

Regularly optimising portfolios is a typical challenge for financial institutions. But while creating projections for individual assets can be relatively easily, balancing an entire investment portfolio is incredibly complex. This is because there are countless possible combinations. For example, finding the optimal selection from just 20 stocks generates the equivalent of over one quintillion (1018) permutations. Because of this complexity, portfolio optimisation has traditionally been a manual task, guided more frequently by guesswork than empirical data – simply because the convoluted calculations far exceed the capabilities of regular computers. However, Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer has been designed to process exactly this sort of complex combinatorial problem in just minutes.

BBVA’s Research and Patents team wanted to explore how Digital Annealer could be deployed to optimise an investment portfolio by evaluating different assets based on information including historical market prices to determine the level of investment in each. The bank also intends to use Fujitsu Digital Annealer to also identify the best possible time to buy or sell assets, to maximise portfolio value.

The project is still in an exploratory phase, but early results point to a set of advantages for the Digital Annealer in comparison to tools currently used to resolve complex problems quickly, accurately, and efficiently. Specifically, the PoC between BBVA and Fujitsu has determined that better results can be obtained for large-scale calculations involving more than 100 assets or factors.

Carlos Cordero, Chief Technology Officer at Fujitsu in Spain comments: “All industries have multiple areas that would benefit from optimisation however generally the sheer complexity of the problems means that guesswork or trial and error are the most common methods. While true quantum computing as a technology is still in the laboratory testing phase, Digital Annealer represents a bridge to this future technology, thanks to its ability to evaluate multiple different combinations extremely rapidly. Bringing this optimisation to the financial industry, for example to identify the optimal portfolio and the ideal time to acquire or offload assets can make a huge difference to the returns it delivers.”

Carlos Kuchkovky, BBVA Global Head of Research and Patents, explained: “The quantum technologies ecosystem is evolving very quickly and we believe that the collaboration with various partners, public and private alike, is key in order to translate the benefits of the technology into tangible progress, for the banking sector and for society at large. Although this technology is still in an early stage of development, its potential to impact the sector is already a reality. Our research is helping us identify the areas where quantum computing could represent a greater competitive advantage, once the tools have sufficiently matured. At BBVA, we believe that quantum technology will be key to solving some of the major challenges facing society this decade. Addressing these challenges dovetails with BBVA’s strategic priorities, such as fostering the more efficient use of increasingly greater volumes of data for better decision-making as well as supporting the transition to a more sustainable future.”

Fujitsu has already deployed the Digital Annealer to solve multiple different problems for many industries, including identifying the optimal seam patterns for welding robots to follow on an automotive assembly line, determining the best routes for delivery trucks, finding the ideal parts placement and picking routes for distribution warehouses, maximising return on investment for utilities companies and, in the pharmaceutical sector, accelerating the discovery of new substances and development of new drugs.

Banking

How new trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world’s oldest institutions

How new trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world's oldest institutions 2

By Wayne Johnson, CEO, Encompass

Digital banking has drastically changed the landscape of financial transactions over the last few years. Technologies used to be limited when it came to banking, however, now they cover every step of banking or investment services, from behind the scenes due diligence checks to customer facing channels. Embracing this change through emerging technologies is the future for the financial industry.

In recent years, financial technology (FinTech) has developed to facilitate online payments, instant banking, trading, lending, and more.

This new era of digital transformation has been driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), APIs, blockchain, process automation, and internet of things (IoT) technologies, which have provided vital upgrades to the outdated legacy IT systems institutions historically relied on. The aforementioned technologies streamline and enhance processes, consequently generating a much more reliable and pleasant customer experience. These technological advancements have transformed modern banking operations, changing how the banking industry operates today.

Every new advancement in technology in the finance sector, like expanding a financial service offering to business customers, brings with it new risks and compliance obligations, but the latest trends are creating the perfect recipe for rapid digital transformation throughout the world’s oldest institutions.

The acceptance of new-age technologies

Technology is already driving massive changes in the banking landscape as we know it, and it will be an influential contributor to shaping the industry of the future.

Focus on improving customer experience

One of the areas that banks are increasingly trying to improve through digital banking is customer

experience. Customer expectations for online services are constantly being influenced by the experience provided by big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. With their influence, everyone is looking for a similar experience from their own providers. While digitally savvy Millennials are mainly responsible for the rise in expectations across the board, the wide-spread use of digital technologies in most industries has meant that it is more important than ever for banks to be on top of their delivery at all times.

Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

Interactive banking channels

There has been a huge decline in branch visits in recent years, with some re-evaluating their very role, and an increasing shift from just providing transactional services to allowing for a practical banking experience. This was initially done by moving banks to key locations in town centres, investing in video chat services and offering self-service points – all of which has only been possible through the use of digital technologies. Financial institutions have realised that customers, with their busy and demanding lifestyles, like to have a choice and rely on a full range of channels, online access and 24/7 availability.

The rise of open banking

The increased popularity of open banking and rise in API usage is set to drastically change the industry with the flexibility offered by APIs allowing financial institutions and FinTech’s to put innovation at the heart of their service, resulting in improved customer service and enhanced convenience.

The importance of organisational structure transformation

In order to achieve true digital transformation, financial services institutions need to change their organisation functions from the inside out. To reap the greatest rewards, they must promote a “digital first” strategy internally. Only then will they see a positive change and truly release the benefits of digital transformation and the solutions available today.

The  market is constantly evolving , and adapting, and whilst the survival of traditional institutions is not under immediate threat, key players are going to have to modernise their processes and ways of working to keep up with developing requirements and customer needs.

Financial institutions are now starting to recognise the importance of digitalisation, which many other businesses realised was a priority years ago. This is demonstrated by the emerging trends mentioned, which indicate a rapid altering of the operating environment, from increased customer expectations and improved processes, back-end technology and newer operating models to organisational priorities shifting with the times. Digital transformation can no longer be ignored, and financial services organisations will have to embrace it if they want to remain competitive

 

This is a Sponsored Feature.

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Banking

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank 3

Standard Chartered Bank and Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced a three-year strategic partnership to accelerate the bank’s digital transformation through a cloud-first strategy. This partnership marks a significant milestone for Standard Chartered in making its vision for virtual banking, next-generation payments, open banking and banking-as-a-service a reality. Leveraging Azure as a preferred cloud platform, the companies will also co-innovate in open banking and real-time payments to help the bank unlock new banking experiences for clients.

Standard Chartered Bank partners with Microsoft to become a cloud-first bank 4

Embarking on a cloud-first strategy

As part of its digital transformation, Standard Chartered will adopt a multicloud approach, where significant applications, including its core banking and trading systems and new digital ventures such as virtual banking and banking as-a-service, will be cloud-based by 2025, subject to regulatory approvals. The bank will also adopt a cloud-first principle for all new software developments and major enhancements.

As technology reshapes the banking industry, Standard Chartered recognizes that a cloud-first strategy is critical to the bank’s ambition to make banking simpler, faster and more convenient. By being digital-first, the bank will be able to meet the demand for seamless banking virtually anytime, anywhere, and make banking more accessible to people across its network.

Michael Gorriz, Group Chief Information Officer of Standard Chartered, said, “Cloud is a cornerstone of Standard Chartered’s strategy to meet the present and future banking needs of our clients. Cloud providers have invested massively in the reliability and automation of infrastructure and platforms. Using cloud services improves our ability to be agile and innovative, while increasing our operational efficiency and resilience. As disruption in the financial industry continues, we can focus on client benefits by deploying our solutions quicker and allowing for faster integration of new business models and partners. To realize our digital ambitions, Standard Chartered has chosen Microsoft as a strategic partner and this partnership marks a major milestone for the bank in adopting a cloud-first approach.”

Bhupendra Warathe, Chief Technology Officer, Cloud Transformation at Standard Chartered, added that “The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for businesses and banks to be resilient from a risk mitigation, cost and security perspective. With the increasing trend of an always-on digital economy, commercial and consumer clients are looking for applications and services that empower them to do online banking from anywhere, flexibly and efficiently. The speed and scale of continuous innovation offered by Azure allows us to innovate with the latest AI services to meet evolving client needs. We can pilot new apps in one market and scale them rapidly across others. This is especially important for a bank with a footprint as broad and diverse as ours.”

Standard Chartered will adopt Microsoft Azure as a preferred cloud platform to meet the bank’s need for resilient data centers and cloud services and addressing customers’ security, privacy and compliance requirements across the bank’s global footprint.

The first set of capabilities to move to Microsoft Azure will be Standard Chartered’s trade finance systems, allowing for seamless cross-border trade for the bank’s corporate and institutional clients.

The partnership will also advance the bank’s digital workplace transformation with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams providing modern productivity and collaboration tools to Standard Chartered’s 84,000 employees across its 60 markets.

Co-innovating the future of banking

Standard Chartered will also use Microsoft Azure artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics capabilities to enhance and automate banking processes as well as deliver hyper personalization of its client products and experiences. Co-innovation in open banking application programming interface (API) and Internet-of-Things-based, real-time payments will also help the bank unlock new banking experiences for clients.

Bill Borden, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Financial Services at Microsoft said, “Cloud computing is an enabler for financial institutions to modernize their infrastructure and systems, to gain the agility they need to respond to competitive pressures, regulatory environments and customer demand. We are committed to helping Standard Chartered Bank in its ongoing digital transformation journey as it strives to address evolving customer needs and build the next generation of banking experiences.”

Addressing the social needs of communities in the emerging markets

Standard Chartered strives to understand the evolving needs of its communities and be an enabler for change. As a part of the strategic partnership, the bank and Microsoft will explore sustainable finance and business initiatives to expand sustainability across the industry.

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Banking

What does the future hold for accessing earnings? Introducing the world’s first Earnings on Demand payment and debit card

What does the future hold for accessing earnings? Introducing the world’s first Earnings on Demand payment and debit card 5

By James Herbert, CEO & founder, Hastee

Let’s begin by looking at how our brains are wired. Think about the hunter-gatherer mindset: when we expend effort, we expect an immediate reward.

It’s therefore no surprise that over time, different areas in society have adapted to our nature as humans. Almost everything we want, we can get on-demand. Whether it’s instantly streaming movies on Netflix, online shopping from Amazon, or fast-food delivery from the likes of Just Eat. And, because of such technological innovations our expectations have accelerated when it comes to the pace of delivery. This isn’t individual to us as consumers in our day-to-day lives, it’s also reflected in the workplace. We ultimately want work to work for us.

Part of this of course comes down to accessing wages. Workers should be able to access a portion of their earned wages whenever they need it, in advance of the monthly pay cycle – whether to help during challenging times or in day-to-day life. We solved this solutionBut, to take this up a level, ready for the future, we introduced the world’s first Earnings on Demand contactless debit card, powered by Visa – giving users access to their accrued earnings in real-time, with the card’s balance dynamically increasing every day they work.

So what is the card, and how will it change how we access earnings in the future?

The basis is very much the concept of Earnings on Demand. At university I set up a company called Brightsparks to connect students with work opportunities so they could earn money. Yet I noticed a common trend. With students often having to wait for the monthly pay cycle to get their earnings, many were having to turn down work simply because they couldn’t afford the travel day-by-day. It became very apparent that not having £20 today could stop them earning £200 tomorrow.

It struck me that payday itself doesn’t have to be a rigid construct that people have to wait for. But this isn’t specific to students. Liquidity is a widespread issue faced by people in all industries and of all ages, and according to our most recent Workplace Wellbeing Study, 82 per cent of people turn to high-cost methods of financing to tide them over when needed.

The Hastee Card effectively makes wages directly accessible: it simply lets people spend a portion of  what they’ve already earned.

Some people might wonder why they’d want to step away from the standard monthly pay cycle. But consider this: the monthly payroll (via a cheque) only came about in the 1960s as an Act of Parliament. Before this, most people were paid weekly in cash. The first major firm that shifted to monthly payments did it for cost-cutting. It worked for the employer more than the employee. In fact, that firm’s employees had rejected their employer’s change of payment type when it was first trialled a decade before (look up ‘Pye Radio’). So the way that workers and organisations interact around pay is not set in stone – it changes as technology and society shifts.

The way we perceive and use money keeps evolving. Apple Pay, Monzo, and PayPal have completely changed the way payments can happen, yet payroll still remains largely unchanged. It’s only a matter of time before disruption becomes more widespread.

Looking at it from the employer side, it has its benefits too. Before the climate changed, businesses were accommodating enhanced workplace benefits such as no-desk policies, flexible or remote working. In all cases by businesses offering more, they tend to see a more engaged, happier and less financially stressed workforce – leading to increased productivity.

Earnings on Demand is ultimately a perk that presents an ethical alternative to high-cost credit options such as payday loans, credit cards and overdrafts. And existing solutions offer zero impact on payroll processes, zero impact on the cashflow of the business and are designed for quick, simple integration.

The Hastee Card is an evolution of this all – preparing for the future. It builds upon and enhances the user experience by reducing friction and offering immediate spending power as well as a path to greater benefits such as cashback and rewards in the not-to-distant future.

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