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Compliance and competitiveness – the role of software development in balancing the two

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Compliance and competitiveness – the role of software development in balancing the two

Konrad Litwin, Managing Director – International,Perforce Software

The perennial dilemma for financial institutions is to balance the need to be compliant with industry regulation, versus the need for competitive innovation and responding to customers’ desires.

Compliance demands impact every part of the financial market and with the growing reliance on digital technology, the compliance culture must extend to the development of the software that drives modern financial services, in order to strengthen security and reduce risk.

The challenge is that traditionally compliance and security requirements have not been a top priority for software developers, who have typically tended to work in siloes, separate from IT operations and the rest of the business.  Many risk and security checks-and-balances inevitably create hurdles or halts, and software developers do not like anything that might slow them down or limit creativity.

Konrad Litwin

Konrad Litwin

However, since the creation of software is where bugs and other vulnerabilities can creep in, it must be a vital part of the compliance strategy.Otherwise, problems may only be discovered later, such as during an audit process or when they create an issue for customers. Having a separate security team review code prior to ship isn’t a great option, because it won’t scale: an organization with 1,000 developers can’t afford a 100-person security team.

Fortunately, modern software development tools and techniques can help financial firms balance compliance, security and risk management, without sacrificing competitive and commercial values.  For instance,development methodologies,such as Agile and DevOps, together with the right supporting tools,assist software delivery that is fast and efficient, while also being compliant and reliable.Security and compliance teams can join with development teams to implement policy automation,by becoming involved in technology design and deployment up front.

Importantly, today’s modern development toolchain can provide many processes and capabilities that address the fact that financial products and services are often updated and even legacy applications must remain compliant and available for transparent auditing.  Compliance relates to every stage of each digital asset’s life, from ideation through to delivery, maintenance and archiving.Therefore, having visibility and transparency throughout the creation and maintenance of digital assets is fundamental to achieving a more compliant and secure environment.

Visibility and traceability

One approach many financial firms are taking is the creation of what are increasingly labelled as ‘single-sources-of-truth’, providing a centralised view that tracks each digital asset, the actions of each contributor, plus how all these inter-relate.  A version control system is typically the engine behind a single-source-of-truth, not least because they enable a unified view of disparate systems and platforms plus a full history of all application changes.

In other words, in theory they allow contributors to carry on working the way they are used to, but still provide that shared picture of who is doing what, when and how.  This all contributes towards ensuring that safe, quality-controlled digital assets are being created, but without creating hurdles that get in the way of time-to-market.

However, it is important to choose a version control system that really can support different file types, tools and processes.  This should also include the ability to provide a view into other version control systems, especially Git, which is popular with individual software developers but does not provide the enterprise-level visibility that IT management requires.

One of the tenets of the increasingly popular “shift-left”concept – which focuses on getting developers involved in testing early in the development process – is to bring compliance security as close to the left (or beginning) of the software development lifecycle (SDLC)as possible. Ensuring clean, quality code before a developer submits their project to the version control system can help to minimize error or the introduction of vulnerabilities into an application.  One way to accomplish this, without adding an undue burden on developer productivity, is through the use of automated static code analysis, which in background mode runs checks on code being created to ensure it is compliant, as well as detecting security flaws, design defects, and code weaknesses. Identifying and recommending fixes earlier in delivery process, long before they are exposed to the public.

 This is a good example of how automation around software development can contribute to quality control and provide ‘safer’ software creation, without manual intervention or slowing down a project.   Also, where Agile and DevOps methodologies are being used in the development process, including compliance and security personnel and practices at the beginning of a project or product’s creation also helps to ensure that these critical risk-management needs are met.  Both the culture and toolchain must evolve to facilitate collaborative change, removing silos and barriers of departmental fiefdoms in the interest of releasing compliant and secure products.

Granular access

Keeping the code itself secure is also of paramount importance. In the software development environment, locking down who has access to digital intellectual property (IP) can help reduce the risk of vulnerabilities.  These can range from inadvertent introduction of risk through to malicious misuse or theft of software assets.

Traditionally, developers have had carte blanche access to content, whether they require it or not and this is not fair on them nor the organisation.  Instead, it is better to implement ‘fine grained’ access control, applying the principal of least privilege (PoLP) whereby users are given access to only what they need, but no more.  Digital intellectual property (IP) can have access levels imposed in multiple ways, for instance via IP address, user and group, with enforceability at code repository, branch, directory or individual file level, locally or across authorised locations.

One major financial institution not only implements a ‘need to know’ only basis within its software development environment, it also tracks and audits every interaction with its version control (or software configuration) management system.  This addresses security and compliance, together with visibility and control, but with the benefit of flexible access permissions, allocated as appropriate, to let the development team be innovative.  create a very security-heavy ‘locked-down’ development environment.

This is just one example of how modern software development tools and processes are enabling financial institutions to be competitive, but without sacrificing security and risk management.  In fact, rather than getting in the way of these requirements, software can proactively contribute towards a bank’s business.

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How robotic technology will disrupt the manufacturing industry

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How robotic technology will disrupt the manufacturing industry 1

By Marga Hoek, author of The Trillion Dollar Shift

Robotics technology has the potential to disrupt industries across all sectors – but its impact on the manufacturing industry will be transformative. Not only can robots increase productivity, efficiency and profit margins but adopting this tech for good will be a key way for the manufacturing industry to transition to a more sustainable future.

Driving productivity & efficiency

Manufacturing processes are faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective when humans and robots work together. Studies show that idle time is reduced by 85% when people work collaboratively with a human-aware robot, rather than in an all-human team.[1] Modern robotic automation is key to reshaping production processes to become more efficient and reliable. They deliver significant benefits for companies and investment is often recouped within just 18 months.[2]

Robots in manufacturing can allow businesses to monitor the production lines from anywhere and pinpoint issues quickly, allowing for production to continue smoothly and efficiently, ensuring companies surpass consumers’ expectations of supply chain speed and reliability. Intelligent industrial service robots are an upcoming industrial tool that will amplify manufacturing capabilities and allow businesses to safely operate faster, in places humans could never go, and with cognitive and physical capabilities not yet imagined.

Transitioning to a sustainable future

Robots are a vital way to reduce pollution and emissions from manufacturing operations. For starters, they reduce our reliance on larger vehicles and machines that are harmful to the planet. Robots’ ability to be extremely accurate and minimize errors is also hugely important in sustainability efforts to reduce waste. Robots also aid businesses in their energy-saving process because they do not require as much energy to operate as humans do. Where humans need facilities with sufficient lighting and heat, robots can work under cold and dark conditions. This drastically reduces the amount of energy used in the manufacturing production process. It is estimated that for every 1C reduced in factory heat levels, there is a potential saving of up to 8%.[3] In addition, up to 20% of energy savings can be reached if the plant turns off any unnecessary lighting.

Case Study: GE

Tech giant GE is a brilliant example of how robotics technology can both boost the bottom line and sustainability.

GE is at the forefront of robotics manufacturing technology. Their value proposition is tightly tied to productivity in field service and manufacturing and offers potential cost savings within operations. While delivering industrial-grade service robotic systems that enable automation, productivity and safety for GE and its customers, the company works closely with GE business units, GE customers and strategic partners across the globe to envision, shape and build intelligent robotic technologies from idea to commercialization.

Marga Hoek

Marga Hoek

GE’s recent $125 million investment project at its Decatur refrigerator plant boosted production capacity, added new “smart” technology and increased the site’s workforce.  This includes auto guided vehicles, or AGVs, that move materials through the assembly process and more than 50 robots that perform heavy lifting operations and repetitive tasks.

The expansion project, announced in June 2018, allowed GE Appliances to increase production to meet growing demand for its freezer-refrigerators, which are top-rated in the industry for both quality and reliability. The expansion created 255 jobs, bringing total employment at the plant to 1,300. The project boosts production capacity by 25 % and ensures early compliance with 2022 refrigerant changes, making the Alabama plant a super site for GE. GE Appliances said Industry 4.0 technology additions at the Decatur facility include data visualization, 3-D scanning, rapid prototyping and other smart automation that provides the operations team with real-time data to make better and faster decisions.

Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Utilizing robotics technology within the manufacturing industry can help to meet the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for a healthier planet, to be met by 2030:

SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing: Collaborating with people, service robots work with shoulder-to-shoulder and over long distances, to fulfil dull, dirty and dangerous work.

SDG 8 – Decent Work & Economic Growth: Presenting new growth opportunities for businesses and creating new jobs at manufacturing plants

SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure:  Manufacturing value proposition of robotics ties tightly to productivity and brings potential cost savings into those operations.

SDG 12 – Responsible Production & Consumption: Providing a new and rich data source for companies to produce products responsibly

Marga Hoek is a global thought-leader on sustainable business, international speaker and the author of The Trillion Dollar Shift, a new book revealing the business opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Trillion Dollar Shift is published by Routledge, in hardback and e-book. For more information go to www.margahoek.com

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/here-s-how-robots-can-help-us-confront-covid/

[2] https://www.industrialtechnology.co.uk/products–transforming-your-sustainability-with-robotic-automation.html

[3] https://greencleanguide.com/how-robotics-is-revolutionizing-sustainability/

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RPA, the software robots that finance and banking professionals need to hear about.

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RPA, the software robots that finance and banking professionals need to hear about. 2

By Rory Gray, Vice President of Sales at leading software automation firm, UiPath, explains what role Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can play in improving the efficiency of finance and banking departments.

Pre-coronavirus, the finance and banking industries were already facing a myriad of challenges. Now, this myriad is quickly becoming ever more complicated. There is increasing pressure to react to declining business health, be flexible to changing customer behaviour and to adapt to evolving workforce dynamics.

Unfortunately, for these teams, improving agility is easier said than done. Many processes involve legacy systems, paper-based documents and unstructured data. These processes are time-consuming and mundane, leaving finance and banking professionals hard-pressed to fit in client-centric and strategic work.

Take processing invoices. The way it’s done hasn’t changed for years in many organisations. It often involves a member or members of the finance team receiving the invoice by mail or email, approving it manually, printing, signing and submitting it to Accounts Payable. An AP Clerk then has to pick it up, read it, verify the approvals, extract the data and input it into to the accounting package. This all takes time and costs money. What’s more, it’s dull and prone to errors. People don’t want to spend their days doing it.

Imagine if processes such as invoicing, but also loan processing, credit card disputes and many more, could be automated. Finance and banking teams would spend much less time copying, pasting and printing and could refocus on business health and transformation.

RPA is the key to finding more time in the day  

Robotic Process Automation or RPA, is software that can work just like a human. It can use AI capabilities to read and interpret data from both physical and digital documents. It can extract the necessary information and it can transfer this to multiple IT applications. It’s a software robot – or digital assistant.

For finance and banking professionals, RPA could help them break free from the time constraints caused by inefficient and complex legacy operations by passing rule-based repetitive tasks to software robots. This saves time and money – and allows people to focus on the tasks that can make a difference to the business.

RPA can help carry the burden of compliance

Rory Gray

Rory Gray

With data extracted, processed and formatted by software robots, employees will also no longer have to carry the full and heavy burden of compliance.

However accurate we aim to be, the reality is that processing data is always open to mistakes. This is exacerbated by ever shifting market regulations. Software robots, however, are programmed by finance and banking professionals to strictly follow the same steps every time and thus do not fall victim to the same blunders as all humans inevitably do.

Of course, many regulatory compliance functions will often need to involve some human validation or decision making. While the robots work around the clock without fatigue to complete tasks, professionals can still intervene if there is an inaccuracy that requires the personal touch or a loop in the workflow where a decision is needed. Therefore, time-consuming compliance tasks can be passed to software robots, but humans ultimately remain in control.

This in turn provides better risk management and compliance, higher accuracy, better cycle times and improved throughput.

RPA in practice

This may all sound very futuristic, but in practice, many firms are already using RPA to free up employee time, improve compliance and save money.

For example, a leading smart infrastructure solutions firm we work with has created a software robot affectionately named Archie, which has taken over the responsibility for processing all invoices.

Pre-Covid, the 400,000 invoices received by the firm each year were dealt with manually. With Archie this is now fully automated freeing up on average 11 minutes per invoice of time which employees can now use to focus on value-adding activities. It also means that no employee needs to come into the office to process the invoice, nor does any paper need to be passed around the team. Thus helping to keep the workforce safe.

With all this extra time, finance and banking departments can focus on adapting to and thriving in the current crisis. Moving away from data processing and towards advisory roles where they can best use their strategic skills.

Consequently, businesses will benefit during the pandemic and beyond and employees could see their roles shifting away from the mundane and towards tasks that keep them on their toes. A rare win-win in a difficult time.

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WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired 

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WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired  3

WeWALK, the smart cane designed for people who are blind or with low vision which is now in use across 37 markets, has joined Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility programme to accelerate WeWALK’s capability by developing and validating a human behaviour model for visually impaired users and creating a Voice Assistant designed for the visually impaired, providing the right mobility information when needed and allowing for even greater control of the WeWALK mobility experience.

Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility $25 million 5-year programme is aimed at harnessing the power of AI to amplify human capability for the more than one billion people around the world with disabilities. Through grants, technology, and AI expertise, the program aims to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions and build on recent advancements in Microsoft Cognitive Services to help developers create intelligent apps that can see, hear, speak, understand and interpret people’s needs.

WeWALK’s new Voice Assistant will be released later in 2020 and will have immediate usability benefits, improving the user’s confidence as they mobilise. The assistant will be built on clearly derived requirements and natural usage patterns and the challenge that WeWALK is seeking to overcome is to make the assistant truly ‘smart’ and dynamic, where it will effectively categorize and deliver on the user’s commands in a host of different environments.

WeWALK’s human behaviour model is due for release in 2021 and is of significant importance as currently there are no accurate models for how a person who is blind moves and how their mobility holistically evolves, especially after receiving orientation and mobility training. As a result, healthcare, government, and mobility trainers cannot effectively track how a person who is blind mobilizes and whether or not intervention has had benefit. By using WeWALK’s built-in IMU (inertial measurement unit) sensors, including the gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass, as well as data collected from a connected smartphone, the model can be implemented and expanded organically through daily usage. The first stage will be rigorous data collection and user testing, followed by data manipulation and classification to ensure that optimum reliability and system usability can be achieved.

Commenting upon WeWALK’s entry into the program Jean Marc Feghali, R&D Lead at WeWALK. “By working on these two objectives, WeWALK can set the standard for visually impaired mobility for both the individual user and the organisations that support them. We are now rigorously collecting mobility data with novel experimentation, validating our work by continuously engaging our users to ensure an exceptional product powered by Microsoft’s best. Being a part of the Microsoft family truly excites us, bringing us closer to mobility trainers, researchers, and the global visually impaired community.”

Mary Bellard, principal innovation architect lead at Microsoft adds “At Microsoft, we believe AI solutions built thoughtfully by and with the disability community have incredible potential to offer meaningful independence in people’s daily lives.  That’s why we’re thrilled to support WeWALK on this important assistive tool that stands to empower the millions of people around the world who use a white cane.”

With the power of Microsoft AI, WeWALK’s impact will be wide-reaching explains Kürşat Ceylan, WeWALK’s co-founder & CPO  “As a blind person from birth, I know that it is very important to get the right habits of using a cane from a young age. It is amazing to see how WeWALK can enhance this aspect of our lives with high tech, making training and orientation more effective. I believe that the smart cane will be a symbol for the fully independent journey people who are blind or with low vision.”

Selected as one of the best inventions of 2019 by TIME Magazine, WeWALK is a member of YGA Ventures, which is an ecosystem of impact entrepreneurs.  The team envisions WeWALK as a platform for continuous and collaborative development, putting it at the forefront of cutting-edge assistive technologies. This is exemplified through WeWALK’s collaboration with Microsoft, where WeWALK participated in Microsoft’s 2019 AI for Good in the UK.

The WeWALK smart cane is currently available on the market and can be purchased on the company website www.wewalk.io. The free WeWALK mobile app which provides various features such as VIP friendly navigation and public transport tracking capabilities is also available for immediate download on both iOS and Android devices.

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