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Global Businesses Turn to Oracle Blockchain Service to Speed Transactions Securely

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Global Businesses Turn to Oracle Blockchain Service to Speed Transactions Securely

Arab Jordan Investment Bank, CargoSmart, and Intelipost are among early adopters of enterprise-class general ledger service

Businesses around the world have been deploying an early adopter version of Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service, which becomes generally available today.

The service allows organizations to easily build blockchain networks to drive more secure and efficient transactions and to track goods through supply chains on a global scale. Arab Jordan Investment Bank, CargoSmart, Certified Origins, Indian Oil, Intelipost, MTO, Neurosoft, Nigeria Customs, Sofbang, Solar Site Design and TradeFin are among the many global organizations that already have adopted Oracle’s blockchain platform.

Blockchain has the power to fundamentally transform how every industry does business by making interactions more secure, transparent, efficient and cost-effective. Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service provides customers with a development platform to build their own networks, and to quickly integrate with Oracle SaaS and third-party applications they already use, as well as other blockchain networks and Oracle PaaS services. It also enables users to provision blockchain networks, join other organizations, and deploy and run smart contracts to update and query the ledger. Oracle’s blockchain platform leverages the company’s decades of experience across industries and its extensive partner ecosystem to reliably share and conduct trusted transactions with suppliers, banks, and other trade partners through blockchain.

“Blockchain promises to be one of the most transformative technologies of our generation,” said Amit Zavery, executive vice president, Oracle Cloud Platform. “We are excited to announce the availability of Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service. It is the result of years of R&D alongside our valued partners and customers. With Oracle’s platform, enterprises can enhance their business, eliminate unnecessary processes, and transact with their distributed networks more easily, transparently and securely than ever before.”

Oracle’s blockchain platform is built on top of The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric. It is pre-assembled with all the underlying infrastructure dependencies, container lifecycle management, event services, identity management, REST proxy, and a number of operations and monitoring tools integrated under a single console, expediting the set-up and application development process. Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service is an Oracle-managed cloud platform backed by a 99.95 percent availability SLA, with built-in high availability configuration, autonomous recovery agents, as well as continuous ledger backup capabilities that can enable multi-datacenter disaster recovery across availability domains.

It further benefits from broad capabilities in Oracle Cloud Platform for plug-and-play integration with existing cloud and on-premises applications, API management, and application development environments and tools. Additionally, Oracle is delivering new SaaS applications to use blockchain technology for common use cases, such as track and trace, provenance identification, warranty and usage, and cold chain. The plug-and-play ability with Oracle and third-party applications results in faster integration with diverse systems of record; greatly accelerating time to market and multiplying the returns from using the blockchain platform across different application use cases.

“Blockchain projects are quickly moving from pilot to production as enterprises and governments begin to see the inherent value of distributed ledgers and smart contracts,” said Robert Parker, group vice president of manufacturing and retail insights, IDC. “As spending accelerates, buyers will need an enterprise class platform beyond open source that includes data security and integrity, scalability, manageability, and interoperability.”

Quotes from Global Organizations and Consortia Using Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service

Blockchain has the power to impact almost all industries and has applicability to verticals from transportation, supply chain and logistics, energy, retail and ecommerce, to financial services, telecommunications and public sector. Organizations and industry consortia are already using Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service to help ease transactions, track goods through supply chains, and reduce costs, including global shipping leaders, multi-national manufacturers, food producers and energy marketplaces. For example, Oracle joined the Food Safety Consortium and is a member of The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, participating in its working group on blockchain.

“Oracle’s blockchain platform has helped us minimize the complexity of electronic fund transfers by reducing cost, increasing efficiency and security levels, and ultimately improving the overall customer experience,” said Ayman Qadoumi, A. Deputy General Manager, Information Technology and Security, Arab Jordan Investment Bank. “The built-in features such as identity management and data encryption made it an ideal choice given our industry requirements and compliance needs. Additionally, the REST APIs helped us and our vendors accelerate application development and integration with existing core services.”

“We are using Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service to develop an application to help simplify the complex documentation processes that plague the shipping industry,” said Steve Siu, CEO, CargoSmart. “Its comprehensive nature has allowed us to quickly turn prototypes into viable products in several 12-week sprints and so far, we have seen proven productivity gains of more than 30 percent compared to other blockchain platforms we tested. Another key purchasing requirement were its integrated management and operations tools, which allow business partners to monitor all of their blockchain activities and the health of the network.”

“As the producer of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from fruits grown in small family farms in Italy, we wanted to trace our product that we sell in the US market branded Bellucci Evoo across the entire supply chain – ‘from the tree to the shelf,'” said Andrea Biagianti, CIO of Certified Origins. “The availability of Oracle’s blockchain service simplifies the implementation and collaboration of all parties included, and represents a real competitive advantage for us. It adds a further level of transparency and information that is valuable for consumers looking for quality products and helps us to support the excellence of the small farms.”

Dr. Terence Lau, Convener of the Food Safety Consortium (FSC), welcomed Oracle as a Corporate Member of the non-profit technology development platform established by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. “FSC is committed in advancing global food safety with science and technology,” said Dr. Lau. “With an increasing demand on multidisciplinary expertise in tackling challenges in food safety and quality, FSC is delighted to partner with Oracle to leverage blockchain, big data, and other IT applications to provide better food provenance, tracking and safety. We look forward to exploring Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service to improve and accelerate the Food Safety initiative in Hong Kong, as well as globally.”

“Companies are increasingly testing and seeing the value blockchain technologies can offer their organizations, from streamlining internal processes to building trusted networks with partners, customers and third parties,” said Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director, Hyperledger. “Based on Hyperledger Fabric, Oracle’s platform, with its support for interoperability with non-Oracle Hyperledger Fabric instances, will help build further support for open standards and interoperability, while illustrating how quickly, easily and securely businesses can begin utilizing blockchain to improve business processes.”

“Oracle’s blockchain platform is agile, easy to develop on and its enterprise-grade scalability makes it an ideal choice for deploying blockchain platforms rapidly,” said Juan José Miranda, blockchain project manager, Magia.Digital. “Based on our experience with the platform, we even chose it as our main development platform for the New York Consensus’ Hackathon 2018. With its features, we were able to impress the judges and ultimately be named winner of the contest.”

“Once we decided that blockchain would be the ideal technology to help bring our ‘From Mileage to Opportunity’ – M2O – loyalty program to life, we went through a rigorous approach to find the right vendor,” said Suwan Kim, CEO, MTO. “We were confident that Oracle’s pre-assembled blockchain cloud service could quickly help us realize a trusted platform that empowers users to convert credit card points and air miles to tokens. It also provides us with easy, ongoing management and all the underlying security, scalability, and resilience that are needed for a production solution like this.”

“We used Oracle’s blockchain to build a trusted platform for the automation of Customs Excise Trade business processes and procedures,” said Aber T Benjamin, Assistant Comptroller General Modernization, Nigeria Customs Service. “Using this technology, we found the entire business environment can be migrated to blockchain to automate processes and create transparency and predictability. Once the transition to blockchain is completed, NCS expects revenue growth increase of about 50 percent. This technology helps our organization to build global trust for Nigerian businesses through irrefutable data on goods manufactured in the country.”

“Using Oracle’s blockchain platform in factoring and supply chain finance seems a natural fit that enables us to go from a fragmented process along heterogeneous systems to a common base, that can be trusted by all, used as a reference, resolve conflicts and streamline processes,” said Nikolaos Vasilonikolidakis, CEO, Neurosoft. “Risk mitigation in factoring is paramount and Oracle’s blockchain brings common consensus that helps settle transactions in near real-time.”

“Oracle’s blockchain platform is enabling Sofbang to build smart contract supply chain solutions for our customers,” said Michael Ribet, product development manager, Sofbang. “We’re delighted with the rich functionality, robust scalability of the service and how it’s designed to integrate blockchain technology with current business critical applications seamlessly. Our customers are anticipating up to 35 percent efficiency gains by communicating more reliably and rapidly with their trading partners through Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service.”

“We helped found the Energy Blockchain Network earlier this year after realizing stakeholders in the solar project ecosystem needed a single source of truth with immutable records, so they can trust project status data,” said Jason Loyet, CEO of Solar Site Design. “We can now program each project’s status, list requirements to move forward, and rewards value contributions in near real-time. We are really happy with how easily NetSuite SuiteCloud Development Platform and Oracle’s blockchain platform integrate with pre-packaged blockchain APIs, allowing us to explore new ways to develop smart contracts, manage the projects and reward programs.”

“As a company dedicated to making business-to-business payments and supply chain finance secure, frictionless and ubiquitous using blockchain, we are able to significantly accelerate the time to onboard corporations, their suppliers and banks by using Oracle’s blockchain platform,” said Amit Baid, CEO, TradeFin. “It provides a REST API-driven platform with rich integration options in Oracle Cloud Platform, allowing us to quickly onboard existing customers. Additionally, Oracle Scaleup Ecosystem provides access to the platform itself, cloud credits, mentoring, and a number of Oracle resources that can help start-ups like ours grow quickly.”

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Digital collaboration: Shaping the Future of Finance

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Digital collaboration: Shaping the Future of Finance 1

By Ryan Lester, Senior Director of Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn

With heightened economic uncertainty and increased customer expectation becoming the norm in the banking industry, it is understandable that the sector is struggling to keep afloat. Due to its precarious nature, banking institutions are trying their best to ensure they remain relevant in the competitive landscape and guarantee that their customers continue to be a priority.

When it comes to the first half of this year, the pandemic has shown how easy it is for industries to fail. Customers and companies alike had to get used to the new normal, as physical locations started to close. The banking industry felt this first hand, as banks were made to restructure how their business ran, with restricted opening hours and a wider push to motivate people to use online banking.

While some had already embraced digital options prior to the pandemic, this proved to be a stark contrast to the elderly population, who frequently visited branches to access their finances. Moving forward, banks have to adopt new methods to ensure customers get the most out of our their accounts, without their experience suffering.

Heightened Customer Expectations

When the pandemic reached its peak, people were encouraged to use online banking, as telephone contact was under strain with long waiting times and pressure mounting on contact centre agents. According to Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), which works with 50 of the world’s largest banks, there was a 200% jump in new mobile banking registrations in early April, while mobile banking traffic rose 85%.

With branches remaining closed, customers were continuously being urged to limit the amount of calls they made to the most urgent cases and consider whether they could solve their answers through mobile online banking or checking the company website. Although already being adopted in pockets of the industry, this was a real catalyst that spurred banks to up their game on digital channels and with self-service tools.

Banks are challenged with precariously balancing customer needs with the cost of personalised support. With the demographic of customers changing over the last few years, customers are becoming increasingly younger and more comfortable with technology. Influenced by the “Amazon Effect”, their expectations have raised to an all-time high, placing record strain on the sector

Customer experience isn’t just about support anymore, it’s about serving your customer at every point in the journey. Companies have an opportunity to elevate the experience they provide by moving beyond one-and-done interactions to create continuous engagements with their customers. It is starting to become a primary competitive differentiator in the market and one that doesn’t have a lot of variation. Deploying AI chatbot technology will be able to strategically help banks improve customer experience and raise the level of support that agents provide.

Digital collaboration: Working around the Clock

The benefits of adopting digital channels and self-service tools are second to none. By implementing chatbots, fuelled by conversational AI, banks will be able to help serve a wide range of customer queries and ensure they are protected from fraud and scams.

Ryan Lester

Ryan Lester

Conversational AI is exactly what it sounds like: a computer programme that engages in a conversation with a human. When it comes to service delivery, conversational AI can be deployed across multiple channels to engage with customers in ways that effectively address evolving customer needs. At a time defined by COVID-19, self-service tools such a conversational chatbots can work around the clock to solve customer queries in a concise and timely way. Of course, self-service tools won’t completely replace human agents in the banking industry, but they will help companies re-distribute customer traffic and workflows in ways that enhance customer experience. Self-service tools fuelled by conversational AI can also improve employee experience because service employees can handle fewer, but higher-level service tasks that chatbots might escalate to them.

Adopting new tools to help facilitate consistent and concise answers and help maintain customer experience is on the forefront of many industry minds. Banks such as the Natwest Group have seen this first-hand and are testament to the benefits that a good digital experience can provide. Simon Johnson, Capability Consultant, Digital at NatWest Group highlights NatWest’s use of digital tools during lockdown, “Over the last few months, we’ve learnt how to use digital tools to help our employees remotely. From a banking perspective, there have been a lot of changes including base rates, waive fees and the best ways of contacting our vulnerable customers, ensuring we keep them protected from frauds and scams.

“By introducing our Bold360 chatbot interface, Ella, we’ve been able to get relevant information out quickly, apply the best practice and ensure that our customer journeys are being developed correctly. Due to the volume of questions, some of our customers were finding themselves waiting longer than usual. So digital channels become essential to helping reduce the wait time. Using Bold360, we were able to mitigate issues and answer questions in a more timely way through our chatbot.

“Moving forward, as we open more digital services, we are analysing our data to see if customer will return back to their usual way of banking, now that they’ve seen what a good digital experience can provide. Either way, with Ella, we are ready.”

Chatbots and Humans: The Best Option for Customer Service

Over the last year, banking institutions have recognised the power that digital collaboration can have to their success. Delivering exceptional customer service and support is key for any business wanting to stay competitive in today’s market and banks are especially challenged with precariously balancing customer needs with the cost of personalised support. Leveraging the right technology, such as AI-powered chatbots, will enable the banking industry to provide better support and a more robust customer experience in the long term. Other institutions must follow suit, or risk becoming obsolete.

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A sleeping digital giant wakes? 4 key trends accelerating payments transformation in the US

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A sleeping digital giant wakes? 4 key trends accelerating payments transformation in the US 2

By Lauren Jones, International Payments Ambassador, Icon Solutions

The US payments industry is undoubtedly ripe for change. Before the unprecedented shock of COVID-19, digitization and payments transformation initiatives had been organic, piecemeal and predominately the preserve of the largest banks.

Now, increasing pressure means that financial institutions of all sizes are working to define a digital strategy to unlock new opportunities, drive business value, and stay competitive. But beyond the immediate impact of COVID, what underlying trends are accelerating digitization in the US?

  1. Real-time payments – the stimulus for change  

Real-time payments have been met with a degree of caution by US financial institutions. Risking traditional profit generators in return for potential revenues down the line is a gamble many have not been willing to take. But immediate payments are coming to the US whether banks like it or not.

Major payments infrastructure providers, including NACHA and The Clearing House (TCH), have moved to encourage immediate payment adoption in recent years. But the Fed, frustrated with a slow rate of progress, has announced that it is pressing ahead with the implementation of its FedNow system (despite significant industry objection). Although the Fed’s true intentions are open to interpretation and this may just be a play to accelerate private initiatives, it is a clear signal that they mean business.

This means holdouts risk their own ‘Kodak’ moment if they miss the huge opportunities in front of them by fixating on traditional revenue streams. Banks are in a position to support innovation across entire industries such as healthcare, which could be released from the constraints of paper-based bureaucracy and slow, expensive transactions.

Another opportunity that can be unlocked via instant payments is ISO 20022 (used in the TCH RTP system). It is the future of payments messaging standards and can greatly enhance various payments processes through increased data-carrying capabilities. More importantly given the current climate, citizens reliant on federal or state support can benefit from RTPs combined with additional data to immediately access emergency funds.

  1. The kids are growing up

The US is getting older. Consumers who were 10 when the iPhone first launched are now 23. This means we are seeing a ramp-up of digitally native Gen Z consumers (roughly those born between 1995 and 2010) accessing banking services.

Demographics are an inexact science and not perfect predictors (there are technophobe college students and 100-year-old Instagram influencers), but we can detect noticeable trends.

Younger customers don’t usually choose a bank because there is an ATM in their neighbourhood, a slightly better interest rate or an advert in the newspaper. Rather, a strong digital presence, personalised tools, rewards and experiences, and the trusted recommendations of friends and family, will have a more significant impact on customer acquisition.

Banks must look at the effect this will have on their longer-term digitalization strategy and be able to segment what this emerging customer base might want and how they will interact in years to come.

  1. Checkmate? Evolving corporate requirements

    Lauren Jones

    Lauren Jones

Corporate treasurers are people and their experience of seamless, immediate payments in their personal lives shapes expectations in the workplace. Although check usage for business-to-business (B2B) transactions is still the norm in the US and barriers remain, corporates are increasingly demanding the ability to transact in a real-time, omnichannel environment, 24×7.

The benefits are clear. Corporate treasurers stand to enjoy enhanced liquidity management and transparency, greater control over payments and enhanced data for reconciliation purposes. And for consumers, alternative digital payment options such as buy now pay later promote choice and flexibility.

  1. Increasing competition

A significant consequence of emerging consumer and business demand for digital offerings is the increase in competition from fintechs, technology giants and other third-parties. Traditionally, incumbent banks have enjoyed the advantage of consumer trust to offset more limited innovation. But as consumers become more comfortable entrusting their financial transactions to non-banks, banks must differentiate and digitize to remain competitive.

Data is where the technology giants excel, and their ability to personalise experiences and emotionally connect with their users is unprecedented. Banks need to learn from the positive aspects of this model to better understand their users and deliver meaningful, useful products and services.

For data to become the cornerstone of a banks’ customer relationship and take services to the next level, breaking the channel silos and extracting value from a comprehensive dataset will be decisive. But with only 18% of banks reporting that they are in the process of shifting from a transactional revenue model to a data-driven revenue model, this work has some way to go.

Taking customer propositions to the next level

Customers now expect services that work for them, not their banks. All banks, no matter the footprint, need to move quickly to offer a broad digital service platform that adds value to both the customer and the bank.

By defining a robust payments transformation strategy, banks of all sizes can remain fiercely competitive by rapidly lowering costs, unlocking revenues and promoting innovation

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Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense

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Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense 3

By Rob Harrison, MD UK & Ireland, SAP Concur

The last few months have been an exercise in adaptability for businesses across the UK. With the sudden mandate to work from home, company processes that were ingrained in employees’ day-to-day routines were either put on hold or turned upside down. The new office normal now includes virtual meetings, conversing through instant messaging instead of in the hallway, and the redefining of “business casual” attire.

Many of the processes that have undergone changes fall into the category of travel and expense. With most business travel on hold and the nature of expenses changing, finance managers have had to adjust policies and practices to accommodate the new world of work. Recent SAP Concur research found that 72% of businesses have seen changes in the levels and types of expenses submitted, but only 24% have changed their policies to support this. Examples of travel and expense related changes that were made at the beginning of work from home mandates include:

  • A halt to business travel and its associated expenses.
  • Temporarily ending expensed meals for business lunches, dinners, or in-office meetings.
  • Increase in office expenses like monitors and chairs as employees furnish their home offices.
  • New expenses to consider like Internet and cell phone bills for employees who must work from home.

Now, as companies begin thinking about return to work plans, finance managers are discovering it’s not simply business as usual again. SAP Concur research found that many expect finance will return to normal quicker than general workplace practices, but vast majority see the process taking up to 12 months. New policies and processes need to be put in place to accommodate travel restrictions and changes in expenses. While finance managers need to stay flexible as the business environment continues to evolve, spend control and compliance should still be a high priority.

Here are a few questions that can help finance managers prepare for return to work while keeping control and compliance top of mind:

  • What will travel look like for the company? Finance managers must work with travel and HR counterparts to determine the need for employee travel, if at all, and how to keep employees safe. At SAP Concur, we surveyed 500 UK business travellers and found that health and safety is now seen as more than twice as important than their business goals being met on trips (34% versus 16%. Clear guidelines should be developed, even if they are temporary or evolving, so it’s clear who can travel, when they can travel, and how they can travel. Duty of care plans should also be re-evaluated and businesses should ensure they know at all times where employees are traveling for business and how they can communicate with them in the event of an emergency.
  • Who needs to approve travel and expenses? While it may be temporary, businesses may have to implement a more stringent approval policy for travel and other expenses. Due to health concerns related to travel and the need to conserve cash flow, business leaders like CFOs may want to have final approval over all travel and expenses until the situation stabilises. To help ensure new approval processes don’t cause delays and inefficiencies, finance managers should implement an automated solution that streamlines the process and allows business leaders to review and approve travel requests, expenses, and invoices right from their phones. According to SAP Concur research, 11% of UK businesses implemented some automation of financial processes in response to COVID-19. This is definitely set to increase post-pandemic.
  • Rob Harrison

    Rob Harrison

    What types of expenses are within policy? Prior to social distancing, employees may have been allowed to take clients out to dinner. In-person team meetings held during the lunch hour, may have included expensed lunches. As employees return to work, finance managers need to determine if these activities and expenses will be allowed again. Clear guidelines must be put in place and expense policies need to be updated to reflect any changes.

  • What happens to home office items that were purchased? While new office equipment may have been purchased for employees’ home offices, they remain the business’s property and what to do with them as employees return to work needs to be determined. Perhaps employees will continue to work from home a few days a week and need to keep the equipment to ensure productivity. However, if a full return to work is expected, finance managers have options that can maximise their asset investment and possibly save the company money, like replacing old office equipment with the new purchases, reselling to a used office furniture company, or donating to a non-profit.
  • How can cost control be ensured? For many businesses, cash flow will be tight for the foreseeable future. Spend needs to be managed to help ensure recovery and stability. An important aspect of controlling costs is having full visibility of expenses throughout the company. Implementing an automated spend management solution that integrates expense and invoice management brings together a business’s spend, giving finance managers an understanding of where they can save, where to renegotiate, and where to redirect budgets based on plans and priorities.

Once finance managers have asked themselves the questions above and determined how they want to approach travel and expense procedures, it’s vital they create guidelines and communicate clearly to employees. Compliance can only be ensured if employees have a clear understanding of what has and has not changed with travel and expense policies and what’s expected as they return to work.

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