By Benedikt von Thüngen, CEO of Speechmatics
In recent months we have seen the introduction of a host of new regulations in the financial services sector in relation to the communications channels used for official trading, regulated product or services sales, and data protection and data sovereignty of personal client records. Firstly, we saw the introduction of the second instalment of Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (better known as MiFID II), at the beginning of the year. We also saw the adoption on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is due to come into place in May, as well as the overall regulation around conduct risk.
These regulations have been introduced, in part, as a result of the financial crisis a decade ago. Initially, new measures were brought in to shore up and strengthen the foundations of the financial system. A light was then shone on the conduct of the financial services sector as a whole, with new laws introduced to heighten personal accountability in relation to risk-taking and included a revision of remuneration packages and incentive arrangements that benefited a longer term view of success.
Today, the concept of “conduct risk” has risen to the top of firms’ and regulators’ agendas. Conduct risk is broadly defined as any action from an individual or a financial institution which leads to customer detriment, or has an adverse effect on market stability or competition. In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) expects conduct risk management to be embedded into firms’ risk management frameworks, supported by appropriate management information. With estimates putting the total amount banks have paid in fines for non-compliance at $375 billion over the last five years, it is clear that there is still room for improvement in this area.
New regulations and their effect on the industry
Early 2018 saw the implementation of MiFID II, a European-wide financial services regulation to improve transparency in the financial services industry. One of the key mechanisms of MiFID II is around call recording of financial advisers to support regulatory compliance, protect consumers and to resolve any trading disputes cost effectively. These conversations must be kept on file for at least five years.
While many banks are already archiving landline and turret communications, they are now required to do the same for mobile, as well as capture a wide array of context for each conversation. This is notoriously difficult across telephony or voice channels like noisy trading floors, contact centres or online multi-party voice conferences commonly used by financial, legal and M&A teams. Meeting MiFID II requirements such as these presents a technical challenge that thousands of organisations are now struggling to come to terms with.
Research commissioned by our call recording partners, Red Box Recorders, provides insight into the attitudes, preparedness and concerns around the MiFID II regulation just before it was introduced. Speaking to IT decision makers and senior compliance managers across the industry in late 2017 showed that while institutions were aware of the requirements, many didn’t have solid implementation plans ready to roll out, particularly surrounding the regulatory requirements for areas such as call recording. In fact, nearly three quarters admitted they were not ready for the MiFID II regulations and only a quarter were aware of the increased financial penalties for failing to comply to the regulation, which can go as high as 5 million euros or 10% of global turnover.
Not only is a lack of knowledge an issue, but the cost of complying is vast. According to estimates by consultancy firm Opimas, MiFID II will cost the finance industry more than €2.5bn to implement, with the largest banks expected to spend more than €40m each on compliance.
GDPR, which will come into effect from 25 May, aims to modernise data law and give EU consumers the right to know much more about how their information is collected, stored, used, processed, transferred and deleted by organisations. The introduction of GDPR will mean all firms will have to implement more stringent practices, ensuring data is better stored with adequate checks and processes in place to protect it. The purpose of this is to avoid personal information being accessed during cyber attacks, an ever growing issue in today’s digital society.
Once GDPR comes into force, the financial penalties for failing to comply, especially if the organisation is hacked and found to be negligent, could potentially reach four percent of company turnover. However, a report by analysts Forrester suggests that many organisations may not be GDPR compliant by 25 May: just a quarter of organisations across Europe are thought to be in the clear already, while another 22 percent expect to become compliant in the next 12 months.
Making your compliance investment work
The importance of the new regulation to all kinds of financial businesses, and their customers, is not in doubt. Neither is the impact its implementation will have on the industry for years to come.
The question comes when we look at how companies are making their compliance investment work. Looking at where they choose to prioritise capital and the types of systems they put in place will determine how they perform in the future. Due to the nature of the new regulations, one area of focus must be that of voice call recording.
The confidential and sensitive nature of client call records together with enterprise data protection and data sovereignty regulations prohibit the use of general-purpose cloud-based automatic speech recognition (ASR) technologies. Additionally, effective wide vocabulary ASR usage has been restricted due to limitations associated with telephony noise, multi-party accents or dialects, differing international languages, and sector-specific vocabulary constantly changing. Until now, the onus for recording voice calls has been on the call maker – to record, make notes or keep a record of what the call is about, with no requirement to include any information on the sentiment or tone of the call. But this is no longer good enough or, indeed, legal.
This is an opportunity to support firms – not only to comply with the law but to future-proof their business and protect their customers.
Businesses in the banking sector will need a specialist in multiple language ASR, who can enable businesses to convert what was recorded on a call into an accurate transcription, even in a noisy environment and across all file formats, using agile, simple to deploy, on-premise technology that sits alongside our cloud-based service.
The majority of calls in the EU banking sector are conducted in English, but the challenge is when there are several different accents on one call. Any call conducted in English can be transcribed using our innovative Global English pack, a single English language pack supporting all major English accents for use in speech-to-text transcription. Global English was trained on thousands of hours of spoken data from over 40 countries and tens of billions of words drawn from global sources, making it one of the most comprehensive and accurate accent-agnostic transcription solutions on the market.
Technological solutions already exist for automating note taking, real-time monitoring, and screening and classification of calls for conduct and ethics. With in-line indexing of the call content, discovery and investigation is simple, as is retrieving historic audio archives. If a call contains personally identifiable information (PII) like credit card details or bank account and address information, these can be live screened and tagged, or retrospectively analysed to support records preservation and security classification.
We are working with Deloitte on an initiative that includes some of the most advanced behavioural and emotional analytics and workflow in the world. Open API architecture allows clients and partners to exploit industry standard Natural Language Processing and AI technologies to configure advanced big data analytics workflow solutions.
Deloitte believes technology is the way forward in compliance. They have developed an Artificial Intelligence voice analytics machine learning platform, BEAT (Behaviour and Emotion Analytics Tool) as a smart solution to deal with the growing regulatory pressures facing their clients. BEAT combines Speechmatics’ highly accurate transcriptions of conversations with the output from their own emotion analytics engine, which provides the basis for determining the outcome of customer interactions through sentiment and behavioural analysis, topic modelling and natural language processing – just a few of the things that make BEAT a unique product in the market.
Red Box Recorders, leaders in compliance recording technology for over 28 years, has seen regulation change dramatically during that time. They work with organisations across the financial, contact centre, government and public sectors and have had to adapt to increasingly complex compliance requirements. They partnered with us to offer an innovative end-to-end transcription recording service which allows companies to dig deeper with their analysis. By using accurate transcriptions of audio conversations, the data becomes easily searchable for auditing and compliance purposes and to yield valuable business insight.
This is a time of crucial change, and there is no question that firms in the financial sector must comply with the new regulations. But there is an opportunity for these businesses to improve their performance output and reduce their overall cost footprint by using innovative technology that is already available and in use today.
The bigger organisations in the financial services sector are in the best position as they tend to have large regulatory teams. For smaller companies the next few months will be crunch time. There is still a lot of work to be done by the financial services industry to not only comply with the MiFID II regulations already in place but to ensure that they are ready for the GDPR regulation in May.
As leaders in speech recognition and having worked with a variety of firms, large and small, we are confident that technology is the smartest, most efficient way to ensure your firm is compliant with all regulations. The key is to make sure that whichever supplier you choose, they understand your needs and are able to tailor their solutions accordingly.
Take Five: Davos goes virtual
It is the end of January, so time for the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), and Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde are among this year’s big-name speakers.
But Davos was not spared the pandemic hit; instead of gathering at the Swiss ski resort, the world’s great and good will do so virtually.
With the global economy deep in crisis, there is no shortage of topics: soaring unemployment and debt levels, growing income inequality and climate change.
And, like everyone else, the WEF is pinning hopes on normality returning – it plans a face-to-face meeting in Singapore in May.
Outpaced by a late-2020 surge in so-called value stocks, tech shares have roared back amid the pandemic’s unrelenting march. That is reflected in recent hefty gains for Russell’s 1000 “growth” index versus its value counterpart.
The gains could extend when Apple, Microsoft and Facebook report earnings. Also on deck is Tesla, which recently joined the S&P 500.
The results could push the combined market capitalisation of the FAANGs – Facebook, Amazon, AAPL Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet – back above their all-time peak of $6.16 trillion.
Netflix has done its part; robust subscription numbers reported on Jan. 19 have boosted its shares 17%. Now there are high expectations for the rest. Morgan Stanley has boosted the price target for Apple, declaring themselves “buyers ahead of what we expect to be a record December quarter print”. Microsoft reports on Jan. 26, followed by Apple, Facebook and Tesla a day later.
Graphic: The return of the FAANGs – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/oakpeyelnpr/Pasted%20image%201611266376120.png
3/RED ENVELOPE FOR HONG KONG
Record amounts of Chinese money are flowing into Hong Kong stocks, pushing the Hang Seng index above the 30,000 mark, making it a global top performer and putting a floor under Chinese companies blacklisted by Washington.
The inflows have also pushed Hong Kong interbank rates to multi-year lows, meaning authorities may not even need to inject cash, as they usually do in the run-up to February’s Lunar New Year holiday.
An upcoming $5 billion IPO from Chinese online video company Kuaishou may draw in even more mainland money.
For a city rocked by pro-democracy unrest since 2019, this endorsement of its markets is a positive. Unless, that is, one views this as another sign of China’s growing political and financial stranglehold on the special administrative region.
Graphic: Mainland investors hunt for bargains in Hong Kong – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/buzz/xlbvgylqevq/mainland%20investors%20hunt%20for%20bargains%20in%20Hong%20Kong.jpg
4/DRIVING OUT EUROPE INC BLUES
Europe’s STOXX 600 firms are expected to report a 26% earnings drop during the Q4 season which has just got under way. But that is history – let’s look instead at the January-March 2021 season when a 44% profit jump is predicted.
Such a surge seems intriguing given new continent-wide lockdowns. The explanation lies in consumer cyclicals, which Refinitiv I/B/E/S predicts will post an eye-popping 3,118% profit gain, versus the pandemic doldrums of Q1 2020.
Drilling down to single stocks, Daimler (1,471%), Fiat Chrysler, now Stellantis (177%) and Volkswagen (602%) turn out to be the largest contributors. Carmakers have seen their biggest earnings revisions in a decade and boosting shares to 14-month highs.
Graphic: Autos – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qzjvqmnwxvx/Autos%20hold%20key.JPG
The coming week brings prelimary Q4 GDP data from France, Spain and Germany. Okay, the data is outdated and we already know the first quarter will show an activity dip from lockdown extensions. But let’s not be too hasty in dismissing the end-2020 numbers.
If the economies fared better than expected, it provides a cushion for the blow coming this quarter – that is the conclusion some reached after 2020 growth in powerhouse Germany turned out less bad than feared.
Also pay attention to Germany’s January inflation numbers, out Thursday. Those could show that a reversal in VAT cuts is easing the downward pressure on prices. In short, amid the pain inflicted by lockdowns, some positives might well lurk.
Graphic: Germany’s GDP data set for a bumpy ride – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xlbvgyjmmvq/theme2201DR.PNG
(Reporting by Ira Iosebashvili in New York; Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore; Karin Strohecker and Dhara Ranasinghe in London; Danilo Masoni in Milan; compiled by Sujata Rao)
Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards®
Global Banking & Finance Review has awarded Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO of Resource Group, Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020 in recognition of his vision, strategy and strong leadership that have contributed greatly to Resource Group’s success in winning the Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020 in this Global Banking & Finance Awards®.
Resource Group is an investment group with a portfolio of diversified businesses that capitalizes on technology and human talent for value creation. The company has proven that it has gone the extra mile to develop innovative solutions aimed at improving people’s lives and helping Lebanon transition toward a knowledge-based economy. Global Banking and Financial Review, the renowned online and print magazine identified a number of areas that Resource Group has excelled. The company has been awarded Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020, and Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO, receives the award for Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020. Under his leadership, Resource Group has grown from a family security-printing business to a diversified international investment group, with a portfolio of companies across 10 sectors in over 75 countries.
Wanda Rich, editor Global Banking & Finance, said “Mr. Itani took the security printing business to another level and expanded into different technology verticals in an impressive list of success stories”. The list includes digital security, smartcard manufacturing, mobile value added solutions, cyber security and secure communication solutions, telecom infrastructure and managed services, elections supply chain services, lottery systems and operations, mobile and virtual reality games, among others.
Resource Group’s focus on technology has had a constructive and tangible impact on government automation and on citizen experience in target markets.
Editor Wanda Rich says “We are proud to offer Resource Group these prestigious awards and wish them continued success and growth into 2021 during these challenging economic times”.
Global Banking and Finance Review is a renowned online and print magazine. The magazine’s website alone receives over 7 million page views annually. Global Banking and Finance Review provides a balanced view with formative and independent news from the financial community. The Global Banking & Finance Awards® were created to recognize companies of all sizes that are prominent in particular areas of expertise and excellence within the global financial community. The awards are known throughout the global banking and financial community. They reflect the innovation, achievement, strategy, progressive and inspirational changes taking place within the financial sector.
Bouncing back in 2021: Digital Transformation is no longer a choice as dependence on 5G, IoT and Data increases in society and business
By Ivan Ericsson, Head of Quality Management, Expleo Group Limited
The global pandemic has put enormous strain on businesses and brought into sharp focus the importance of being agile, adaptable and able to increase the pace of innovation and change at short notice – catapulting technology right to the top of the agenda for many organisations.
As the economy works to get back on its feet, technology is only going to play a bigger role in our lives. At Expleo, as experts in digital transformation and the reliable implementation of technological innovations, we’ve outlined the biggest tech-driven trends that we expect to see in 2021 and beyond.
1) “Digital transformation” no longer a choice
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s that they need to be poised to respond to abrupt market disruption at any moment, making digital transformation mandatory overnight.
With no room for delay, hugely complex corporations – that have historically been slow to adopt technology – have had to accelerate their reliance on technology just to keep afloat in recent months. Digital change, at speed, has become the norm.
Even last year, the idea of an unscheduled video conference call might put people on edge – now most of us wouldn’t think twice about calling a colleague over Teams or Zoom even for a 2-minute conversation. At the same time, social infrastructure has moved with the needs of its users, with telecoms giants strengthening and opening up networks so we can keep communicating despite social distancing.
There are now very few excuses left for operating in a non-digital way. All businesses need to be intelligent businesses that can change direction nimbly, with speed, confidence and composure. As we see more businesses putting this into practice, it’ll likely result in an increased number embracing and normalising some of the behaviours of tech-savvy giants like Apple and Amazon, who have no doubt thrived during this period.
Their success can largely be attributed to normalising an agile approach. By ensuring all applications have testing facilities built in – a “quality shadow” if you will – it allows for continuous improvements, and the ability to change direction quickly and confidently, when needed. This is particularly valuable today as the world becomes more fast-paced and increasingly unpredictable.
2) Big data/AI/predictive analytics
We’re moving into a space where big data can be extracted from the most seemingly innocuous places. In a hyper-connected world, a move as simple as a dog walk could offer huge swathes of data to the right companies. Many businesses already realise the benefits of capturing and utilising big data, but not all have taken advantage of it. The businesses that move quickest are most likely to reap the rewards in a more impactful way than their ‘data shy’ competitors. Where data used to be a side effect of business operation, it is now the driving force.
As businesses begin to rely more heavily on data to make critical decisions, independent assurance becomes increasingly important to get those decisions right. Forward-thinking, data-driven organisations must therefore assure that the data is correct in the first place, to avoid giving businesses false confidence and risk them moving in the wrong direction – something that is rarely affordable in today’s competitive and fast-paced environment. If businesses are not 100% confident in assuring the quality and accuracy of their own data, they should look to a third party for support.
A key data trend we expect to see moving further into 2021 is the increased use of predictive analytics. At the moment, businesses will often use data analytics to give us insights into our past activities, or to tell us where we are right now. However, the real value lies in knowing where we are going and how we are going to get there. Data analytics will help to identify the optional levels that can be pulled to drive change and realise business benefit.
Secondly, as intuitive technology advances and becomes more accessible, we expect over the next 12 months to see companies of all sizes begin to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) to drive intelligent analytics. In this context, AI refers to various technologies that allow machines to learn, sifting through ‘messy’ big data in order to find and unlock valuable predictive insights into future events. This allows businesses to better adapt their strategy to likely future outcomes and get a head start in the market.
However, with this ever-increasing emphasis on data and data protection, ethical AI will have a more prominent role to play in 2021 and beyond. Protected, usable Data is a by-product of good data security and privacy measures; however, the public remain wary of how their data is being used, particularly after the fallout from Cambridge Analytica’s use of data to influence an election. Businesses, therefore, must give their customers confidence that their data is secure and protected.
3) Moral relevance/corporate altruism
Research shows that young people are increasingly researching and considering the ethics of brands they’re purchasing from. And it won’t be long before this attitude starts seeping into every other aspect of their lives, with more and more people wanting to work for what they consider to be “purpose-driven” businesses.
Talent is the lifeblood of any company, so for big corporations, many of whom were born to create profit, this could put them in a tricky position. They might already be influencing society in a positive way – but this is unlikely to have ever been their main goal.
Moving forward, however, all organisations will have to start thinking about the “Triple Bottom Line”. That means considering the environmental and social impact of your business, alongside your commercial imperative.
We’ll soon see a mindset switch across businesses, from ‘competing’ to ‘advancing’. Instead of wanting to be the “best,” the question will be, how can I better serve the world around me?
In line with this, businesses will have to start thinking more about how to use tech for good, as we’ve seen with the likes of Microsoft Teams connecting tens of millions of people every day, during this very dark time.
2021 is likely to bring even more inroads when it comes to using technology to improve society, whether it’s developing bespoke problem-solving technologies or using IT to ‘eco-proof’ existing sectors, the goal for businesses is to rise to this challenge and build a better future for people and the planet through the use of technology. But all organisations will continue to need to be able to justify technology use and prove that they’re using it ethically, and in a secure manner.
4) 5G new networks – just about all big trends are driven by/reliant upon faster networks – particularly relevant for a more distributed workforce
Greater access and utilisation of 5G networks across the country will underpin and accelerate all of the key trends discussed. Everything we do on our smart devices we can expect to do at higher speed, greater capacity and with lower lag times.
As our digital footprints extend beyond simple web browsing and into our daily lives through smart technology, we are creating huge amounts of data every minute. This vast flow of data is increasingly dependent on new high bandwidth networks to facilitate it. Therefore, the merging of technology and engineering will become critical in ensuring big data is carried successfully to drive analytics and drive business.
The fact we have managed to successfully work from home during COVID is a glowing recommendation for the quality of the networks as they exist today, and they will only get better.
The telecoms industry is already working overtime to ensure that people all over the country get reliable access to the internet – and the fact that there is still inequality in this area proves just how challenging this is. But, in line with this trend toward hyper automation, which will make data extraction and analysis a part of everyday life for businesses, the consolidation of tech and engineering will be ever more important.
Forward-thinking companies will look to incorporate 5G networks into their business strategy. This could be from an internal perspective to enhance the abilities of their remote workforce. Alternatively, this could relate to their own products or offerings – developing an internet of things (IoT) strategy, improve user experience, or bring products to market faster by analysing big data and adapting quicker. Either way, with increasingly improved networks, businesses are expected to take advantage of the huge increase in accessible and usable data.
For businesses to truly reap the benefits of these new technologies, they must be developed and adopted in the right way.
Quality assurance, trust and security are three key requirements that the technology of the future depends on to succeed. Having these requirements at the heart of any digital transformation will ensure that systems perform reliably, having been tested and assured.
By prioritising a seamless customer experience combined with an ability to create, test, and scale digital solutions and operationalise at pace, businesses will be in the best possible position to take advantage of the potential being unlocked by these new technologies.
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