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By Wael Elrifai, Director of Enterprise Solutions, Pentaho

Wael Elrifai

Wael Elrifai

These days, stepping forward to lead any ambitious data IT transformation in a bank is a bit like being a Premier League football manager. You can be doing all the right things for the long-term health of the club yet still regret those moments you decided to glance at your Twitter feed. Footie fans and banking professionals alike are impatient for fast results and naturally want to avoid costly, high-profile defeats. However, when you are working to heal deep-rooted systemic problems, quick, miracle cures are in short supply.

Readers working in banking IT know too well the problems of integrating, prepping and governing siloed data particularly when the data sits in multiple locations across the organisation (and often the world) and is stored on different platforms – common in M&A situations. When you start talking big data and Hadoop, that ‘single source of truth’ starts to seem as mythical a possibility as, say, Leicester City winning the League.

And yet we’re truly at the tipping point where the risks of inaction outweigh the risks of action. Headlines about customer rage, massive non-compliance penalties and high-profile security breaches issue forth from news and social media channels almost every day. Even more concerning for established banks is the slew of nimble, young “challenger banks” unencumbered by legacy systems. Newcomer Atom Bank is a notable example of one investing heavily up front in the latest mobile, biometrics, apps and machine learning technology, in order to really stand out competitively. These banks will appeal to a new generation of consumers living in very different circumstances to their parents and seeking the kinds of experiences they get with services like Uber, Airbnb and even Tinder.

Established banks don’t continue to silo off their data just to make life difficult for themselves and customers. It comes down to the insurmountable task of defining metadata structures when you have hundreds or even thousands of data sources in various formats. To solve this manually, fast enough to be useful, and in compliance would require so many people, strict processes and quality checks as to be essentially impossible. You say you want to blend and analyse those different data sources? As my friends in Brooklyn like to say: “Fuggeddaboutit!”

Game-changing tools and approach

So now for some good news. After years of prioritising the relatively easier task of making data look pretty, analytics and integration vendors have started releasing tools that automate and de-risk the hard, time and resource-intensive (and mind-numbingly boring) processes associated with integrating, prepping and governing data.

The real game-changer falls in an area called data onboarding. Some new tools reduce the complexities of filling your data lake using an approach we call ‘metadata injection’. They allow you to safely automate hundreds of data onboarding and preparation processes using just a few transformations by scanning your data sources, analysing the data structures and automatically building your data flows on-the-fly. When your data sources change, the metadata structure automatically accommodates the changes. This process gives you the foundation you need to design safe, reliable, compliant data blends using different data sources, analyse that data and really start to gain meaningful, profitable insights.

Data onboarding makes Hadoop less hard…

Let’s not mince words: working with Hadoop is hard. Gartner predicts, “Through 2018, 70% of Hadoop deployments will fail to meet cost savings and revenue generation objectives due to skills and integration challenges.” Moving data into your lake in a simple, automated way is particularly hard and where the new tools for onboarding really come into their own. Some teams use Python or another language to code their way through these processes. However, when you have thousands of disparate data sources, coding scripts for each source is, again, prohibitively impractical and expensive. Data onboarding tools let you manage a changing array of data sources, establishing repeatable processes at scale and maintaining control and governance along the way.

…and IoT possible

Free from the shackles of having to manually manage metadata, you can dare to think about moving into the terrain of IoT. Although banking may not seem as obvious as, say, automotive manufacturing when it comes to IoT, there are actually quite a few compelling use cases. Our customer Edo, for example, helps banks use IoT technology to offer location-based rewards and discounts in real time. It uses geographical data to find and activate offers and deals when customers swipe their debit or credit cards at nearby merchants. This helps Edo’s bank customers differentiate by being able to offer highly personalised, location-based services. A recent white paper from Deloitte University Press identified several more applications for IoT in banking from insurance underwriting to claims assessment to improving trading systems.

We currently work with a number of big, established banks, which not only use data onboarding tools but have been actively involved in defining their functionality. These banks are on track to save billions, improve compliance, detect fraud and offer new, competitive services. All this means that IT leaders can safely step forward and run those ambitious data initiatives safe in the knowledge that they have the tools to deliver those quick wins that business managers and customers want while putting in place the foundation for long-term, competitive strength. This just might have your IT team lifting the trophy!

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout



UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.

Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.

“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.

“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”

Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.

He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.

“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.

Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.

“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of State’s (Dowden’s) assertion that the government’s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.

It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.

The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.

Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)


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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit



Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit 2

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.

“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.

Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.

Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.

The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.

“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.

Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.

The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.

It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.

“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.

“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”


Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.

“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.

A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.

“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.

The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).

“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)


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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF



G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF 3

By Michael Nienaber and Andrea Shalal

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/ROME (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders are expected on Friday to agree to continue supportive measures for the global economy and look to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the pandemic.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies, called the G20, held a video-conference on Friday. The global response to the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus was at top of the agenda.

In the first comments by a participating policymaker, the European Union’s economics commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the meeting had been “good”, with consensus on the need for a common effort on global COVID vaccinations.

“Avoid premature withdrawal of supportive fiscal policy” and “progress towards agreement on digital and minimal taxation” he said in a Tweet, signalling other areas of apparent accord.

A news conference by Italy, which holds the annual G20 presidency, is scheduled for 17.15 (1615 GMT)

The meeting comes as the United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies going despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus mean the future of the recovery remains uncertain.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz warned earlier on Friday that recovery was taking longer than expected and it was too early to roll back support.

“Contrary to what had been hoped for, we cannot speak of a full recovery yet. For us in the G20 talks, the central task remains to lead our countries through the severe crisis,” Scholz told reporters ahead of the virtual meeting.

“We must not scale back the support programmes too early and too quickly. That’s what I’m also going to campaign for among my G20 colleagues today,” he said.


Hopes for constructive discussions at the meeting are high among G20 countries because it is the first since Joe Biden, who vowed to rebuild cooperation in international bodies, became U.S. president.

While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.

The recovery is fragile elsewhere too – factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic coronavirus infections, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter with new lockdowns clouding the outlook.

“The initially hoped-for V-shaped recovery is now increasingly looking rather more like a long U-shaped recovery. That is why the stabilization measures in almost all G20 states have to be maintained in order to continue supporting the economy,” a G20 official said.

But while the richest economies can afford to stimulate an economic recovery by borrowing more on the market, poorer ones would benefit from being able to tap credit lines from the IMF — the global lender of last resort.

To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by then U.S. President Donald Trump.

Scholz said the change of administration in Washington on Jan. 20 improved the prospects for more IMF resources. He pointed to a letter sent by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to G20 colleagues on Thursday, which he described as a positive sign also for efforts to reform global tax rules.

Civil society groups, religious leaders and some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have called for a much larger allocation of IMF resources, of $3 trillion, but sources familiar with the matter said they viewed such a large move as unlikely for now.

The G20 may also agree to extend a suspension of debt servicing for poorest countries by another six months.

($1 = 0.8254 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Gavin Jones in Rome; Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Susan Fenton and Crispian Balmer)


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