By Tim Pullan, CEO and Founder of ThoughtRiver
The Financial Conduct Authority(FCA) has asked for input on how technology can help achieve smarter regulatory reporting[i]. This is unsurprising given the IFRS9 accounting rules that came into force in January and the introduction of the GDPR on the horizon. There will also be plenty of regulatory uncertainty around Brexit. Most firms in the finance industry rely on a suite of technology to help meet regulatory obligations but many tools do not provide sufficient legal context around commercial data. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools, combined with intelligent schema,can supplement traditional tools, helping extract useful data from unstructured documents such as contracts.
Traditional software tools work with structured data to meet regulatory obligations.However, the process of populating these tools is not efficient because much data, the so-called ‘known unknowns’, has to be extracted manually from unstructured documents. And too often the database does not capture legal restrictions and permissions related to commercial data.
For example, when dealing with revenue recognition in accounting, traditional tools might only report revenue figures aggregated from data that is easily populated. However, if the system does not take into account the warranty clause in the contract that specifies the circumstances when that revenue is not recognized, it provides only a partial picture. To obtain the full legal context and complete the picture, firms must find data-across contracts or other unstructured documents. Currently, many firms are doing this manually and most firms are not uncovering all the relevant data.
Potential applications of AI tools with intelligent schemas
AI tools that combine machine learning with natural language processing can analyse and summarize contracts and unstructured documents efficiently. It is easy to extract and organise data in a structured manner almost entirely without the need for human supervision.
AI tools that run on machine learning require users to input samples of relevant documents containing the issues they are looking for. These issues must be labelled for the intelligent software to build algorithms to extract those types of issues accurately in new documents. The best tools allow users from various organisations to pool AI training for the issues that they all share. This way, users do not need to reinvent the wheel developing their own AI in silos. When AI training data is pooled, accuracy and applicability improve for all users.The latest intelligent tools have even achieved a level of sophistication that enables them to summarise the meaning of data extracted.
This sophistication is important because it allows the AI to establish relationship between data fields, providing a layer of context and meaning.It converts a simple database into an intelligent schema. The advantage of using an intelligent schema is that users may field complex queries to the AI, which the AI then answers using both extracted data and the hierarchy of relationships between those data.
Two potential applications for AI tools coupled with intelligent schema are:
- Asset Classification: Under IFRS9, firms are required to perform the ‘contractual cashflow’ test or SPPI test for asset classification. An AI tool can trawl through contracts of varying complexity to determine whether cashflows are limited to principles and interests or if there are other types of compensations involved[ii].The AI can quickly determine whether something passes the test by pulling out the exact provisions and looking at how they relate to the two outcomes. In this case, that would involve determining whether exact provisions involving non-principle and non-interest cashflows exist. The meaning of relevant provisions is understood by the AI with regards to the intelligent schema even if no exact wording is found. In this case, the intelligent schema can understand when cashflows occur, whether payment terms occur only under rare circumstances (“not genuine”), whether non-payment results in bankruptcy rights or what contingent payment terms exist. The AI relates answers from each of these features to determine the outcomes to this binary test.This information also makes the process of modifying future instruments to fall under desired asset classes much easier.
- Stress Testing: Stress testing has become a fact of life in the industry since the financial crisis of 2008[iii]. Insurance firms use stress and scenario testing to consider the potential impact of adverse circumstances on their business. Banks must hold capital against several types of risks and must regularly prove that their capital is sufficient. How firms fare during stress testing – and in real life – depends heavily on which legal obligations are triggered across thousands of contractual relationships. Many firms utilize various statistical sampling methods to deduce non-credit risk because reviewing all contractual obligations manually is prohibitively expensive. This does not always capture scenarios of “Black Swan events” well. AI tools can be trained to unearth relevant obligations and their temporal or geographical contexts. This allows a more accurate picture to be painted during stress testing and speeds up the process.
The types of insights obtained from AI tools coupled with intelligent schema go beyond simply helping firms meet regulatory obligations more quickly and cheaply. Commercial data with legal context is extremely valuable because of the visibility it provides of the firm’s commercial relationships. This visibility can be used to identify and mitigate previously unknown risks or to develop new business opportunities in the increasingly competitive banking and finance sector..
RPA, the software robots that finance and banking professionals need to hear about.
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
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.
WeWALK joins Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility Programme Using artificial intelligence to change the lives of the visually impaired
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.
Everything you need to know about APIs for business
By Omar Javaid, president, Vonage API Platform, Vonage
If your work brings you into close proximity with technology, chances are that you’ve come across APIs. Like many of the tech acronyms we hear – DNS, VOIP, SaaS – APIs fall into a category of terms that most of us would consider best left to the IT department. However, APIs are a vital tool for any tech-enabled business, and a basic understanding of them at management level can help to drive sales, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the user experience.
Although they seem daunting, getting to grips with APIs is surprisingly straightforward. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and can be simply defined as a software tool used to control programmes. Essentially, APIs create sets of rules that allow applications to communicate with each other – they are the part of the server that receives requests and sends responses. Today, when data is transferred between a pair (or more) of programs or applications, an API normally makes it happen.
To give a real-world example: when a user types Instagram’s URL into their browser and hits the Return key, a request is subsequently transmitted to Instagram’s remote servers. That browser then processes the response code it receives and displays the page. For the browser, Instagram’s server is an API – allowing it to communicate and relay information back to you without interruption or delay.
The job of the API is to simplify the complex data exchanged between these servers, and to make the interaction as seamless as possible for the end user. Considering that the vast majority of our business and personal lives now take place virtually, any solution that optimises the online experience is extremely valuable.
Using APIs to improve the customer experience
One of the core benefits of APIs is that they enable businesses to free themselves from the time consuming and costly process of developing in-house software to power a single core application. Instead, developers can outsource certain tasks to remote “off-the-shelf” APIs, saving time, money, and allowing resources to be channeled elsewhere. These add-on services allow businesses to offer a more complete, one-stop solution to customers, whilst streamlining the process to optimise user experience.
Although we may not always realise it, APIs are playing a vital silent role in almost every purchase and interaction we have online. Take booking a holiday for example. As we browse comparison sights, APIs are working furiously behind the scene to aggregate information from airline databases, hotel websites, and excursion providers. The API performs the back and forth needed to retrieve the information, whilst we are able to sit back and view all of the results on the same page. Simplifying this process enables travel comparison websites to make the search for holidays quick and easy, and encourages customers to stay on the site by offering all that they need in one easy to consume package.
APIs also allow smaller businesses to utilise tools provided by some of the world’s largest and most successful companies. Google’s Calendar API for example could be used within a beauty salon website to enable customers to book and schedule treatment reminders, whilst Apple’s weather tool could be plugged-in to an events company website to give customers real-time weather updates. While the API’s developer does retain ultimate control over how the API is used, there are still countless ways to integrate these tools to benefit your business and improve the functionality of your website.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic in particular has highlighted the value of an API class that normally receives little attention; communication APIs.
Today, companies are boosting spending on unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS), along with video conferencing, collaboration, and voice technology solutions given the exponential growth in home and remote working as a result. Where face-to-face contact is limited by necessity, businesses need to be able to communicate with employees and customers in ways which are secure, simple, and cost-effective.
Given how rapidly the technology landscape changes, APIs are the clear solution to avoiding the expense of developing tools from scratch, in addition to harnessing the power of the advanced features offered by established API providers.
Using them, businesses are able to adapt to suit changing customer preferences; for example offering an online chatbot to handle customer queries, or by using multi-channel messaging to connect with customers via WhatsApp or Messenger. These tools are not only useful, but can also allow you to gain intelligence into a customer’s preferences and habits – both useful marketing gauges.
On the other hand, comms APIs can also help to address problems that may crop up internally within organisations and workforces. There are APIs which allow callers to automatically sync calendars, meaning that meetings will only be scheduled when all parties can attend. There are also APIs for timezone conversion, permissions requests, and for video link calls and messaging. With the work from home trend continuing for the foreseeable future, investing in these areas is critical if businesses want to keep delivering at the highest levels.
Considering all of the above, it’s clear that we can expect to see the adoption of APIs continue. Developers are constantly working to create increasingly sophisticated products, and many have moved towards exclusively building and hosting APIs, rather than building the apps themselves – creating a so called “API Economy” of sorts.
This focus on creating the best possible APIs has allowed smaller businesses to harness the collective expertise of the world’s largest and most successful companies, and the chance to use these tools represents a fantastic opportunity for growth. The reach of APIs extends far beyond the IT department, and with a basic understanding, they can be used by senior management and leadership teams to optimise all areas of the business – not bad for three small letters.
RPA, the software robots that finance and banking professionals need to hear about.
By Rory Gray, Vice President of Sales at leading software automation firm, UiPath, explains what role Robotic Process Automation (RPA)...
The rise of nomadic work: how to turn your remote team into a creative force
By Paige Erickson, EMEA MD, Workfront During the first stage of the lockdown in the spring, almost half of Brits...
The value of digital identity in payments
By Vince Graziani, CEO, IDEX Biometrics ASA In ever more challenging times, the payments industry needs to maintain trust by...
Consumers in the COVID era can learn to embrace strong customer authentication
By Ed Whitehead, Signifyd managing director, EMEA The changes that COVID-19 has caused in rapid succession make it hard to...
How NatWest used social media to better target its communications
By DuBose Cole, Head of Strategy, VaynerMedia London For banks, it is imperative to reach their existing – and potential...
It’s time to press ‘reset’ on travel and expense processes
By Rudy Daniello, EVP of Corporations, Amadeus Travel & Expenses(T&E) is a large spend category for companies across the globe....
Covid-19 and the rise of remote payment fraud: how do we catch a digital thief?
By Evgenia Loginova, co-founder and co-CEO of Radar Payments Covid -19 is finding different ways to hurt our finances –...
Seven easy ways to maximise online sales by expanding your marketplaces
By Nate Burke, CEO and Founder of Diginius, a UK provider of proprietary software for digital marketing and ecommerce solutions, shares...
Effective financial planning will secure businesses a certain future
By Simon Bittlestone, CEO of financial analytics company Metapraxis 2020 has been an unpredictable year, bringing further volatility to already...
The Bank is Where the Heart Is
By Nick Barnes, Practice Director, Financial Services & Customer Success at JRNI When unexpected events occur, people turn to their banks to...