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REGTECH: WHAT’S THE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND IT?

REGTECH: WHAT’S THE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND IT?

Jarred McGinnis, UK managing director of Ontotext, looks beyond the hype to see what’s really behind the finance world’s latest technology trend

The world of technology is awash with trends, buzzwords that rise and fall in the blink of an eye. Regtech, a portmanteau of ‘regulation’ and ‘technology’, is currently one of tech’s hottest sectors, and has been heralded by some as the saviour of financial services.

The problem regtech solves is simple enough to understand: financial regulation is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to both comply with and enforce. This issue is compounded by the inherent unpredictability in financial regulation, subject as it is to the decisions of politicians guided by public opinion.

These problems create challenges for businesses not just around understanding and acting on new legislation in a timely manner, but even simply understanding the legislation and understanding and ‘translating’ it into their own internal processes. If financial services companies could find a way to solve these issues they stand to gain a great deal through minimising their risk exposure and maximising potential revenue opportunities.

Using technology to ease this burden is nothing new: technology has been used at various points in the regulatory enforcement process for decades. What is new is both the quantity of data being produced by financial firms, the amount of data required by regulators, and the analytical capabilities available for processing of this data to provide valuable and actionable insight. Together, these developments represent a significant opportunity for innovation in the financial regulation space, so much so that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a call for input supporting the development and adoption of regtech in November 2015.

What can regtech actually do?

The FCA breaks down the potential solutions regtech offers into four areas:

  1. Creating more efficient ways of sharing information for reporting requirements
  2. Closing the gap between the intention of regulation and the interpretation of that regulation within firms
  3. Assisting firms in managing, exploiting and analysing their existing data sets
  4. Allowing regulation and compliance processes to be delivered in a fundamentally different way

What is clear here is that at the moment regtech holds a lot of promise for different people in different sectors. As a result, it’s important that those interested in regtech have a firm grasp of the different technologies at play.

The technologies behind regtech

One technology that has been enjoying its fair share of hype this year is the blockchain, which could hold huge promise for the future of regulation.

Large banking organisations are pouring money into blockchain research: at the start of the year 11 top investment banks used blockchain to do mock trades with each other, signalling a big step towards the technology being adopted into mainstream finance. And Accenture recently made headlines by announcing it was researching ways to make the blockchain editable, enabling the technology to comply with regulation and provide additional ‘safety’ features.

In addition to speeding up transactions, using distributed ledger technology could also help reduce compliance overhead. If transactions and other financial activity between institutions were recorded in such distributed ledgers, this would allow for the implementation of regulation in ‘fundamentally different ways’, as the FCA puts it.

Fraud investigation is a particularly challenging area of regulation technology. This is primarily due to the complexity of problems posed by even simple scenarios: activities such as insurance fraud involve multiple actors with complicated interrelationships and asymmetries of information: until very recently this kind of advanced modelling was beyond the pale for most computing systems.

It’s about the semantics

Technologies such as blockchain and advanced interrelationship modelling have a lot of potential to fundamentally change how the banking system is run, but such changes are decades away. Meanwhile, businesses today are still struggling with the same regulatory challenges. If we’re to look at practical regtech for the here and now, it’s worth paying attention to the detail. Fundamentally regulation technology brings together two worlds of information: publicly available laws and regulations; and internal policies, procedures and processes.

The challenge is ensuring that public laws and internal company policy are compatible, or ‘speaking the same language’ – this would allow for business leaders and public institutions can understand each other’s priorities effectively and efficiently.

For example, when something changes in the law or regulation financial institutions need to demonstrate that they are in compliance with all of the constraints. This often involves a lengthy process of translating bespoke internal processes into the language and structures of the regulation governing those processes.

New technologies, such as semantics and machine learning, enable computer systems to identify knowledge and concepts across both of these realms – public law and internal company policy – and relate them to each other.

A form of database technology called ‘graph databases’ is now at a level of maturity that they can be used in these scenarios. Rather than modelling data as a spreadsheet of rows and columns, graph databases model data as a ‘web’ of information, making it easier for a computer system to understand an environment rich in complex and overlapping ‘many-to-many’ relationships inherent in domains such as financial regulation.

Semantic technology and natural language processing can make these graph databases more potent. At a simple level, these technologies enable machines to have an understanding of the keywords and relationships within a body of text. Complex written content becomes indexable and mappable to computers, enabling them to take a more active role in managing information.

Giving computers the ability to recognise, tag and link content in this way allows the pieces of information specified in financial regulations and policies to be represented in a uniform, ‘cross-compatible’ way across all applications and data governance catalogues within financial institutions.

Semantic technology interlinks these two allows for easy comprehension of the impact of the change so that the appropriate people in business leadership and operations of the institution are informed.

What’s next for regtech?

The key to regtech’s success will be its flexibility, and how easily these new technologies can integrate with existing systems. Banks are notoriously slow to innovate their IT systems from the ground up, preferring instead bolt-on technologies. This risk-averse attitude is understandable, however the result is that many financial services companies can be reliant on antiquated technology dating back to the 1960s. Deloitte estimates that in 2014 European banks spent €55 billion on IT, but of that only €9 billion was spent on new systems.

The key takeaway here is that ‘regtech’ is not a single technology, or even set of technologies. As with many buzzwords, it’s an umbrella term for a whole host of technologies, some of which are more advanced than others. So when you next see people talking about ‘regtech’, look at the underlying technologies with a more critical eye.

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What is loneliness and how can you manage it?

What is loneliness and how can you manage it? 36

By Iris Schaden Your Business and Personal Coach

A mere century ago, almost no one lived alone. Today, many do and it is not unusual. The recent lockdowns and isolation periods have amplified feelings of loneliness. But why do we feel lonely? Why do our bodies experience social pain? Learn about what we can do to improve our situation, prevent chronic loneliness and minimise the tremendous impact it has on our health.

Solitude and choosing to be alone can be bliss. Over the last sixty years the number of people living alone has increased in developed countries by more than 50 percent. In countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, it is very common for people to live alone. But this does not translate into higher levels of selfreported loneliness. Many people have friends or family they can interact with on a regular basis.

However, it is important to recognise that this choice is different to loneliness, which can be a state of profound distress. Loneliness is a purely subjective and individual experience that can be felt by anyone, no matter their social, educational, gender or age demographic. Humankind are social creatures by nature – we struggle without it – and social connections are important to our health and emotional wellbeing.

Loneliness is a problem when we feel that no place is home; when we are in a group and we still feel social separation; when we spend time with our family but we feel like we don’t belong; or when we lose a relationship and struggle to adjust. It is a growing phenomenon in modern times, a by-product of our individualism, long-distance study and career opportunities or time-consuming work commitments.

The pandemic, with its required isolation and social distancing, has added additional stress to many households, but feelings of loneliness or adverse effects of social isolation are particularly prevalent in one-person households and young people aged 12–25. According to a study by VicHealth, even before COVID-19 young adults and adolescents reported high levels of loneliness, social isolation, social anxiety and depressive symptoms. Additionally, it is men who tend to report higher levels of loneliness than women.

Reported loneliness is on the rise. In 2017 and 2018 former US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy declared ‘an epidemic of loneliness,’ and the UK appointed a Minister of Loneliness. In these two countries, one in five adults reported that they often or always feel alone; in Australia, it was one in four adults. And this was before COVID-19, which makes us realise the mental and emotional impact lockdown has on individuals.

What happens to our bodies when we experience loneliness?

Neuroscientists, such as John Cacioppo, identify loneliness as ‘a state of hypervigilance whose origins lie among our primate ancestors and in our own hunter-gatherer past’. Our ancestors needed to belong to an intimate social group to survive. Cacioppo explains that our bodies respond to being alone, or being with strangers, as though we were in a dangerous situation.

Separation from other people (the group) triggers a fight-flight-or-freeze response and we feel social pain. While physical pain is primarily a sensory experience, social pain is the emotional state that comes from the distress of being lonely. Like the bodily sensation of hunger, it alerts us to a need, but instead of food the need is social interaction.

Loneliness generates anxiety: our breathing quickens, our heart races, our blood pressure rises and we struggle to sleep or sleep well. If we don’t pay attention, over time we start to act more fearful, defensive and self-involved. All of these actions drive others away and tend to stop those experiencing loneliness from doing what would benefit them the most: reaching out to others. It is a vicious cycle and one that is especially challenging for older and younger individuals.  

Tactics to help cope with feelings of loneliness. 

To belong is to feel at home in a place or situation where you feel included, comfortable and connected with others. In his assessment, Vivek H. Murthy wrote, ‘To be at home is to be known … You can feel at home with friends, or at work, or in a college dining hall, or at church, or in Yankee Stadium, or at your neighbourhood bar. Loneliness is the feeling that no place is home.’ Having relocated to different cities and countries and re-establishing my life over and over again, I can certainly say that loneliness can be a challenge.

Iris Schaden

Iris Schaden

How can we combat the feelings of loneliness and the anxiety that comes with it, before it becomes chronic and we find ourselves even more isolated over time? 

The first step in moving forward is acknowledging how you feel. Give those feelings a name with a specific timeframe; for example, today I feel alone or since I’ve been in lockdown, I have felt alone or since I lost my partner, I feel disconnected and lost. By doing this, we focus on the present and do not label our entire existence as lonely.

My personal strategy is to go outside if the loneliness gets too ‘heavy’; connect with other people through looks and smiles (even under a face mask our eyes can smile); call friends and family regularly; or schedule a brunch or glass of wine with friends (in person or video chat).

Practising random acts of kindness and gratitude, for others and ourselves, is another very effective and very positive way of bringing us back into the present moment and improving our overall wellbeing. Energy flows where our focus goes. It takes effort and sometimes it is indeed easier to just give in and watch a light-hearted movie on the couch. And that’s fine too!

If you are ever experiencing loneliness, I recommend exercising your social muscles and also seeking support. Remember that your feelings are normal as we are biologically fine-tuned to being with and interacting with others. However, you will need to make changes to avoid jeopardising your health. Once loneliness becomes chronic it becomes self-sustained and you will begin exhibiting defensive behaviour. As a defence mechanism, loneliness makes you assume the worst of others and you (your brain) become hypersensitive to social signals that might be interpreted as hostile towards you, when in reality people might just be trying to help you.

Large studies have shown that feeling lonely has a tremendous impact on your health: it can make you age quicker, cause dementia to advance faster, weaken your immune system and lead to anxiety and depression. Many people turn to substance abuse which only serves to numb the symptoms, rather than treat the source. And while you can find so much information online, knowing is not enough. Remember that reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but one of strength. So please reach out to your network, talk to your health professional or get in contact with me.

There are different ways to improve your overall wellbeing. Let’s discuss.

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Payments in a pandemic: UK consumer trends emerging from COVID-19

Payments in a pandemic: UK consumer trends emerging from COVID-19 37

By Philip McHugh CEO at Paysafe

The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a global catalyst impacting many industries, including payments. It has forced consumers to adjust to different ways of purchasing goods and services; according to our latest Lost in Transaction research, a survey in which 8,000 consumers globally were asked about their payment habits, over half (54%) of UK consumers said they have used a payment method new to them since COVID-19 began.

This change in consumer behavior will serve as a tipping point for the payments industry. Consumers are demanding more choice, and more convenience in how they pay, with 84% of people we surveyed admitting to thinking about payments differently in 2020.

Here are four trends coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic we believe will permanently alter the global payments landscape.

  1. Major shifts to digital

This pandemic has not only been the impetus for change from consumers, but for businesses too. For cash consumers, particularly those who are unbanked, the short and long-term impact of only having to access to products and services digitally is going to be substantial. Providing a smooth transition from retail to online payments will be key. According to our research findings, COVID-19 has led 21% of UK consumers to try online shopping for the first time and 12% using a digital wallet for the first time to make an online payment.

Digital merchants must take this into strong consideration when thinking about the evolution of their checkout. There are many viable options, including incorporating an eCash solution to give the buyer the option to maintain cash as their primary payment method, or introducing a digital wallet that enables people to shop online without sharing their financial data with merchants and potentially compromising their financial security. By 2023, digital wallets are expected to become the most popular online payment method in the UK, accounting for 33% of the market.

Already, nearly half of UK consumers (43%) said they increased their online shopping habits because of restricted access to high street stores and this percentage is expected to grow further. It’s vital that businesses begin to diversify their payment offerings otherwise they’ll fail to meet consumer expectations and risk losing out to their competitors.

  1. The growth of contactless

Despite the World Health Organization not issuing an official warning against using cash, the psychological perception of the safety of handling cash has made an impact.  Nearly two thirds (63%) of UK consumers surveyed said they will be using contactless more in the short term due to health and safety concerns, and 61% saying they are happier using contactless now than they were last year.

At the end of March, cash usage in Britain halved, according to Link , operator of the UK’s biggest network of ATMs. In addition, contactless card limits for in-store spending rose from £30 to £45 to cut the need for physical contact in shops. Increased adoption of mobile wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay across all generations may be on the horizon, making payments more accessible to society. Restaurants and pubs are also encouraging the trend towards cashless as well, such as prompting people to use an order-ahead app to pay for drive-through orders or removing the need to press a “pay now” button before a contactless payment.

  1. The importance of remittances

With travel restrictions still in place around the world, sending money home quickly, seamlessly, and cost-effectively remains more vital than ever. Half of consumers have given money to family or friends since the crisis began, and nearly a quarter (20%) have done this at least three times. According to our research, 74% of consumers would use a digital payment method to send money abroad, either through a digital wallet, direct bank transfer, or online money transfer services. Effective remittance channels are needed to combat specific issues caused by this crisis, including being financially inclusive for those needing financial support for the first time and who may not have a bank account, or access to digital payment methods because of displacement and isolation.

  1. Embracing the power of technology

Our recent Lost in Transaction research shows that consumers are already adapting to challenges in purchasing, including getting to grips with alternative payment methods, and it is the industry’s job to make those methods even more accessible to society. Both payment providers and online retailers must adapt in line with the demands of consumers, and the requirements of the situation. Ultimately, the accelerated change and improvements made to digital commerce throughout this pandemic will pave the way for the future of both digital and in-store payments.

Once the world resumes ‘business as usual’, the payments industry, guided by changing consumer behavior, will develop further thanks to new technologies such as 5G technology, artificial intelligence and automation – all helping to speed up transactions, improve in-store payments, and enhance user experience. Online and mobile banking will become more ingrained in the mainstream and consumers will come to expect a fully-integrated, unified experience across all channels and touch points. We were already on this path, but the pandemic has served to accelerate consumer appetite for enhanced products and services.

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FinTech Landscape: Synergy and Disruptive Innovation in Investment Banking

FinTech Landscape: Synergy and Disruptive Innovation in Investment Banking 38

By Mr. Kunal Sawhney, CEO at Kalkine

While technological leaps seem to be defining brighter future for some businesses in the post-COVID era, FinTech continues to thrive and transform the landscape of financial services industry. It is about staying ahead of the curve in this race against grabbing a bigger chunk of market amidst shrinking consumer and business confidence – as adoption of advanced technology can be the secret sauce in attracting and retaining customers in the digital era.

Asset management, insurance and lending companies are some of the prominent segments in the broader financial segment that have very swiftly embraced the latest digital technologies. Looking at Investment Banking (IB) space, while COVID-19 pandemic initially brought the sector to its knees, latest trends in financial technology adoption seem to be getting them back on their feet, driven by advanced and streamlined offerings pertaining to M&A advisory, risk management and financial assets management.

In general, we have heard about versions – Fintech Version 1.0 & Fintech Version 2.0, but the modern theory around investment using financial technology does not end here. There is a multitude of factors that can push and prod the IB thematics while channelising the way technology can slither through and give a spin to each and every product and service in Investment Banking space. Tech-based end-to-end models appear to take things one notch up when it comes to dealing with risk profiling, lending, fraud analysis, payments etc. Let’s look at how this is made possible in today’s world:

AI Technology Penetration – The ‘New Normal’: Penetration of Fintech in IB models is charting out new growth prospects for the financial services industry, ensuring cost optimisation of due-diligence, enhancing value for M&A prospects, streamlining legal checks and advancing asset-reporting discrepancies in acquisition deals. Besides, AI-empowered actuarial software is providing a firm nudge to offering top-notch, faster and accurate risk advisory services.

Moreover, seamless utility and penetration of AI and ML in algorithm trading, stock market prediction, fraud detection and prevention, acquisition of new customers, risk profiling and network security deserve much applause. Amidst COVID-induced market volatility, technology-enabled valuation models play an important role in carving out future stock predictions and aiding sound investment decisions.

Big Data Analytics Driving Value-Based Offerings- IB players are increasingly adopting big data models in evolving and providing advanced offerings in terms of building customer-centric asset portfolio valuation models, offering trading and investment support, risk advisory and M&A support. Meanwhile, big data is also leveraged to optimize internal processes such as automated customer support, salary optimization, attrition modelling, fraud analysis, credit/operational risks, etc.

Kunal Sawhney

Kunal Sawhney

Besides, the concept of algorithm trading seems to be gaining wide acceptance across major IB players in ensuring efficient execution of financial trades and robust investment decisions without human intervention.

Empowering revolution in the IB space, adoption of unique predictive models, sophisticated statistical techniques and ensuring privacy and integrating of data is crucial here. Specific set of challenges needs to be carefully catered to, in order to ensure that big data boosts competitiveness and support deeper market penetration.

Robo Advisory – The Next-Gen Frontier: Robo Advisory engages high-tech algorithms and provides secure, faster and self-service functionality via online investment management platforms. As per market experts, asset under management using Robo Advisory is expected to grow multifold in the post COVID era.

With minimal manual efforts, Robo Advisory allows automatic adjustments and rebalancing of the portfolio allocation based on algorithms and pre-defined investment rules. The investments are entirely automated and have self-learning algorithms, while the cost of running a robotic automation tool is far less than doing the same work manually.

Cash Less Transactions – The Immediate Future: With increased comfort and safety associated with online cash-less transactions amidst current health crisis, IBs are able to improve and augment existing products and services, in addition to developing new business models. While social distancing is becoming a new normal in the coronavirus era, financial advisors appear to be harnessing the fruits of tech transformation and heightened cashless transactions.

Undoubtedly, banking giants that are fast in adopting digital technologies have an edge over their peers. However, the biggest challenge for FinTech is data privacy, as transactions that go digital are highly prone to cyberattacks. Nevertheless, digital transition may see emergence of a digital-first model in the near term, ensuring radical shift in the value proposition offered to clients, with an ever-increasing emphasis on digital toolkits and electronic market access. All in all, it’s how firms refine their transformation objectives, evolve from the lessons learned from the pandemic and review their broader strategic agenda.

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