FinancialBuzz.com News Commentary
According to data published by Grand View Research, the global artificial intelligence market size is projected to reach $35.87 billion by 2025, while growing at a CAGR of 57.2 percent. The report indicates that rapid improvements in fast information storage capacity, high computing power, and parallelization are some of the factors that are contributing to the rapid innovations of robotics and artificial intelligence technology. AI becomes prominent in end-use industries such as automotive and healthcare. In addition, there is strong demand for understanding and analyzing visual contents and gaining meaningful insights, which is also expected to provide strength to the market over the forecast period. Internet of Things Inc. (OTC: INOTF), Gopher Protocol Inc. (OTC: GOPH), Remark Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: MARK), Veritone, Inc. (NASDAQ: VERI), ShiftPixy, Inc. (NASDAQ: PIXY)
A report by the McKinsey Global Institute surveyed companies about their use of AI. Their findings show that only few companies have incorporated AI into their value chains at scale, as most of companies that had awareness of AI technologies are still in experimental or pilot phases. Out of the 3,073 respondents, only 20 percent said they had adopted one or more AI-related technology at scale or in a core part of their business. Ten percent reported adopting more than two technologies, and only 9 percent reported adopting machine learning. Some industry experts are more optimistic. Elon Musk wrote in a comment on Edge.org that, “The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast-it is growing at a pace close to exponential.”
Internet of Things Inc. (OTC: INOTF) also listed on the TSX Venture Exchange under the ticker (TSX-V: ITT). Last week the company announced breaking news that, “Is pleased to provide a corporate update detailing its recently accomplished milestones and current growth initiatives. Appointment of President & COO – IoT Inc. recently announced the appointment of James Sutcliffe as President & COO. Mr. Sutcliffe will oversee operations, investee companies and merger & acquisition opportunities.
Mr. Sutcliffe brings more than 20 years’ experience in global operational and financial leadership. Earlier in his career, he was as a key member of a management team that grew a Fortune 150 Tier 1 automotive supplier’s Asian operations ten-fold. During this time, Mr. Sutcliffe held senior corporate development, finance and executive management roles. Spearheading entry into new markets in Asia, he was instrumental in guiding start-ups and acquisitions in China, India and Korea.
Mr. Sutcliffe commented, “IoT Inc. is at a critical inflection point given its growth opportunities in Asia and North America. I am excited to leverage my relationships and operating experience as the company pursues very compelling and complementary accretive acquisitions.”
Corporate Repositioning: The Company has developed a new website designed to encourage investor signups and inbound business opportunities and enhanced marketing collateral including a new corporate presentation. In addition, IoT Inc. has signed up to participate in investor focused conferences over the next few months to raise awareness. This corporate repositioning reflects the new strategic vision of the Company and will serve as the foundation to expand its strategic plan to acquire and operate growth-ready technology companies.
Equity Financing: After the original public announcement of a private placement financing in December 2017, the Company closed an over-subscribed funding round of $2,300,000. This working capital provides a sufficient runway to continue execution of its long-term corporate growth strategy and to pursue strategic acquisitions.
Portfolio Company Updates: Weather Telematics Inc. The Company announced that it has entered into a letter of agreement to acquire Weather Telematics Inc. (“WTX Inc.” or “Weather Telematics”), a data science company offering real-time advanced AI-based predictive road condition weather analytics for safer, connected and autonomous transportation. For further details read the May 14, 2018 press release. Weather Telematics recently announced a partnership with Teletrac Navman, a global software-as-a-service provider that leverages location-based technology for GPS tracking solutions, to provide dynamic weather data including a real-time view of hazardous road conditions to the DIRECTOR® fleet management platform.
New Hope IoT Intl. Inc. (or the “JV”) – Management is pleased with the progress that continues to be made with factory automation initiatives as IoT Inc. expands its presence in Greater China. The JV continues to make headway with artificial intelligence in China and pending the closing of WTX Inc., the Company will look to leverage their unique data and technology by integrating it into its manufacturing process optimization platform to turn traditional manufacturing operations into smart industrial IoT enabled facilities.
BLOCKStrain Technology Corp.(“BLOCKStrain”) – The Company made a strategic investment in BLOCKStrain Technology Corp. (TSX-V: DNAX). BLOCKStrain delivers a secure and immutable blockchain platform to establish global certainty for cannabis strains and their ownership. BLOCKStrain closed a non-brokered private placement raising gross proceeds of $10,500,000, and also completed its go public transaction earlier this week. Based on yesterday’s closing price of BLOCKStrain, IoT Inc’s position in the company is worth more than 250% of its original investment. The Company is in discussions with BLOCKStrain and is evaluating how to deploy and leverage its strategic technology applications into the BLOCKStrain ecosystem.
Braingrid Corp. (“Braingrid”) – In December 2015, IoT Inc. acquired an 8.33% minority equity position in Braingrid for $500,000. Braingrid recently closed a $2,500,000 equity financing and continues to work on its public listing on the Canadian Securities Exchange. Braingrid intends to use the net proceeds from the offering for general corporate purposes, such as continuing expansion of its R&D department as well as furthering the execution of its long-term roadmap. Management expects that Braingrid’s go-public transaction will be accretive to IoT Inc.
New Opportunities – IoT Inc. looks to capitalize on new opportunities when they fit the Company’s core investment criteria. There are occasionally new legislation and regulatory guidelines that open new markets, particularly the recent Supreme Court of the United States ruling that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), an act that largely outlawed sports betting outside of Nevada. This change in legislation effectively clears a path for the legalization of sports betting in the United States. Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates a regulated United States sports betting market could generate $6.03 billion in annual revenue by 2023. Additionally, the Canadian Gaming Association estimates that Canadians are wagering approximately $10 billion annually through illegal bookmaking operations in Canada, and more than $4 billion through offshore online sports gambling websites, meaning that many people are betting through illegal and nefarious channels. As a result of these regulatory changes, IoT Inc. has formed a strategy to capitalize on the opportunity to develop, commercialize and monetize an AI-based platform using the Company’s innovative technologies within the sports wagering marketplace.
About Internet of Things Inc. – Internet of Things Inc. is a strategic investor in growth-ready companies with innovative technology solutions. The Company creates value through its portfolio companies’ expertise in the IoT, AI and Blockchain solutions, by turning data into actionable intelligence to drive more efficiency into organizations. The Company has a joint venture partnership, New Hope IoT Intl Inc., with New Hope Data Technology Co. Ltd. Internet of Things Inc. also has strategic investments in Braingrid Corp. and Blockstrain Technology Corp. and has its headquarters in Toronto, Canada.”
Gopher Protocol Inc. (OTCQB: GOPH) is a development-stage company which consider itself Native IoT creator, developing Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence enabled mobile technology. Recently, the company announced that it is developing a new web interface for Avant!, its Artificial Intelligence Platform. Avant! is Gopher’s software that incorporates artificial intelligence, which it intends to use to control its GEO MESH system when fully developed. It is based on mathematical algorithms in the domain of machine, deep learning. Avant! uses natural language processing and cognitive computing to identify data objects during our MESH communication. When fully developed, it is intended to be used to control the system’s nodes, that may be used in a wide variety of applications, for example, navigating a self-driving car. It is expected that Avant! will have the ability to harness vast amounts of data and computing power, learning GEO conditions, analyzing the data and making decisions in real time.
Remark Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: MARK) primarily focuses on the development and deployment of artificial-intelligence-based solutions for businesses and software developers in many industries. Additionally, the company owns and operates digital media properties that deliver relevant, dynamic content. On March 5, 2018, the company announced that they are partnering to deploy Remark’s KanKan data intelligence and AI technologies in approximately 11,000 7-Eleven stores that CP ALL operates throughout Thailand. Remark and CP ALL will hold a press conference (the details of which appear below) on March 6, 2018, in Bangkok to launch the partnership. The Remark/CP ALL partnership will utilize KanKan’s AI-based facial recognition and behavior analysis technologies to provide enhanced customer support, business analysis, employee management and security in CP ALL’s 7-Eleven stores in Thailand, which generate more than $14 billion in revenue. KanKan’s technologies can monitor product levels on store shelves, suggest products and services to customers, provide real-time operations performance and competitor analysis, check in and check out employees, identify unauthorized personnel, and assess crowd size and crowd flow for safety, among myriad other services
Veritone, Inc. (NASDAQ: VERI) is a leading artificial intelligence company that has developed aiWARE, an AWS-certified platform offering orchestrated cognitive computing to transform and analyze structured and unstructured data for clients in a variety of markets, including media and entertainment, legal, compliance and government. On April 11, 2018, the company announced that its aiWARE™ platform has set the standard for how enterprises and institutions can effectively and profitably engage with AI. The open and extensible platform allows clients to configure cognitive capabilities based on organizational needs – prioritizing accuracy, speed, and cost while enhancing workflows. The recent introduction of the aiWARE real-time framework, coupled with the platform’s ever-growing ecosystem of 185 cognitive engines and applications, enables users to unlock new insights and economic value from virtually any type of data.
ShiftPixy, Inc. (NASDAQ: PIXY) is a disruptive human capital management platform, revolutionizing employment in the Gig Economy by delivering a next-gen mobile engagement technology to help businesses with shift-based employees navigate regulatory mandates, minimize administrative burdens and better connect with a ready-for-hire workforce. On March 27, 2018, the company has leveraged the powerful Watson’s artificial intelligence engine across its platform to achieve an active and personal user experience. ShiftPixy’s current mobile gateway app uses Watson to power its entire employee enrollment process.
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TCI: A time of critical importance
By Fabrice Desnos, head of Northern Europe Region, Euler Hermes, the world’s leading trade credit insurer, outlines the importance of less publicised measures for the journey ahead.
After months of lockdown, Europe is shifting towards rebuilding economies and resuming trade. Amongst the multibillion-euro stimulus packages provided by governments to businesses to help them resume their engines of growth, the cooperation between the state and private sector trade credit insurance underwriters has perhaps missed the headlines. However, this cooperation will be vital when navigating the uncertain road ahead.
Covid-19 has created a global economic crisis of unprecedented scale and speed. Consequently, we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of support from national governments. Far-reaching fiscal intervention, job retention and business interruption loan schemes are providing a lifeline for businesses that have suffered reductions in turnovers to support national lockdowns.
However, it’s becoming clear the worst is still to come. The unintended consequence of government support measures is delaying the inevitable fallout in trade and commerce. Euler Hermes is already seeing increase in claims for late payments and expects this trend to accelerate as government support measures are progressively removed.
The Covid-19 crisis will have long lasting and sometimes irreversible effects on a number of sectors. It has accelerated transformations that were already underway and had radically changed the landscape for a number of businesses. This means we are seeing a growing number of “zombie” companies, currently under life support, but whose business models are no longer adapted for the post-crisis world. All factors which add up to what is best described as a corporate insolvency “time bomb”.
The effects of the crisis are already visible. In the second quarter of 2020, 147 large companies (those with a turnover above €50 million) failed; up from 77 in the first quarter, and compared to 163 for the whole of the first half of 2019. Retail, services, energy and automotive were the most impacted sectors this year, with the hotspots in retail and services in Western Europe and North America, energy in North America, and automotive in Western Europe
We expect this trend to accelerate and predict a +35% rise in corporate insolvencies globally by the end of 2021. European economies will be among the hardest hit. For example, Spain (+41%) and Italy (+27%) will see the most significant increases – alongside the UK (+43%), which will also feel the impact of Brexit – compared to France (+25%) or Germany (+12%).
Companies are restarting trade, often providing open credit to their clients. However, there can be no credit if there is no confidence. It is increasingly difficult for companies to identify which of their clients will emerge from the crisis from those that won’t, and whether or when they will be paid. In the immediate post-lockdown period, without visibility and confidence, the risk was that inter-company credit could evaporate, placing an additional liquidity strain on the companies that depend on it. This, in turn, would significantly put at risk the speed and extent of the economic recovery.
In recent months, Euler Hermes has co-operated with government agencies, trade associations and private sector trade credit insurance underwriters to create state support for intercompany trade, notably in France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. All with the same goal: to allow companies to trade with each other in confidence.
By providing additional reinsurance capacity to the trade credit insurers, governments help them continue to provide cover to their clients at pre-crisis levels.
The beneficiaries are the thousands of businesses – clients of credit insurers and their buyers – that depend upon intercompany trade as a source of financing. Over 70% of Euler Hermes policyholders are SMEs, which are the lifeblood of our economies and major providers of jobs. These agreements are not without costs or constraints for the insurers, but the industry has chosen to place the interests of its clients and of the economy ahead of other considerations, mindful of the important role credit insurance and inter-company trade will play in the recovery.
Taking the UK as an example, trade credit insurers provide cover for more than £171billion of intercompany transactions, covering 13,000 suppliers and 650,000 buyers. The government has put in place a temporary scheme of £10billion to enable trade credit insurers, including Euler Hermes, to continue supporting businesses at risk due to the impact of coronavirus. This landmark agreement represents an important alliance between the public and private sectors to support trade and prevent the domino effect that payment defaults can create within critical supply chains.
But, as with all of the other government support measures, these schemes will not exist in the long term. It is already time for credit insurers and their clients to plan ahead, and prepare for a new normal in which the level and cost of credit risk will be heightened and where identifying the right counterparts, diversifying and insuring credit risk will be of paramount importance for businesses.
Trade credit insurance plays an understated role in the economy but is critical to its health. In normal circumstances, it tends to go unnoticed because it is doing its job. Government support schemes helped maintain confidence between companies and their customers in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.
However, as government support measures are progressively removed, this crisis will have a lasting impact. Accelerating transformations, leading to an increasing number of company restructurings and, in all likelihood, increasing the level of credit risk. To succeed in the post-crisis environment, bbusinesses have to move fast from resilience to adaptation. They have to adopt bold measures to protect their businesses against future crises (or another wave of this pandemic), minimize risk, and drive future growth. By maintaining trust to trade, with or without government support, credit insurance will have an increasing role to play in this.
What Does the FinCEN File Leak Tell Us?
By Ted Sausen, Subject Matter Expert, NICE Actimize
On September 20, 2020, just four days after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a much-anticipated Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the financial industry was shaken and their stock prices saw significant declines when the markets opened on Monday. So what caused this? Buzzfeed News in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released what is now being tagged the FinCEN files. These files and summarized reports describe over 200,000 transactions with a total over $2 trillion USD that has been reported to FinCEN as being suspicious in nature from the time periods 1999 to 2017. Buzzfeed obtained over 2,100 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and over 2,600 confidential documents financial institutions had filed with FinCEN over that span of time.
Similar such leaks have occurred previously, such as the Panama Papers in 2016 where over 11 million documents containing personal financial information on over 200,000 entities that belonged to a Panamanian law firm. This was followed up a year and a half later by the Paradise Papers in 2017. This leak contained even more documents and contained the names of more than 120,000 persons and entities. There are three factors that make the FinCEN Files leak significantly different than those mentioned. First, they are highly confidential documents leaked from a government agency. Secondly, they weren’t leaked from a single source. The leaked documents came from nearly 90 financial institutions facilitating financial transactions in more than 150 countries. Lastly, some high-profile names were released in this leak; however, the focus of this leak centered more around the transactions themselves and the financial institutions involved, not necessarily the names of individuals involved.
FinCEN Files and the Impact
What does this mean for the financial institutions? As mentioned above, many experienced a negative impact to their stocks. The next biggest impact is their reputation. Leaders of the highlighted institutions do not enjoy having potential shortcomings in their operations be exposed, nor do customers of those institutions appreciate seeing the institution managing their funds being published adversely in the media.
Where did the financial institutions go wrong? Based on the information, it is actually hard to say where they went wrong, or even ‘if’ they went wrong. Financial institutions are obligated to monitor transactional activity, both inbound and outbound, for suspicious or unusual behavior, especially those that could appear to be illicit activities related to money laundering. If such behavior is identified, the financial institution is required to complete a Suspicious Activity Report, or a SAR, and file it with FinCEN. The SAR contains all relevant information such as the parties involved, transaction(s), account(s), and details describing why the activity is deemed to be suspicious. In some cases, financial institutions will file a SAR if there is no direct suspicion; however, there also was not a logical explanation found either.
So what deems certain activities to be suspicious and how do financial institutions detect them? Most financial institutions have sophisticated solutions in place that monitor transactions over a period of time, and determine typical behavioral patterns for that client, and that client compared to their peers. If any activity falls disproportionately beyond those norms, the financial institution is notified, and an investigation is conducted. Because of the nature of this detection, incorporating multiple transactions, and comparing it to historical “norms”, it is very difficult to stop a transaction related to money laundering real-time. It is not uncommon for a transaction or series of transactions to occur and later be identified as suspicious, and a SAR is filed after the transaction has been completed.
FinCEN Files: Who’s at Fault?
Going back to my original question, was there any wrong doing? In this case, they were doing exactly what they were required to do. When suspicion was identified, SARs were filed. There are two things that are important to note. Suspicion does not equate to guilt, and individual financial institutions have a very limited view as to the overall flow of funds. They have visibility of where funds are coming from, or where they are going to; however, they don’t have an overall picture of the original source, or the final destination. The area where financial institutions may have fault is if multiple suspicions or probable guilt is found, but they fail to take appropriate action. According to Buzzfeed News, instances of transactions to or from sanctioned parties occurred, and known suspicious activity was allowed to continue after it was discovered.
How do we do better? First and foremost, FinCEN needs to identify the source of the leak and fix it immediately. This is very sensitive data. Even within a financial institution, this information is only exposed to individuals with a high-level clearance on a need-to-know basis. This leak may result in relationship strains with some of the banks’ customers. Some people already have a fear of being watched or tracked, and releasing publicly that all these reports are being filed from financial institutions to the federal government won’t make that any better – especially if their financial institution was highlighted as one of those filing the most reports. Next, there has been more discussion around real-time AML. Many experts are still working on defining what that truly means, especially when some activities deal with multiple transactions over a period of time; however, there is definitely a place for certain money laundering transactions to be held in real time.
Lastly, the ability to share information between financial institutions more easily will go a long way in fighting financial crime overall. For those of you who are AML professionals, you may be thinking we already have such a mechanism in place with 314b. However, the feedback I have received is that it does not do an adequate job. It’s voluntary and getting responses to requests can be a challenge. Financial institutions need a consortium to effectively communicate with each other, while being able to exchange critical data needed for financial institutions to see the complete picture of financial transactions and all associated activities. That, combined with some type of feedback loop from law enforcement indicating which SARs are “useful” versus which are either “inadequate” or “unnecessary” will allow institutions to focus on those where criminal activity is really occurring.
We will continue to post updates as we learn more.
How can financial services firms keep pace with escalating requirements?
By Tim FitzGerald, UK Banking & Financial Services Sales Manager, InterSystems
Financial services firms are currently coming up against a number of critical challenges, ranging from market volatility, most recently influenced by COVID-19, to the introduction of regulations, such as the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (FRTB). However, these issues are being compounded as many financial institutions find it increasingly difficult to get a handle on the vast volumes of data that they have at their disposal. This is no surprise given that IDC has projected that by 2025, the global “datasphere” will have grown to a staggering 175 zettabytes of data – more than five times the amount of data generated in 2018. As an industry that has typically only invested in new technology when regulations deem it necessary, many traditional banks are now operating using legacy systems and applications that haven’t been designed or built to interoperate. Consequently, banks are struggling to leverage data to achieve business goals and to gain a clear picture of their organisation and processes in order to comply with regulatory requirements. These challenges have been more prevalent during the pandemic as financial services firms were forced to adapt their operations to radical changes in customer behaviour and increased demand for digital services – all while working largely remotely themselves.
As more stringent regulations come in to play and financial services firms look to keep pace with escalating requirements from regulators, consumer demand for more online services, and the ever-evolving nature of the industry and world at large, it’s vital they do two things. Firstly, they must begin to invest in the technology and processes that will allow them to more easily manage the data that traditional banks have been collecting and storing for upwards of 50 years. Secondly, they must innovate. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic will have been a catalyst for both actions. However, the hard work has only just begun.
Traditionally, due to tight budgets and no overarching regulatory imperative to change, financial institutions haven’t done enough to address their overreliance on disconnected legacy systems. Even when faced with the new wave of regulation that was implemented in the wake of the 2008 banking crash, financial services organisations generally only had to invest in different applications on an ad hoc basis to meet each individual regulation. However, as new regulations require the analysis of larger data sets within smaller processing windows, breaking down any and all data siloes is essential and this will require financial institutions that are still reliant on legacy systems to implement new technologies to meet the regulatory stipulations.
With this in mind, solutions which offer high-quality data analytics and enhanced integration will be key to the success of financial institutions and crucial to eliminate data silos. This will enable organisations to achieve a faster and more accurate analysis of real-time and historical data no matter where they are accessing the data from within smaller processing windows to keep pace with regulatory requirements, while also benefiting from low infrastructure costs.
This technology will also play a huge part in helping financial institutions scale their online operations to meet demand from customers for digital services. According to PNC Bank, during the pandemic, it saw online sales jump from 25% to 75%. Therefore, having data platforms that are able to handle surges in online activity is becoming increasingly important.
Real-time analysis of data
While the precise solution financial services institutions need will differ based on the organisation, broadly speaking, the more data they are storing on legacy solutions, the more they are going to require an updated data platform that can handle real-time analytics. Even organisations that have fewer legacy systems are still likely to require solutions that deliver enhanced interoperability to help provide a real-time view across the business and enable them to meet the pressing regulatory requirements they face. Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that moving transactional data to a data warehouse, data lake, or any other silo will never deliver real-time analytics, therefore, businesses making risk decisions based on this and thinking it is real-time is completely inappropriate.
As such, financial services firms require a data platform that can ingest real-time transactional data, as well as from a variety of other sources of historical and reference data, normalise it, and make sense of it. The ability to process transactions at scale in real-time and simultaneously run analytics using transactional real-time data and large sets of non-real-time data, such as reference data, is a crucial capability for various business requirements. For example, powering mission-critical trading platforms that cannot slow down or drop trades, even as volumes spike.
Not only will having access to real-time data enable financial institutions to meet evolving regulatory requirements, but it will also allow them to make faster and more accurate decisions for their organisation andcustomers. With many financial services firms operating on a global basis, this is vital to help them keep up not only with evolving regulations but also changing circumstances in different markets in light of the pandemic. This data can also help them understand how to become more agile, help their employees become productive while working remotely, and how to build up operational resilience. These insights will also be vital as financial institutions need to consider the likelihood of subsequent waves of the virus, allowing them to gain a better understanding of what has and hasn’t worked for their business so far.
The financial services sector is fast-paced and ever-changing. With the launch of more digital-only banks, traditional institutions need to innovate to avoid being left behind, with COVID-19 only highlighting this further. With more than a third (35%) of customers increasing their use of online banking during this period, it is those banks and financial services firms with a solid online offering that have been best placed to answer this demand. As financial institutions cater to changing customer requirements, both now and in the future, implementing new technology that provides access to data in real-time will help them to uncover the fresh insights needed to develop new and transformative products and services for their customers. In turn, this will enable them to realise new revenue streams and potentially capture a bigger slice of the market. For instance, access to data will help banks better understand the needs of their customers during periods of upheaval, as well as under normal circumstance, which will allow them to target them with the specific services they may need during each of these periods to not only help their customers through difficult times but also to ensure the growth of their business. As financial institutions not only look to keep pace with but also gain an advantage over their competitors, using data to fuel excellent customer experiences will be essential to success.
With the current economic uncertainty and market volatility, it’s critical that financial services are able to meet the changing requirements coming from all angles. With COVID-19 likely to be the biggest catalyst for financial institutions to digitally transform, they will be better able to cater to rapidly evolving landscapes and prepare for continued periods of remote working. As they look to achieve this, replacing legacy systems with innovative and agile technology solutions will be crucial to ensure they can gain the accurate and complete view of their enterprise data they need to comply with new and changing regulations, and better meet the needs of consumers in an increasingly digital landscape, whether they are located in an office or working remotely.
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