Developing business intelligence (BI) that provides real value is becoming increasingly important for gaining competitive advantage and retaining customers. However, lots of information is stored but it’s not translated into intelligence, as DBS Bank senior vice president (SVP) for innovation, Stephen Goh, pointed out at the 3rd annual FST Media Technology and Innovation conference in Singapore. And even when BI does exist, it often uses historical data and can end up as more of a lagging indicator. Companies need to do far more to gain value from their data.
Part of the issue, ANZ group general manager Satish Menon said, is that “the core of banking hasn’t changed in 20 years” and “banking needs to reinvent itself” so that it catches up with customers and their expectations. A key opportunity, said Menon, is to mix structured data with unstructured data to get a complete picture of the customer.
As one example of what can be done, Hong Leong Bank’s chief information and technology officer (CITO), CK Wong, said that his firm uses a data warehouse very aggressively to produce customer information and business analytics. They then use the processed data to offer opportunities to customers whenever they come to a bank touch-point. Product specialists in central locations then leverage this intelligence and analytics to interact with customers through video conferencing and other remote channels.
HP Exstream strategist, Scott Draeger, pointed out that along with providing information online and by phone, companies can also benefit from BI that is provided in printed statements which are still sent out to customers.
Another key concern for corporates and financial institutions is security, and the challenges are continually getting more complex. The main threats, said Palo Alto Networks manager Aylwin Lam, come from organised cybercrime and nation-state actors that are sophisticated, persistent and well-funded. The threat comes from malware, which is highly evasive and adaptable and often hidden in applications that are safe, as well as botnets, which are resilient and cheap. The result, said Lam, is that there is large-scale theft of financial data or intelligence that leads to cybercrime.
Barclays Bank’s global head of application security, Winston Chew, noted that banks’ core technology often isn’t built for the secure platform the financial sector needs these days, potentially opening up a security hole for corporates to worry about.
What companies need, Lam responded, is to establish visibility and control so they can go beyond traditional security approaches. They should scan for hidden threats, only allow applications a company actually needs and inspect traffic for all known threats. An integrated approach to threat prevention, he noted, is particularly important.
Coming up, according to Melissa Wong, Standard Chartered Bank’s global head of channel operations and customer experience, is banking that uses avatars and artificial intelligence (AI). While she wouldn’t be pinned down on timing, she said that an avatar program is already in alpha stage testing and could be deployed before long.
AI uses voice recognition to understand and recognise voice and speech, Wong said, as well as a natural language processing engine made up of intelligent algorithms to deconstruct meaning in a sentence so that the avatar can understand contextual speech. AI is not like a typical technology solution in that it can’t be tested to perfection. Instead, a team of trainers uses each test result to learn and optimise the technology. Additionally, the AI engine is constantly fed with new data sources, access to the web and third party applications that are essential in building an effective virtual agent.
While the goal is to use AI for direct customer interactions in the future, Wong said Standard Charted is already successfully using AI in the back office to search through databases, provide information to frontline staff, automate processes and solve issues.
Whether it’s BI or fraud risk management or even AI, leaders in financial services are clearly making changes to gain competitive advantage. While some conference presenters highlighted consumer applications of the technologies, the lessons from these experts are equally applicable in highlighting the need for financial institutions to use the innovations to improve the corporate treasurer’s experience.
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