Blockchain: Chain Reaction

More than 500 years ago a new accounting technique was discovered, transforming how merchants, entrepreneurs and their investors keep track of every penny they receive or spend.

This technique was viewed as an intellectual breakthrough and became known as double-entry book-keeping, which led to the birth of modern day accounting processes.

Fast forward to 2018, and blockchain has made similar promises to disrupt commerce. Over the last 2 years, blockchain experimentation and proof of concepts prevail, but progress to date has not yet delivered on the pledges made.

The blockchain is a digital, decentralized public ledger tthat was initially developed as the accounting method for the bitcoin crypto currency. New information types, such as birth records to business transactions, can be baked into the highly secure and encrypted blockchain, creating permanent and secure records which cannot be tampered with.

Blockchain Phenomenon
In December 2017, an intriguing new phenomenon began to emerge. Companies that were previously undervalued by the stock market were finding that the simple addition of the word ‘blockchain’ to their corporate identities could multiply their worth many times over.

 Soft drink companies, trade finance specialists and a photography company were, according to their share price, transformed into potential technology giants.

  • Long Island Iced Tea Corp, a maker of soft drinks, saw its shares increase in value by 500 per cent when it announced it was changing its name to Long Blockchain Corp. 
  • LongFin, a trade finance specialist, announced it had bought a blockchain-related venture, sending its shares jump by more than 1,000%. 
  • Eastman Kodak, doubled its market value after announcing a pivot to blockchain to manage ownership rights for photographers coupled with a new crypto currency called ‘Kodak Coin’.

While most genuine blockchain companies dropped the ‘blockchain’ moniker, it is hard to understand why the mere mention of blockchain should be capable of sending stock prices soaring.

Blockchain Tourists
Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of cryptocurrency and payments company Ripple, described these companies as  “tourists”, shoehorning non-fintech ideas into the blockchain in the belief that they would strike gold.

The frenzy surrounding anything vaguely tied to blockchain is the kind of buzz that attracts short-term traders, who are hungry for increased trading volatility and the opportunity to make a quick profit. Ultimately this leaves major industry players feeling somewhat queasy, as rogue actors try to game the system, in a market that feels a little like the Wild West.

While similarities can be drawn with the tech bubble of the late 1990s, when organisations saw their share price soar when they added “dot-com” to the company’s name, blockchain is more than this.

Blockchain is a technology with significant potential.  Serious industry initiatives to watch in 2018 include a new blockchain venture from the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) which is planning the first major infrastructure switch, replacing its legacy CHESS clearing platform with a new blockchain platform planned for later this year.

Just as the modern tech giants now dominate the post “dot-com” era, serious industry initiatives can be confident that the disruptive technology will become mainstream, leaving behind the gold rush euphoria, as organisations go live with real world blockchain applications later this year.

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email: ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel:+44 (0) 7702 777770

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Disruptive Change

Excited to be working with a leading global investment organisation to accelerate  #disruptive change and next generation #digital engagement models.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email : ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel: +44 (0) 7702 777770

Posted in Innovation, Digital, Transformation, CIO, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fears Mount About Meltdown and Spectre

Fears continue to mount regarding the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities that were highlighted earlier this month.

Both vulnerabilities, which are separate but similar, can be traced back to a design flaw that was introduced 20 years ago. Three different sets of researchers uncovered the Spectre vulnerability in June 2017 prior to uncovering the Meltdown flaw in July 2017.

We are all asking why it has taken 20 years to discover the vulnerabilities and what is the true risk to the technology industry and its customers?

Back In Time
Since the 1990’s memory access times have improved ten-fold, while the speed of the central processor (CPU) has increased by a factor of 1000. To allow the CPU to talk to the slow memory, most modern chipsets are designed with a technique called “speculative execution”, where a processor will read ahead and take snipets of code before it is needed in order to save valuable nonosecods in performance.

While the technology risk with a cyber security vulnerability can not be overstated, it is important to understand both flaws in more detail:

Meltdown breaks the most fundamental principle for isolating user applications and ‘melts’ the virtual walls separating digital memory from diffident programs.

The vulnerability, which primarily affects Intel chips manufactured since 1995, could allow an adversary to access the memory and secrets of other programs, such as passwords, encryption keys and payment details. This applies both to personal computers as well as cloud infrastructure.

While Meltdown is easy to exploit, the good news is that the flaw can be fixed and Technology vendors are rushing to release software patches.

Spectre enables a rogue program running on an affected chip to trick a legitimate application to divulge sensitive information.

The Spectre flaw affects most modern processors, including Intel, AMD and ARM which are used in Apple, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Google, Amazon computers and smartphones.

While Spectre is harder to exploit than Meltdown, it is significantly more difficult to fix. Widely known exploits can be partially mitigated through new software patches. A lasting fix is expected to require new hardware which has not yet been designed or manufactured.

Performance Hit
The software fix for Meltdown, moves the core operating system program, or kernel, into its own dedicated virtual memory space, protecting it from potential exploits. A significant downside is that the fix introduces an additional processing overhead, potentially slowing down the system.

It is anticipated that high performance activities, such as heavy disk storage, network activity and system calls, will be impacted with a 30% degradation in performance. Light workloads, such as simple web servers, will be mildly affected.

Partial mitigations for Spectre, which involve recompiling software with specific countermeasures, are expected to have a further negative impact on processing performance.

Industry advice is to install new software patches as soon as they become available.

Commercial Risk
Providers of cloud-computing services, such as Amazon Web Services and Google, which have data centres will millions of computers, are thought to be are most at risk. Their business model is critically dependent on the appearance of strong security and moats around the cloud computing client.

Rogue actors could rent capacity as a cloud tenant and steal sensitive information, such as passwords and account numbers, from their virtual neighbours.

Economic Impact
While it is recognised that the technology industry is responding to the threat, any degradation in performance could be the equivalent to tens of thousands of computers for the cloud providers.

A drop in CPU performance will be equally worrying for cloud subscribers, who are typically billed by the hour or second. They could face skyrocketing bills if cloud usage rises substantially to apply the fixes, or support existing cloud processing payloads.

 

Both Spectre and Meltdown has shaken the heart of the technology industry which has historically prioritised processor speed over security. While this is the first major security vulnerability that has impacted a new generation of cloud providers, security has to be designed in as a critical perquisite for our new highly connected and networked world. Meltdown will soon be forgotten, but Spectre will challenge cloud organisations and its customers for years.

Call me to discuss how to strengthen the cyber security resilience of your organisation.

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email : ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel: +44 (0) 7702 777770

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CIO 2018 Technology Trends: Powering AI

In my last blog I discussed Digital Reality as a key CIO trend for 2018. In this post I will be discussing Powering AI.

In 2018, Artificial Intelligence will become established and widely recognised within Banks.  A recent EY report identified that:

40% of banks are using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and machine learning, in areas such as anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC)

AI can develop and apply complex business rules in real time at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. With approximately 1 in 6 members of staff at a bank working directly in a control and governance function, AI will become pervasive in managing repetitive, routine control tasks such as KYC (Know Your Client) and AML (Anti Money Laundering) processes.

The elephant in the room for 2018 has to be the notion of the so called GAFA banks (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple).

While the tech giants have already established digital beachheads to disrupt finance (Google Wallet, Apple Pay etc), we are only now starting to see new AI powered assistants offering voice payments, such as Amazon Pay being added to the Alexa skill set and Facebook’s ‘M’ assistant.

Although the GAFA banks might not want to become fully fledged banks, technology disruptors are successfully leveraging AI to target a number of high margin banking activities, such as asset management and transaction payments.

The significant risk for banks is that new tech disruptors ‘cherry pick’ the customer relationship and high margin activities, leaving the bank to provide the balance sheet for core banking services such as lending.

Established incumbents are responding to the changing landscape. Banks have significant expertise with an untapped wealth of financial data that can be used with AI to make smarter, real time investment decisions. Separately, Banks have been busy buying fintech firms, setting up their own fintech accelerators or establishing their own Venture Capital funds to invest in new disruptive technologies.

2018 could be the year that the incumbents take on the big tech firms ….

 

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email : ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel : +44 (0) 7702 777770

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CIO 2018 Technology Trends: Digital Reality

2017 was an eventful year for technology. Who would have guessed that bitcoin would surpass all expectations and increase in value by 1,600% within a year?

While I am more than happy to leave others to speculate on the merits of bitcoin as an investment currency, I wanted to share my insight on two significant technology trends that will be shaping the CIO agenda for 2018 – Digital Reality and Powering AI.

In this post I will be covering Digital Reality.

2018 will become a significant year for profound digital transformation. Building on the initial success to transform the end user experience (UX), banks will start to digitise their middle and back office by incorporating new technology, such as AI and cognitive learning, to become faster, smarter and highly cost effective.

According to IDC, 20 percent of US bank technology budgets is spent on digital transformation. This is expected to grow to nearer 40 per cent in 2020, implying a significant increase in digital transformation expenditure over the coming four years.

Faced with declining revenues and increasing compliance costs, banks will be looking to adopt new utility based service models to drive down costs and increase efficiency. The new industry utilities will allow banks to migrate labour intensive control functions to a trusted third party. Key areas of focus include middle and back office control functions such as customer onboarding, anti-money laundering and trade surveillance.

The new financial utilities will be a key growth area for new RegTech firms who will look to disrupt the market with new innovative solutions, potentially partnering with legacy incumbents to gain market share.

In parallel, the open sourcing of banking will become a reality in 2018.  As part of the EU Payments Service Directive 2 (PSD2) and the UK Open Banking legislation, banks will be required to provide third-party providers with access to their customers’ accounts through open APIs (application program interface). These new APIs will enable third-parties to build financial services, such as account aggregators, on top of banks’ data and infrastructure, potentially disintermediating the bank from the end customer.

Key to the success for Digital Reality is Powering AI which I will discuss in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email: ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel : +44 (0) 7702 777770

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Improve Operational Efficiency with Robotic Process Automation

Software robotics has received significant attention in the last 12 months with the popular press speculating that we are now entering a 2nd Machine Age.

While Robotic Process Automation #RPA can trace its heritage back to data centre automation, the use of new techniques such as #CognitiveComputing and #AI offer new and exciting opportunities for automated processes to self-adjust, learn and improve.

Industry case studies indicate that early adopters are seeing operational efficiency improvements in excess of 40% whilst at the same time delivering a ROI (return of investment) well within 12 months.

RPA offers organisations a unique opportunity to address the long tail of manual processes that have yet to be automated, whilst at the same time delivering significant operational efficiency improvements and return on investment.

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email : ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel : +44 (0) 7702 777770

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Cost Benefits of RPA

  • RPA offers significant cost benefits ($5,400) when compared to a standard back office resource in the US, UK and Australia (averaging $43,880).
  • A fully loaded RPA software robot is equivalent to 11-14% of a full time equivalent person.
  • This compares to 75% of the cost of an offshore resource working in India, and 50% in the Philippines.

If you would like to discuss this or find out more, just get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email : ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel : +44 (0) 7702 777770

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Adding Value Through Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

A successful keynote presentation on Adding Value Through Robotics and Artificial Intelligence at a leading Finance conference in Stockholm.

In addition to showcasing my industry insight and expertise to drive operational efficiency improvements, I demonstrated how to create a software robotic process (RPA) live on stage.

Pictured with Ian are Pia Sehm (TV news journalist) and David Fredriksson (Technology Consultant).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email : ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel : +44 (0) 7702 777770

Posted in Robotic Process Automation, Innovation, Digital, CIO | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Getting ready to share my industry knowledge, speaking on Robotic Process Automation #RPA at leading #finance conference in Stockholm.

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Transforming the Wealth Management Industry

The wealth management industry is facing one of its biggest challenges for decades.

Rapid developments in technology are changing client behaviour with increased demand for self service and personalisation. At the same time investment requirements are becoming increasingly specialised and diverse, such as wealth transfer and social impact investing, all of which pose a significant challenge to established business strategies that have change very little since the 1930s.

Technology and Intensifying Competition
Existing operational processes that are built around legacy silos coupled with the slow adoption of new technology continues to constrain the industry as existing processes can not be easily remodelled for today’s investor.

The majority of wealth management IT infrastructure has been built in an eclectic style based on operational silos and Excel spreadsheets. The underlying infrastructure often resembles a patchwork quilt of different systems and applications that have been stitched together as a result of successive mergers and acquisitions.

Fast forward to 2017 and mega indexers, which run passive low cost tracker funds, are attracting the lion’s share of new investment and are aggressively eroding market share from established incumbents.

At the same time, new digital disruptors are beginning to show an active interest in money management. Google has commissioned research on how it could enter the asset management industry. In addition, Facebook recently received regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Ireland allowing it to operate a payments service.

Regulation
All this change is happening as wealth managers struggle with ever accelerating costs fuelled by an ever-increasing burden of regulation and compliance.

Increased regulation such a MiFID II is forcing wealth managers to restructure their operating models, upgrade key technology platforms as well as redesigning client fee structures.

A recent survey from EY indicated that a medium size UK wealth manager will need to spend between £3m-£5m to become MiFID II compliant.

New Dawn
In the face of changing customer demands and the rise of new agile competitors, wealth managers are under pressure to reinvent their business models and invest in development of new propositions.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
As wealth managers look to digitise their services, they are actively searching for ways to harness artificial intelligence to automate routine tasks.

RPA is an emerging form of process automation technology based on the notion of software robots.  RPA can be applied to automate routine tasks, that are methodical, repetitive, and rules-based such as account rebalancing, customised portfolio reports and compliance reporting.

These tasks are traditionally undertaken by humans and by creating a virtual workforce of software robots, companies can streamline processes with a scalable and flexible back office infrastructure. In addition to increasing the quality and cost effectiveness of back office processes, RPA will free up knowledgeable staff to handle higher value tasks.

New Digital Tools
At the same time, new digital tools powered by AI and smart data analytics will enhance the customer experience and advisor productivity. New intelligent tools will be able to provide personalised advice, such as enhanced investment data analytics and visualisation tools, providing greater transparency on fees, key services and the overall investment process.

Robo Advisors
A number of wealth management firms are developing proprietary robo-platforms powered by AI to improve front-office operations including proposal generation, client on boarding and portfolio construction capabilities.

These new digital services can be accessed 24 hours a day, anywhere and on any device, dramatically improving operational efficiency while at the same time supporting client demands for new digital tools.

 

The wealth management industry is facing its biggest challenge for decades, fuelled by changing client demographics, new digital disruptors and increasing regulatory compliance.

To survive firms will have to execute clear digital strategies for the future that will need to focus on cost-efficient operating models. This will need to be achieved by embracing new ‘technology’ such as Artificial Intelligence, RPA and Robo Advisors to dramatically improve operational efficiency while at the same time meeting client demands for new intelligent wealth management digital tools.

 

 

 

 

IAN ALDERTON
Email : ian@IanAlderton.com
Tel : +44 (0) 7702 777770

Posted in Digital, Wealth Managment | Tagged , , | Leave a comment