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 ….






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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.






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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.





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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.






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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).








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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.

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.





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Three Trends That Will Shake Up The Insurance Sector

The insurance sector can trace is heritage over hundreds of years with the first known insurance contracts being recorded in Italy in 1347. Fast forward to 2017 and with Lloyds underwriters still grappling their trademark slipcases, the flimsy leather sheaths that bulge with bundles of papers, some would argue that the sector has change very little since 1347.

In today’s highly connected world, customers’ expectations have dramatically changed, but the insurance sector is falling short of meeting those expectations. For many customers, interaction with their insurance company typically happens once a year, far less than any other industry.

Previously, insurance processes have been determined by the limitations of technology with many back office processes designed around legacy systems that are creaking at the seams. Many of the procedures are paper based, impacting efficiency which dramatically increases the cost base of the organisation.

As an example, current processes to purchase car insurance from an aggregator site are fragmented and far from streamlined. After being presented with a quick view of the premium from each provider on the portal, the customer is redirected and forced to login with the selected provider in order to complete the transaction. When compared to the process of buying a book on Amazon, with the option of single click fulfilment, the process of purchasing insurance mirrors how business was conducted 20 years ago.

With fast changing consumer expectations, new technology has introduced the expectation of ease of use, personalised pricing and immediate fulfilment.  This new way of working, putting the consumer in control, has not translated to the insurance sector which now realises that it has been caught snoozing and now needs to change.

With the insurance sector now waking up to its own industrial revolution, there are 3 exciting trends emerging to improve customer engagement and optimise the insurance industry:

1. AI (Artificial Intelligence)
The introduction of Artificial intelligence could revolutionise the industry, automating routine tasks that are methodical, repetitive, and rules-base, such as form processing and onboarding new customers. It is particularly valuable in automating “swivel chair” tasks, where data needs to be transferred from one software system to another.

These processing tasks are traditionally undertaken by an army of back office staff and by creating a virtual workforce of software robots, companies can streamline processes, as well as increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of the service being provided.

2. Data Is The New Golden Thread
With the advancement of new techniques such as AI and cloud computing, there is a significant opportunity for insurance companies to exploit the amount of data that can be analysed and the way that it can be used.

Leading insurers are actively using data to empower underwriters to drive continuous improvement in the customer journey, identifying the most common causes of referral (to an underwriter) and automating their underwriting decisions.  This improves the customer experience, and in many cases gives the customer the peace of mind that their cover is in place immediately.

The combination of AI and big data sets is enabling insurance companies to free up valuable and scare underwriting resource and to develop new valued added propositions.  Smart data analytics provides reliable data on user behaviour from developing enhanced analytic tools to spot fraud patterns quickly through to developing new chatbot agents to take customers through the application process.  In addition, the development of new risk pricing models can be used to provide alternative insurance decisions such as “sell to budget” function or “upsell” to the maximum allowable sum for a family heirloom.

3. IoT (Internet of Things)
The internet of things, where everyday objects are connected to the internet, means insurance companies will have access to more data about the sort of risks they face.

By measuring how people drive through telematics or monitoring physical wellness via wearable devices, the industry hopes that it can persuade its customers to change behaviour, to cut out risks and so push down the cost of claims.

With the use of big data and IoT, Insurance companies are discovering that they are able to use new techniques to manage the risk portfolio in real time. By utilising techniques of gamification, insurance companies are able to offer game like features to manage driver behaviour, from a free Frappuccino to reward careful driving, through to notifying poor drivers of the potential impact to renewal premiums or the policy being suspended.

Insurance companies hope that by leveraging new technology they can influence user behaviour to avoid accidents and reduce the number of claims, moving from being a source of claim payments to become a trusted and informed advisor.

The insurance industry has to take a different view of how it operates and is at last embracing its very own industrial revolution.

How we purchase insurance in the future will be enormously different as companies move from an annual “disgruntled” purchase to embracing AI, smart data analytics and IoT.

New Technology will sharpen up the insurance sector and improve the way it works, enabling risk to be assessed in new ways, presenting a significant opportunity for the industry to transform and reposition itself to become a trusted and informed risk partner.





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Two Important Regtech Trends That Will Shape The Future

A leading Private Equity firm approached me to share my insight on the strategic trends and commercial opportunities that are driving the regtech sector.

Regtech is a sub-set of fintech that focuses on the use of new technologies and innovation to solve regulatory and compliance requirements more effectively and efficiently.

Powering the new regtech wave are two “hot” categories of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA):

  1. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

RPA is an emerging form of process automation technology based on the notion of software robots.  Applied independently, RPA has great potential for automating routine tasks, that are methodical, repetitive, and rules-based.  It is particularly valuable in automating “swivel chair” tasks, where data needs to be transferred from one software system to another, such as form processing, accounts payable and staff onboarding. These tasks are traditionally undertaken by humans and by creating a virtual workforce of software robots, companies can streamline processes as well as increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of shared services.

According to Gartner, RPA is “relatively low cost, quick to implement and unobtrusive“. Supporting this, a number of vendors have established dedicated RPA tools, such as Automation Anywhere and UiPath, which can be used to capture a sequence of user actions and speed up the definition and automation of a process.

RPA benefits include accelerated cycle times, improved throughput as well as increased flexibility and scalability. Furthermore, RPA offers the opportunity to automate the “long-tail” of low-volume / low-value processes that have been historically uneconomical to automate.

The sheer volume of data to be reported and monitored by financial organisations makes RPA solutions a necessity. Regtech, powered by RPA,  can be used to collect, analyse and test entire new data sets, identifying potential risks, as well as generating more meaningful Management Information (MI). For example, a robust fraud detection platform developed using RPA technology could shorten the transaction life-span and improve consumer experience as well as commercial profitability by reducing the number of false negatives.

By contrast, nonroutine tasks involving judgment, intuition and problem solving are currently too complex to be automated via a standard RPA approach.

  1. Intelligent Automation (IA)

The decreasing costs of data storage and processing power are enabling a new breed of cognitive technologies with humanlike capabilities, such as recognizing handwriting, identifying images, and natural language processing. When combined with robotic process automation, these cognitive technologies can form Intelligence Automation “IA” solutions that can either directly assist people in the performance of nonroutine tasks or even automate those tasks entirely.

Intelligent Automation are pieces of software with machine learning capabilities that work with unstructured data such as email, documents and web data.  They use a variety of techniques to automate processes including smart data analytics and neural process patterns to learn from experience and expand their knowledge base.

These new cognitive tools are based on a variety of machine learning algorithms such as Deep Learning Neural Networks or Random Forests.

New intelligent automation platforms such as Worksoft Analyze automate business process discovery, capturing end users’ normal activities and connecting them in an end-to-end process, using artificial intelligence.

The introduction of IA provides the concepts of continual predictive analysis, providing a more automated and cost effective way of meeting compliance.  As an example, IA can monitor a bank’s traders in a real time basis, learning their behaviour patterns and raise the alarm when they do something out of character.

Across the wider financial services ecosystem, the use of IA looks just as promising.  Wealth Management firms are using IA to review and analyze portfolio data, determine meaningful metrics, and to generate natural-language reports for their customers on the performance of each of their funds.


In conclusion, with many companies continuing to fall short of regulatory expectations by maintaining highly manual processes, the emergence of regtech offers financial organisations the opportunity to introduce a generation step change in process automation.  The use of new innovative technology, such as RPA and IA, can transform incumbents by increasing their profitability and efficiency, while at the same time making compliance less complex and capacity demanding.





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How to build a Digital Dream Team

Many organisations are pivoting to new digital business models, requiring large parts of the employee base to adopt a digital business value chain. At the same time, digital experiments such as innovation labs and new digital products have delivered notable successes such that digital skills are now in high demand and short supply.

A question I am frequently asked is how do you build a digital dream team for your new digital enterprise?

What is a Digital Business?
The first question we need to tackle is what do we mean by a digital business?

Gartner defines a digital business as:

the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds … via an unprecedented convergence of people, business and things”.

I believe that this can be further refined by defining a digital business as:

creating new business models based on new customer experiences and products that exploit information and technology at speed.

Delivering business value from a digital workplace requires a new form of “Digital Dexterity”, the ability to master and execute a pragmatic set of techniques to quickly exploit emerging technology. This new form of agility will be a significant source of competitive advantage as organisations pivot to new digital business models.

Digital Dexterity will need to be supported by a strategy that is focused on building a dynamic digital team of people and culture:

Building a Dynamic Digital Team
Establishing a dynamic digital team to improve processes and drive new profitable business models is at the crux of a digital strategy.

By design, the digital team is small and specialised, staffed by multi disciplinary subject matter experts from across the businesses, including marketing, sales, technology and related lines of business. This team will often consist of both a permanent and temporary team.

The permanent team is designed to maintain focus on the enterprise’s digital vision and goals. The team consists of a digital programme team, responsible for creating and communicating the digital storyline, in addition to a technology team who are responsible for developing the technical platform to deliver the digital vision.

The temporary team supports the permanent team and is responsible for initiating and incubating the ultimate digital deliverable. The temporary team members will come from business departments and external suppliers, proving deep subject matter expertise on new products and customer insights.

Both permanent and temporary teams will have an entrepreneurial attitude for experimenting, innovating and creating new customer value. The combined team will have a disciplined ‘test and learn’ approach, supported by a risk-taking mind-set and technical creativity to break with the status quo, accept failure, gain new customer insight and learn.

The digital team will need to iterate the digital solution until they get it right—not only delivering what the customer wants but also understanding why they want it so that issues can be addressed and emerging needs factored in with speed.

Challenger Board
A recent market development is that a number of companies have set up a separate “challenger” or advisory boards for their digital portfolio. The board will include domain experts who know the business inside out and digital natives hired from start-ups or tech companies. With their deep digital experience and outsider perspective, the in-house advisory experts can ask tough questions, uncover problems quickly, and spot opportunities for disrupting the business with sleek customer solutions and enhanced commercial value.

A successful digital team will need to possess a number of key capabilities and competencies. These individuals will bring varied perspectives, earned from working in a customer focused environment where the user experience and customer intimacy reigns supreme. The team will need to have a high degree of digital literacy – intensely focused on the customer, constantly evolving and improving the customer experience.

These individuals will be a jack of multiple competencies, such as smart data analytics and hyper scale cloud computing, as opposed to a mastery of a single skill. They will recognise that user experience (UX) design is a differentiator and will be comfortable with uncertainty and act with agility.

Organisations are ruthlessly competing for people with digital skills so turning a digital vision into reality requires attracting, motivating and retaining talented people.

To succeed in digital business, leaders must build a culture that is unrestricted by traditional beliefs and practices, by investing in simple processes and support structures.

Team members must be liberated from counterproductive beliefs and practices. The team should feel that there is a risk-taking culture ready to challenge with the status quo, accept failure and learn. The team will need to feel they can safely change from what has made them successful in the past to something that will make them successful in the digitalized future.

Only by investing in a learning culture that is ready to break with the status quo and accept failure will the organisation be able to gain new insight and learnings on driving organisational change.


In summary, building a highly effective digital team require as new form of Digital Dexterity and the ability to master a new set of techniques focused on building a dynamic digital team that is obsessed with improving the customer experience and a culture that can challenge the status quo.

Only then can the organisation be confident that is has the digital team in place to engage talented employees across the company and drive new, profitable business models.


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