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Sibos 2019: Cloud, AI and privacy are the building blocks of a new digital world

Sibos 2019: Cloud, AI and privacy are the building blocks of a new digital world

How does an organisation decide if cloud and AI is right for them? This question was hotly debated at Sibos 2019 in London and discussions were also had around how IT leaders need to constantly assess the benefits of the cloud and AI in the context of the businesses they serve.

During a keynote session, Bank of England’s Victoria Cleland, Citi’s Manish Kohli, ING’s Benoit Legrand and Transferwise’s Kristo Kaarmann came together to discuss the evolution of banking and further revolutions as the importance of data grows and big tech giants make a play for the industry.

Cleland highlights that new business models are crucial to the revolution of payments and the Bank of England is at the centre of this. Central banks are under societal, political and environmental pressure to develop technology and push through this phenomenal innovation in a resilient manner.

Kohli adds that financial services innovation is keeping up with the pace of other industries and is now enabling commercial players to build on top of legacy infrastructure. Legrand follows this point and states that the customer is now at the centre of this payments, or data, revolution. “This is a second life for payments. Banks have been sitting on a gold mine that is data and have been sitting around making money, not digging into this mine.”

Kaarmann provides a different perspective and explores how banking is a very local business, while technology companies operate on a global basis. “There are two Amazons, one for the rest of the world and one for China. There are two Facebooks, one for the rest of the world and one for China. Over time, there will be a similar situation in banking. One for the rest of the world and one for China.

Cloud computing, artificial Intelligence and privacy rules are the three building blocks of a new digital world order that could deliver significant economic benefits. But each one is being shaped primarily by a different regional power – the US, China and Europe respectively – meaning political tensions could undermine hopes for a bright digital future.

Further, there is a tension between cloud, AI and privacy, but can financial services institutions overcome these roadblocks? The US is leading in cloud, China in AI and Europe, privacy, Guerrera asks the audience: who will win the race between privacy and AI? AI prevailed.

Samik Chandarana, head of CIB data & analytics, applied AI & ML, at JP Morgan, points out that Sibos attendees have already given away a lot of their personal data through their interactive lanyards, and Chandarana adds that this is ubiquitous with our daily lives.

“Banks have to care a little bit more and have built on a bastion of trust for many years, but you do not want your payments data to not be secure. There is a constant challenge between keeping things private and leveraging AI. Data has a different ruling in different jurisdictions, we have to play the lowest common denominator game.”

Later in the session, a debate struck up between Andreas Weigend, chief scientist at Amazon and Dr Qiang Yang, chief AI officer at WeBank. Weigand took stock of the “elephant in the room” and states that if we were to be realistic, “GDPR compliancy does not work in a country like China.” Yang’s retort is dismissive, and he says that “the issue we have at hand is technology.”

Returning to the subject, Weigand reiterates that technology must be used to protect citizens, rather than discriminate as is being done in what he refers to “totalitarian states like China.” People need to become more privacy literate and data literate, and Chandarana adds that “technology needs to be explained to people,” suggesting the audience download the World Economic Forum’s recent paper on privacy.

Pooma Kimis, director, Autonomous Research/Bernstein riffs on this subject and says that all types of companies “do not have the necessary awareness to make data privacy decisions.” In theory, this is already being done through long data agreements, but how can this be done better? Kimis agrees with Chandarana that partnerships are crucial here, and perhaps university students can be taught by the industry.

Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, assistant professor at Imperial College London, says that the best way of encouraging awareness is by “proper data regulation and good data hygiene.” However, research groups do not have the technical knowledge to enforce this. Weigend sees an opportunity in educating people about what the “true trade-offs are” and “where they are being fooled.”


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