The Network Forum (NeFo) held in Warsaw at the end of June is a new event on the conference circuit and the spiritual successor to the Network Management (NeMa) conference of previous years. This is the perfect conference for Taskize, since it is very focused on Operations, particularly Network Managers, who work behind the scenes to knit together the operational fabric of the financial industry.
This year the themes could be summarised as “ABCD”:
Artificial Intelligence is on everyone’s lips. The next blockchain, while we wait for blockchain to actually do something transformative. When people talk about AI in the industry sense, they really mean Machine Learning which is technology for automatic classification. Robotization is something simpler, where program code is used to automate repetitive manual tasks between systems – think of them as macros that run between them. A lot of what banks do involves searching, classifying and reconciling data which fits common patterns. One can easily see how applying Machine Learning technology to legal contract searches to speed-up impact analysis of new regulations, or deploying it in support functions to answer common questions, or in reconciliations to propose and (if brave) fix reconciliation breaks, making a material difference to the speed and cost of certain operations. There is a lot of excitement in this area, and I confess that we plan to introduce elements of these technologies into the Taskize Problem Management Network soon.
Blockchain remains the subject of high expectations, but is no longer the zeitgeist. If you are familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle, I sense the industry is sliding from the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” into the “Trough of Disillusionment”. If so, as an industry we still have some way to go before reaching the “Plateau of Productivity”. There was one session on future technology which I found interesting for all the wrong reasons; a panel of 50-year-old white males agreed that nothing would change. More than anything else I heard at the conference, this made me contemplate that things will change, and it will be fast, and it could be seismic, and we won’t see it coming. Developments like Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) hint at the possibilities.
Cyber Security was prominent even at this non-technical conference. Panellists identified that the most professional criminal operations are focused, sophisticated and patient; mapping out target organizations, gathering intelligence and formulating a tailored strategy before effecting their intended theft or damage. Banks have been and are likely to continue to be targeted by such operations. One of the panellists was bold enough to say that banks should assume they have already been breached, for example by “Advanced Persistent Threats” where malware is sneaked onto a firm’s network in an inconspicuous device, such as a photocopier, and quietly listens for sensitive data over a long period of time reporting back to their distant masters. What did I take from this? For business continuity, a holistic approach is necessary to ensure detection, mitigation and recovery from cyberattacks, both in technical and process measures and in the education of business operations staff, especially in their use of email.
Due Diligence Questionnaires was a new one for me. Regulation has led to banks systematically vetting and re-vetting their clients and each other on an epic scale. Customised questionnaires have been flowing between banks at an ever-increasing rate causing real operational overhead. So much so, that the industry is standardising the questionnaires and the responses. Enough said, but this is clearly no fun for operations staff and the topic was enthusiastically debated at length in a dedicated main-conference session.
To the ABCD, I would add Exception handling. Taskize was a debutant at NeMa in Dubrovnik; a year later we are fully live, having signed dozens of clients on four continents so far. Taskize is central to how Euroclear Bank is transforming the efficiency of its client servicing, with over 100 staff trained on our service. We were delighted about how many people at NeFo knew about us and our mission to be the problem-solving network for banking operations. People get it, and we’re looking forward to 2017 being a great year for take-up.
Next up for us is SIBOS in Toronto – we hope to see you there!