CNME Editor Mark Forker sat down with Patrice Amann, Regional Leader – EMEA Financial Services at Microsoft, to discuss how emerging technologies such as AI and Blockchain are fundamentally reshaping the financial services landscape.
In an interview which covered a whole range of topics, Amann disclosed his definition of digital transformation and highlighted Microsoft’s investment in cybersecurity.
Amann has enjoyed a decorated and distinguished career in the IT industry and has been tasked with the responsibility of driving Microsoft’s financial services operations across the EMEA region.
The dynamic Frenchman articulated how banks were moving away from their traditional business model of being focused on their own products in a bid to become more predictive and prescriptive.
“Banks are embracing what we call ‘intelligent banking’. They’re implementing technologies like AI, Machine Learning and Big Data & Analytics to ensure that they provide the best advice to its customers. This drives engagement between the banks and its customers and allows them to become part of their journey, ” said Amann.
“By becoming more predictive and prescriptive this ultimately enables banks to be less reactive and can know exactly what customers want before they even ask for it. They’re leveraging technology to drive better value and outcomes for its customers.”
In addition to this, Amman highlighted how the financial services industry is acutely aware that they need to adopt new technologies to meet the consumer demands that are evolving all the time.
“In this digital era, it’s all about the best last experience. The young generation drives the game. Banks know that intelligent banking needs to become more predictive and prescriptive to deliver the best offerings in advance. Financial institutions need to better understand their customer needs. And this is also what drives us to embrace this notion of an ecosystem, because a bank by itself would probably not deliver the best value at all, yet banks augmented by technology and augmented by a FinTech ecosystem can together become smarter and faster to the market to deliver a very different value proposition for customers,” said Amann.
Many prominent commentators within the IT industry have tipped blockchain technology to completely transform financial services, and Amann said that Microsoft’s ambitions in relation to the technology was to provide it as-a-service.
“I think what was missing so far was probably the enterprise grade of blockchain. And this is what we’re starting to provide with our blockchain as a service model. So again, we as a technology provider are attempting to support the right technology to enhance others to build on that. One of the capabilities of Azure is bringing a blockchain as-a-service model that can be consumed by our partners to deliver this type of enterprise grade solution,” said the Microsoft regional leader.
Digital transformation has been one of the most used terminologies in the IT ecosystem over the last number of years, but many enterprises are still resistant to change. Amann details his own definition of what transformation entails and documents Microsoft’s approach to digital transformation.
“In my opinion, transformation has many different angles. Transformation is fueled by digital and enabled by culture. And this is not only our learning as we are going through a cultural transformation, it could potentially become part of the equation that discounts the whole value. If a company doesn’t understand the kind of cultural transformation they have to implement, in a way it reduces, slows down or kills the opportunity itself,” said the Microsoft executive.
He added, “We at Microsoft are trying to implement technology all over the place, and specifically AI to just enhance and augment our employees. For example, from modern workplace, to operations, to treasury. We have optimised, transformed and used technologies to be smarter and be more reactive internally, and to offer better solutions. And these kinds of solutions are shared with our customers as well to enable them to tackle complex issues across their business functions.”
Microsoft has invested significantly in cybersecurity, as more and more technologies continue to emerge the sophistication of cyberattacks increase, and as data has now become the most valuable commodity of every business it has never been more important for enterprises to be protected.
“Microsoft invested a billion dollars last year on cyber security alone. We’re very serious about it and are building on cultural transformation in the way of developing software. We have dedicated teams that play the role of hackers that try to attack our own capabilities. It is important to stay current as it is a continuous journey. Whatever we learn from security graphs we understand it and then we share those insights with our customers to help them to better understand the threats. Specifically, for financial services, we have a compliance program that helps these customers to be more proactive in terms of understanding certain patterns,” said Amman.
Banks are sitting on oceans of data, but Amman stressed that if financial institutions don’t properly structure that data then it won’t be able to extract the value from it to enhance its operations.
“The discussion on AI continues to shift and grow daily. You can integrate AI solutions across departments which enables them to streamline and optimise internal processes. For instance, when you do treasury forecasts, or sales forecasts in a way to better predict the future – and apply algorithms to derive on logic. We are currently conversing with banks and other financial institutions to better structure data estates, regulation and compliance. If you don’t structure data and have a clear understanding of it then it becomes a real challenge. It’s imperative to manage your data effectively so you can then extract, predict and be prescriptive about your data management,” concluded Amman.