A financial sector for everyone | Huawei European Talks | George Panou
How can digital technologies help to make financial services safer, more customer-friendly and accessible for everyone?
How will they transform the way we interact with our banks?
Huawei’s Angeliki Dedopoulou talks to Senior IT & Business executive and entrepreneur George Panou to explore the future of fintech for Europe.
Tune in and discover innovative concepts such as calm technology.
Find out more:
5G Public-Private Partnership https://5g-ppp.eu/
EIT Digital https://www.eitdigital.eu/
European Commission action for digital finance https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-ec...
Mellon Group https://mellongroup.com/
Huawei Smart Finance https://e.huawei.com/uk/solutions/ind...
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another Huawei European Talk.
For this new episode we have invited George Panou of Mellon Technologies to join us. George is a Group Digital Innovation Director for Mellon Group and he’s also a member of the advisory board for the 5G Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership, an initiative between the European Commission and the European ICT industry. George has over 20 years of experience in the digital sector, especially on digital technology, strategies, and solutions in the financial sector. And today he’s going to share his insights on how digital technology can help the financial sector work more efficiently to the benefit of end users.
Hello, George. So glad to have you here today.
Good morning, Angeliki. Thank you for the invitation. It’s a real honour to participate in Huawei European Talks.
First of all, could you please share with us the key role of digital technology in the financial sector? How it can help to improve the real ability and efficiency of the whole business process?
Before I answer to this question, I will try to explain what digital transformation is and why companies need to transform. So, digital transformation is the endeavour of current companies to position themselves competitively and remain relevant to an ever-changing 21st-century digital disruption. That stands for all companies, not only for the financial sector. Converting to digital is not only about technology. It’s a mindset, cultural change, and a journey. The traditional business models are transformed to digital business models, and effects are exponential for the companies. To give you some examples, digital technology gives the possibility to the banks to gather data from various sources, structured or unstructured, the so-called “Big Data”. With that data, banks are now able to understand the trends of the markets and the preference of the customers and offer them personalised products and customer support. Another key role of digital technology is digitalisation of transactions and processes of the banks. So, especially at current times, customers are able to transact with the bank remotely.
Let’s take, for example, the KYC example. The KYC process is a Know Your Customer process where a customer can authenticate himself remotely and open a bank account to the bank without visiting the physical branch. Another example is digitalisation of the physical queues of the bank: all the robotic process automation which diminishes is the workload inside the organisation so employees can focus on high priority tasks. We have seen native digital banks already using AI and chatbots for 24/7 customer service and incumbents of course will follow. I couldn’t forget blockchain; that also acts as a decentralised database that helps protect customers and personal and financial data by storing the information about real time payments and details on multiple blockchain servers.
I know that you have helped a lot of banks and financial service providers to establish their own digitalisation capability. Could you please share with us one or two use cases?
Mellon Technologies is a specialised IT financial solutions provider and integrator, helping banks and financial institutions to modernise and facilitate business ecosystems. Mellon was also recently awarded as the best IT company in Greece for 2019, and for 26 years now we’re innovating and providing innovative solutions to the banks, telecoms, and companies in the retail sector for Greece and the rest of Europe. Mellon consists of three main pylons: technology, call centre services and business process outsourcing. Mellon has helped banks do its digital transformation journey by always providing state of the art technology like payments with EFT POS solutions, integration to the bank host, self-service machines, digitalising the transactions, and solutions like electronic digital signatures for a paperless digital transformation. We offer better and automated call centre services with outbound and inbound calls. The last, with business process outsourcing, we helped the banks to digitalise the process and deliver specialised projects on behalf of the bank. So, you see, we have a holistic services approach, from physical to digital, and we help our customers to innovate and remain relevant to the digital age.
It’s indeed very interesting, and thank you very much, George. So, you also mention the financial service companies, so can you please tell us what benefits will individual users get from these new emerging technologies?
Of course. As you may have already noticed, users are already benefiting in some ways from these technologies. Mark Weiser, the famous computer scientist, talked about ubiquitous pervasive computing and the introduction of calm technology, where technology disappears, helps, but not interferes. I will give you some examples.
For me, the main and most important benefit for users is customer experience, and to be more precise, a personalised customer experience. Based on previous data of the customer, AI and machine learning can predict what customers need in a very detailed micro-segmented way, optimise and make recommendations, and offer the next best offer, cross-sell and upsell and offer also PFM services, Personal Finance Management, advising the customer to invest, to save his or her money, not spend the money, and all this of course will be automatically without the interference of the humans. By 2021, customers will interact more with smart agents, chatbots, intelligent agents that could offer its services 24/7 with accurate and human-like answers, relieving workload from employees. A chatbot that could complete actions like real time bank transactions, get information for your bank account, or offer small talk for relieving stress. These awesome services will be enhanced by upcoming technologies like 5G and blockchain, eliminating latency in the network, it offers security and trust.
So, you’re one of the advisors to the 5G Public-Private Partnership project in Europe, and as we know, now this 5G’s a really hot topic, so how do you think that this project will influence and what will it play within the financial sector?
It is correct. I am an advisor in the 5G Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership in the European Commission in joint cooperation with the European ICT industries, which part of it are manufacturers, telecommunications operators, service provider SMEs and research institutions. It is… I would like to say that it is evident that 5G is already present, OK, and with mobile usage continuing to accelerate in a rapid pace, many customers are actively seeking new services to match the evolving technologies.
As an example, from ATM machines to online and mobile banking, the financial services have often been an early adaptor to digital technologies. The key words here are low latency, high data capacity, network density, delivering services wherever a customer is. The first benefit for the financial industry: there will be an overall performance upgrade. The speed increase brought by 5G networks will be of a great service to financial institutions, allowing them to perform more complex processes much faster. Needless to say, money transfers and investment trading will become a lot faster as well. Also, there will be a push towards digitalisation. Going digital, as we said before, it is inevitable.
5G technology will allow institutions to create more efficient mobile banking and web banking applications, where most of the data will be stored in the Cloud, enabling faster and more seamless usage.
Banks will be able to become more creative with their mobile and web apps, and they will be able to stream videos faster in real time, incorporating technologies like augmented reality or virtual reality.
Another benefit: the use of technologies for better customer service. Video calls with clients will be better, mobile apps and website capabilities will be augmented by VR and AR experience, machine learning will be improved also, using faster network speed, more information about the consumer will be generated, and there will be a unique customer experience. As an example, an ATM could be repaired quickly and remotely. How? This could be done using augmented reality glasses, for example. Lastly, the financial institutions will benefit from improved security and fraud prevention. With more data and increased bandwidth thanks to faster networks, fraud prevention systems will be able to detect fraudulent transactions more quickly, protecting merchants, financial institutions, and consumers from losses. Also, it will surely accelerate the 3D-secure authentication processes which the customer needs to provide additional biometric data in real time.
Very interesting, George. So, you mentioned digitisation. So, the follow-up question to you will be: how much is the financial sector actually investing in this digitalisation? And how many research projects exist in this field? Can we say that Europe is well positioned in terms of leadership in research and investment compared, for example, to other regions like Asia or America?
Global digital investment has reached 3.5% of GDP in advanced countries and 1.9% for developing countries. That would be 2.5 billion for Greece each year, and almost 1 billion will be invested in the private sector. Thankfully, there’s also a projection in ICT for 3 billion euros by mobile network operators by 2023. So, you see, there is a potential for increase in investing. Actually, in Greece, just prior to the pandemic, the data on the integration of digital technologies by businesses showed large variations, ups and downs, depending on the company size, sector, and the Member State. Enterprises were becoming more and more digitalised, with large companies taking the lead and the smaller ones to follow, relying on advanced Cloud services and Big Data analytics.
Now this number tends to increase, and the financial sector is constantly investing in digitalisation and emerging technologies. As we mentioned previously, the process is a marathon rather than a sprint. Digital transformation is a journey. Financial institutions currently are investing in several technologies. Some of them are the KYC, as we said before, technologies for remote customer onboarding, biometric authentication, blockchain technology for faster and more secure transactions, RPA (robotic process automation), machine learning for customer experience and personalisation, and AI chatbots for better customer experience and 24/7 instant and accurate support. You said something about the EU and how is it positioned in the world states. According to European Investment Bank, EU firms currently lag behind in adapting digital technologies, particularly in the construction sector and the Internet of Things. A number of leading digital technology companies today are based in the United States or China, maybe Asia. The European Union, it seems it has fallen behind in the digital services transformation, but it might be able to take up leading positions in new races. I believe that to catch up with the other peers, the European Union will need to create better framework conditions to support innovation and digitalisation, and of course, again, thankfully there are such initiatives like EIT Digital that supports innovation and start-ups. In my opinion, the EU needs to generate more new leaders in these sectors, digital leaders, digital culture, that will give incentives to lead companies and to continuously improve. I believe 5G is an investment to that direction.
Thank you very much, George, for these great insights. We learned a lot today about how digital technology is affecting the financial industry, and we’ll be more than happy to host you also in another European Huawei Talk. For more information about our Huawei European Talk series, please follow @HuaweiEU Twitter account and YouTube channel. We’ll be posting more interviews with industrial experts very soon, so stay tuned. Once again, thank you, George, for your time today.
Thank you very much, Angeliki.