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InSync London 2016

InSync London Reveals the ‘Art’ of the Possible with New Technologies: AI and Blockchain

At September’s InSync London event at the Tate Modern Museum, Synechron explored the ‘art’ of the possible for digital transformation in financial services. While new technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence are often compared to ‘science fiction,’ Synechron assembled experts on not just theory but real-world applications for ‘digital’ to transform the financial services industry.

Synechron’s Co-founder & CEO, Faisal Husain, started the day reinforcing Synechron’s commitment to operate at the cutting-edge of digital innovation. He said, that over the last year, Synechron has invested heavily in our global Financial Innovation Labs (FinLabs) to create a place where clients can experience and experiment with new, transformative technologies like VR, AI and Blockchain. Synechron’s objective for FinLabs is to create an immersive experience that fosters co-creation and innovation, and this approach combined with a focused, dedicated team of 50 blockchain and financial services experts across London, Charlotte, New York and Bangalore yielded the launch of 6 Blockchain applications using Ethereum, Hyperledger and Ripple, hosted in the cloud. And, blockchain is just the tip of the iceberg, as Synechron focuses on other areas of digital innovation like AI, robo-advisors, P2P and the branch of the future which are all shifting the state of digital.

Tristan Fletcher, Research Director at Thought Machine presented on where AI and machine learning can enhance business processes. He said, “Machine learning is good at filtering background noise and understanding chaotic data. This is similar to financial data sets like market data, text and email. The problem with big data is you can come to meaningless conclusions very quickly without a human to assess the relationship and sense check the data and conclusion.”

Synechron is hearing the same from our clients. In our FinLabs, we’ve seen interest in robotics, cognitive and ‘smart’ artificial intelligence and interesting applications for natural language processing (NLP) and of course, blockchain. In each of these cases, we are working with our clients to find the right balance between human and technology automation. In the case of blockchain, we thought extensively about the balance between technology automation and business operations and how permissioning can be used to automatically execute smart contracts with a payments component. We applied the human understanding of banking operations when creating these applications and that will be critical when developing on them.

In the battle against traditional banking and fintech start-ups, we are finding that big banks are nimble enough in certain areas to innovate and use their global scale to quickly roll out massive digital projects to keep pace with and in some case surpass start-ups that previously threatened their market-share. Importantly, when doing so, they need to decide which technologies have truly transformative potential and what business objectives are reinforced by that innovation. In other words, why are they doing what they’re doing?

Tom Chatfield, Author and Tech Theorist echoed that sentiment. While AI has allowed amazing technical design breakthroughs such as building a better antenna than NASA, applications of artificial intelligence must balance “what” you’re doing with “why” you’re doing it. He stressed the importance of this balancing act because ‘what’ only helps us to act in the immediate future and is forgiving - with automation smoothing out small errors in the short term to complete the task. The ‘why’ helps us be robust in the long term so short-term ‘forgiven’ errors don’t escalate into a cataclysmic failure, like the flash crash(es) that have come to shake the financial industry.

We’ve taken this into our account with Synechron’s approach to blockchain. We believe that blockchain is a truly transformative technology that, like cloud before it, will change the financial services industry forever. There is still time for firms to achieve first-mover advantage and how they approach these projects is important. There are many use cases they could try to solve, and they’ll need to conduct a business analysis to identify where they would achieve the most long-term benefit from blockchain and begin to develop new infrastructures that can easily co-exist with the current state. We realize that blockchain is not going to become the current state over night, but in 3-5 years, financial services organizations will be operating in a very different market.

Jake Gostylo, Director of Data Innovation, Dun & Bradstreet hit home on this point when he aptly highlighted the importance of embracing new technologies to evolve data models and spur innovation. Of the different technologies emerging, he noted, in the closing session, moderated by Mike Baliman, Host of the London Fintech Podcast that blockchain is a truly transformative technology to watch.

While the state of financial services, digital and technology are set to change dramatically over the next five years, Synechron is already working with our clients to futureproof their businesses. We are listening to our clients’ business challenges and investing in developing focused solutions and accelerators to help secure their dominant role in the future.

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