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3 ways tech will change banking in 2017

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This year will see three financial areas change due to technology. Customer relationship management, the processes of banking and the regulatory environment which these financial institutions operate, writes MARK WALKER of IDC.

From a broader economic outlook perspective, we will see heightened political influence as the country gears up for another round of elections. The uncertainty in the political environment potentially translates into economic movements that may impact interest rates, the exchange rate, and other factors. The country’s politics have a proven history of impacting the macro economy and this, in turn, will impact the micro economy and may result in lower consumer spend and a decrease in business confidence.

The South African housing market is already seeing very low growth in the mid and high sections, which means consumers are already more cautious when it comes to investment. Inflation is relatively stable now but could go up, which will result in higher interest rates.

From a regulatory perspective, the banking sector is under increased pressure. There are many more international compliance requirements, as well as from the Reserve Bank and SARS, which increases administrative pressures at a time when they don’t want to spend more money on non-revenue generating activities.

Access to financial services will be key in 2017 as financial institutions attempt to further remove obstacles between the bank and the customer, not only from a compliance point of view but also in terms of services offered. Banks want to make it easier for the individual to access the bank, hence the continued focus on online and mobile banking, as well as making services available to the previously unbanked through these platforms and social media channels.

The second focus area is understanding and exploiting customer data, so big data analytics and use of artificial intelligence and algorithms are coming to the fore. The objective is to use the data about their clients to understand their credit worthiness, propensity to earn and spend, and then to pre-empt their requirements to provide the right products to that specific customer at the right time in their lives. Multichannel delivery will also be a focus area, but that is more about using all social, mobile and online channels to make it easier to reach the client. We will also see an increase in the use of integrated applications to make payment mechanisms simpler and more accessible.

The financial services environment is very harsh and banks are finding it difficult to maintain profits. They will continue to evaluate automating more processes to increase the use of self-service banking. In some countries, entire processes, such as loan generation, have already been automated from a customer, product and regulatory point of view and we foresee the South African institutions following suit.

Security is another big focus area. With the Internet of Things or IoT, more devices are being connected to the internet, creating more vulnerabilities. As more devices are connected and being used for banking purposes, security becomes a major concern. December 2016 was already a bumper month in ransomware activity and as more devices are connected this is set to increase.

We do foresee 2017 deliver a couple of innovations in FinTech, with innovative companies applying technology to create ways to do banking in a virtual environment. Financial institutions are also waking up the opportunity that this brings as it is a way for them to retain customers and profitability, while at the same time cutting costs.

Telecommunications companies could plausibly use FinTech to get into the banking sector. The biggest challenges they face are in obtaining banking licenses, existing competition and monopolies, and being able to comply with the regulations associated with having a banking license. That said, these company will make forays into the banking environment on a partnership or shared risk type model. They will partner with the smaller, already licensed financial institutions, and will then introduce FinTech using technology. Both the banks and telecommunications companies are under pressure from a growth and performance perspective and they both have access to customer data that they can utilise to offer new and innovative products and services. Already we know that the telecommunications providers are looking for ways to increase their market share and profitability, and this approach creates an opportunity for them to do so. That said, it’s very much a ‘wait and see” scenario at this stage. We will also continue to see emerging currencies such as blockchain and bitcoin, but suspect that the regulator environment must catch up before it becomes mainstream.

We will also start seeing far more use of social media platforms to help complete or compliment banking transactions. These platforms will be used both for internal communications as well as to communicate more effectively with their customers. We will also see an increase in automated CRM to solve customer queries. Here the only challenge will be the need to record all communications as part of their compliance requirements.

So, to recap, while virtual reality and augmented reality are starting to come into play, it will still be a while before they become mainstream in the financial services environment. Cognitive computing will also increase to some degree. The big bets, however, for financial services will be next generation security and IoT, with mobile also remaining a key priority in the South African market.

* Mark Walker, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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