Having learned lessons from the pandemic, what do you think is the most important aspect of digitization for financial institutions?
The financial industry has undoubtedly learned a great deal from the pandemic and perhaps the most significant has been the increased realization of the considerable operational efficiencies that technology can deliver. Whilst various technology capabilities had already been implemented by financial institutions before the pandemic, it swiftly became apparent that the range of automated services available to clients was, in certain jurisdictions, limited and this shortcoming is undoubtedly something that financial institutions have since been looking to eradicate.
Perhaps the most significant development has been the increasing focus of financial institutions on the potential implementation of Straight Through Processing (STP) capabilities to eliminate manual operational requirements and provide a seamless range of functionality both internally and for their client base. The requirement to swiftly move staff to a work from home environment following the implementation of lockdown measures globally presented financial institutions with a range of operational challenges that the use of STP would have eliminated. As a result, we have witnessed a significant increase in the number of financial institutions seeking to implement a full range of STP functionality.
If you had to go back in time, what would you have done differently in your business?
DDCAP Group is an intermediary in the global Islamic finance markets with offices in London, Dubai, and Kuala Lumpur and we must provide a seamless service offering to our clients. This we provide through our multiple award-winning, 24/7 web-based asset facilitation platform, ETHOS AFP (ETHOS).
Given our reliance on robust technology infrastructure, we closely monitored developments related to the global outbreak and spread of COVID-19 since it entered public awareness. Our early concerns resulted in a detailed review of the business process, procedure, financial technology solutions and systems infrastructure before the end of January 2020. During the following six weeks, we conducted extensive testing of our business continuity assumptions to ensure our full operational capacity and capability during a viral pandemic situation. The wellbeing of our staff was imperative and as testing continued and transmission of the virus spread, by the end of February 2020 it became clear that we were best able to protect our employees worldwide by transitioning to remote working practices. As a result of this decision, following completion of testing, we moved to remote working practices worldwide on 18th March 2020.
The testing through the first quarter of 2020 was designed to ensure that our financial technology and systems infrastructure could support all staff working remotely worldwide as well as the provision of a seamless, automated service to our clients, both for a protracted and indefinite period.
Ever since we implemented remote working in March, we have provided uninterrupted service to our clients and this demonstrates the advantages derived from the significant amount of business continuity testing that we undertook in the early part of the year. Hence, if we are to go back in time, we would undoubtedly undertake the same exercise again.
What do you think is the next big thing in tech to transform financial services?
As mentioned previously, automation of existing manual processes by financial institutions will be a key focus in the coming months. The automation is being accelerated by the global pandemic and the operational challenges faced by many institutions due to their lack of such automation. A particular emphasis, especially in the retail sector, will be placed on the adoption of remote transactional capabilities for clients either via mobile application technology or secure website links to remove the reliance upon face to face meetings and manual intervention.
Looking at the further evolvement of technology in financial services in general, blockchain undoubtedly has a significant role to perform as institutions look to benefit from the efficiencies and financial transparency it can provide. Similarly, Open Banking, with APIs enabling third-party developers to develop applications and services around financial institutions will feature prominently in the coming years.
What is your approach in collaborating with banks in enhancing your digital capabilities?
As an intermediary, we aim to provide our clients with digital capabilities that meet their specific, bespoke requirements. This frequently necessitates a significant amount of collaboration with clients both in terms of collating the scope of their individual requirements and thereafter the testing and implementation of the resultant technology.
Such collaboration encompasses both face to face meetings and often several virtual meetings and conference calls to ensure that we encapsulate the full range of capabilities sought by our clients. To facilitate this, we have a dedicated and experienced team of people focused solely on the further enhancement of our ETHOS platform in line with client demand.
As digital adoption increases across the board, what is your strategy in implementing iron-clad security measures?
Architecturally, it is vitally important to design and implement robust security measures from the outset of any technology development as it is extremely difficult to retrofit subsequently. Accordingly, we have, from day one, chosen to imbed only proven, industry-standard security measures into our technology offerings.
Ultimately, in most cases, people are the weakest link in any security chain and therefore regular staff training aligned to robust, practical processes is vitally important. Furthermore, limiting security attacks using options such as whitelisting and two-factor authentication (2FA) together with the implementation of regular penetration testing and ensuring that such measures are built into your standard business processes is essential.
Achieving the correct balance between your chosen security measures and what is practical for the business is the challenge faced by all institutions and ultimately, your chosen security strategy needs to be multi-layered and constantly reviewed and updated as threats change and new ones are identified.