Q&A with Jess Panni of iMeta & Sean Vickers of Aurora SDE
Sean Vickers: Could you tell us about your role at iMeta?
Jess Panni: I am Head of Development and Innovation. I’m responsible for engineering standards and development processes. I’m specifically looking at how technology is transforming the client onboarding landscape and how we can take advantage of those emerging technologies and trends. I also oversee our innovation programme.
SV: Could you tell us a bit more about your innovation programme?
JP: We’re constantly talking to our customers to understand their challenges and closely monitoring where the industry is going in general. We also like to see the problem from the end customer’s perspective; how their behaviors are changing and how they want to engage with their banks and financial institutions. We’re looking at how we can evolve our products to make it as easy as possible to integrate within the technologies and platforms that streamline the overall process. For example, there are a lot of emerging technologies that are challenging old operating models, which we see as becoming more and more important in this space. I’m really just making sure we’re at the forefront of all of that, so that we’re ready to go to market when maturity of those technologies is ready for our customers.
SV: You mentioned the industry and staying at the forefront. So, what are you seeing at the moment? What have you noticed in the market? What are the changes that are common to some of the banks and FI’s you are talking to?
JP: There’s a couple of ways to look at it from a technology perspective. We need to keep an eye on the business problem at hand. The actual end customer experience is absolutely key.
I think customers are changing. They’re not hanging around very long these days. They want to get on with their lives. That means engaging with them on different channels. I think the whole environment we’re currently working in is far more remote now, which is forcing us to think about different ways in which we work with customers.
There’s the actual onboarding processing side too and the continuous drive for efficiencies through automation in that process.
From a technology perspective, we’ve seen heavy demand from API-driven solutions for quite a while now. That’s important because it allows banks to integrate our solution within their existing systems and workflows. I think there’s another element too, which is fundamental, and that is that banks and financial institutions are going through a technological transformation themselves. We need to make sure we play in that field. As banks start taking advantage of cloud-based operating models, there’s a very different set of challenges from an IT governance and compliance perspective.
We need to make sure that we play well in emerging ecosystems as well as the more traditional IT environments who may well be running on-prem for many years to come. But it’s also really about supporting our customers who are in the process of making the journey and supporting them on that journey as they evolve.
SV: It’s an interesting one, isn’t it? I think a lot of banks have traditionally been on-prem and then moving to a much more cloud-based or SaaS based approach for technology. Is that the direction of travel for iMeta?
JP: Absolutely. Historically we’ve served a lot of companies who are focused on-prem and there are reasons why organizations still feel that’s the right solution, but we’re seeing that more and more of our customers are starting to adopt cloud and fundamentally rethinking how they procure and operate core systems. It is absolutely key for us to be able to work in those environments and to be able to take advantage of new capabilities which would never be possible on-prem. We want to make it easy for people to integrate with us but also to be able to offer novel features by leveraging the cloud ecosystem ourselves.
We can sit here and talk about iMeta and technology through the lens of pure tech, but I guess what’s important for people that maybe reading this article is the application of technology. So, iMeta is focused on three key outcomes: standardisation, customer experience and front office empowerment.
SV: Can you talk about how the technology is applied to solving some of that?
JP: Customer experience related technology was one of the first because in some ways it’s the most important. As I said before, customers are wanting to engage in different ways and it’s often an asynchronous process being onboarded. If you initiate a conversation with a financial institution and you provide various pieces of information, then at a later date you are asked for some more information, that can be quite disruptive to your customer. Again, it’s about looking at all the different channels we can use when we need to reach out for more information. That experience is something we want to support and embrace. A lot of that is through providing integrations into systems that help support that.
SV: Where do you think the industry is going and what does the landscape look like in five years’ time? Is it radically different or is it an evolution of where we are today from a technology point of view?
JP: I believe it’s going to be evolutionary, but I think it’s going to be so in a good way. I think you’ll probably see a lot more innovation in the data sourcing space which will ultimately help drive STP. Then you have the new wave of data analytics that are becoming ubiquitous and helping drive operational efficiencies and improve governance decision making. I’m not talking about vanity dashboards here, but rich, forward looking insights that span the value chain. There’s inevitably going to be more elements of AI within the process as the industry becomes more comfortable with it. For example, we are already relying on AI in the business software we use every day, whether it’s augmenting user interfaces and experiences or generating insights. I expect we will see similar adoption across the industry, perhaps even in elements of risk assessment itself. Although, we do need to be careful with that.
SV: Why the concern?
JP: It’s very easy to build a machine learning model that gives you an answer to a question, but you really need to understand what the model is telling you and consider the implications. You need to be aware of the potential for unintentional biases in AI, which may go undetected and are not healthy at all. We should be conscious and aware of this, especially in this industry where we are making decisions that could have significant impact on individuals and society as a whole. The field of explainable and auditable AI is evolving at an extremely fast pace and is definitely one to keep an eye on.