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Context-Aware Automation: Learning the what before the how




Automation is here to stay

Over the course of the past decade and across industries, the most aggressive adopters of automation have been banking, financial services, insurance and health care. Document processing, specifically, has been an important focus area for most organizations supported by both regulatory tailwinds — most notably the transition away from Libor — and the business-as-usual disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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IDP solutions that exist today have been able to deliver several tangible benefits primarily across:

  • Efficiency, by replacing thousands of hours of manual effort creating meaningful cost savings;
  • Risk reduction, by eliminating human error to reduce risk in operational processes; and
  • Turnaround, by reducing turnaround times.

Gaps in today’s solutions

Several practical challenges stand in the way of automation’s ability to deliver on its promise. These are:

  • Inconsistency: The processing of documents that do not adhere to a standardized format, such as contracts or reports, cannot be easily automated. This also extends to documents created by third parties, where document form or structure can change with no prior notice.
  • Complexity: Automation also fails to work on complex documents. These include documents with a combination of text, tables and diagrams; documents with a blend of landscape and portrait pages; and documents with multiple languages.
  • Extensibility: Traditional approaches to automation focus on the “how” by recording mouse clicks or keystrokes. This results in the automation process relying primarily on formatting cues to achieve its objectives, without real understanding of the underlying context, limiting the possibilities of extending the automation beyond the original use case. 

Learning the what before the how

Human subject matter experts learn to solve processing problems by taking a “what” approach. They do not start with the task at hand but instead spend time learning the underlying context. Once sufficiently aware of the context, they use format or structure in a document, only insomuch as it allows them to abstract away key information relevant to the completion of the task.

Automation processes can emulate this approach by abstracting and persisting meta-data around previously completed tasks & documents. Knowledge Graphs are one possible means of achieving context abstraction and retention. 

The promise of context-aware intelligent automation

Financial services firms receive tens of thousands of documents every day from vendors, customers and counterparties from diverse data sources across email (inline and attachment content), fax, snail mail, APIs, web and mobile applications.

In many of these instances the format, structure and complexity of the documents vary significantly over time and across sending parties, even though the context remains exactly the same. This is especially true when it comes to free-text-heavy documents, such as contracts or annual reports. It is these documents that test the limit of traditional automation today and which context-aware automation promises to automate. Examples, to name a few, include:

  • Scoring a listed company on the basis of annual reports, sustainability reports, press releases and other documents on ESG metrics;
  • Account openings, loan approvals and claims processing, in situations where information that is present in a form needs to be validated against documentary evidence that has been submitted; and
  • Due diligence of third parties across vendors, acquisition targets, counterparties and customers. 

The path forward

As automation becomes mainstream and business leaders start to focus on automation as a key lever to enhance the top line, rather than a means of cost or risk reduction. The resulting focus from short-term problem solving to long-term value creation will see the development and deployment of context-aware intelligence platforms. Developing these platforms will require patience and capital, and it is quite likely that in the near term they will fail to do substantially better than traditional solutions.

However, in the longer term, these platforms will become integral to the future of work, forming the base for the next generation of knowledge workers to develop, deploy and derive value from versatile and extensible automation solutions.

Prashant Vijay, CEO of Romulus, a document intelligence software provider

A veteran of the financial services industry, Prashant Vijay is currently chief executive at Romulus, which specializes in building software products that automate document-heavy operations in the financial services industry. He has spent more than two decades working at the intersection of technology and data across multiple roles and geographies. His views are informed by his experience in tech and business roles at Goldman Sachs, and his sales and product and business management roles at IHS Markit. 

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Tencent Finance Academy and Hong University of Science and Technology to Support Fintech Education Programs




The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has reportedly committed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Tencent Finance Academy (TFAHK) in order to support local Fintech talent.

By leveraging HKUST’s solid academic foundation in Fintech and Tencent’s extensive industry experience, the MoU will focus on forming a strategic partnership in supporting the development of financial technology solutions. This will be achieved by assisting talented individuals (in Hong Kong) and working cooperatively on education, research and development (R&D) initiatives.

Per the MoU, HKUST and Tencent Finance Academy have agreed to work on various Fintech case studies for tertiary education, with the aim to offer real business solutions. Students can expect to improve their knowledge on Fintech platforms by taking part in this initiative.

HKUST and Tencent Finance Academy will also work cooperatively on creating a curriculum for Fintech, with HKUST leveraging Tencent’s business experience in order to support the development of an innovative talent model.

Other projects reportedly include key internship opportunities for HKUST students, joint Fintech-focused R&D initiatives, guidance on carrying out research and various educational outreach programs to enhance public awareness of the benefits of Fintech solutions.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam stated (during her speech):

“I thank TFAHK for its long-standing commitment to and support for nurturing young fintech talents, and I hope all young people attending the forum today can equip themselves to take part in the integration of fintech development in the GBA. This will provide better career development for themselves and contribute to the development of Hong Kong, the GBA and the nation.”

HKUST President Professor Wei Shyy remarked:

“We have launched our first fintech postgraduate program jointly by Schools of Business and Management, Engineering, and Science. We have also been actively collaborating with multiple banks and other enterprises. Today we are delighted to join hands with Tencent to further our efforts on creating new knowledge and nurturing talent in a context which HKUST can make substantial contributions.”

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London based Napier, Provider of Anti Financial Crime Compliance Tools, to Offer Transaction Screening to ClearBank




London-based Napier, a provider of anti-financial crime compliance solutions, has revealed that it will be offering ClearBank, the Cloud-powered clearing bank, with its Transaction Screening system.

As a purpose-built, tech-enabled clearing bank, ClearBank provides Cloud-based banking services to financial service providers, FCA-regulated companies and Fintech firms.

ClearBank‘s updated Transaction Screening system, developed on Napier’s AI-powered tech stack, will enable ClearBank to identify sanctioned persons and other entities in payments. The system should also help lower the number of false positives and provide accurate alerts on potential risks.

Stuart Morley, CIO at ClearBank, stated:

“As with all financial organisations, it is imperative that ClearBank has a robust sanction screening program in place to support the industry in its constant battle against financial crime. Having gone through a thorough vendor selection process, we are delighted to have now joined forces with Napier, whose next-generation technology and AI-enhanced capabilities are leading the way in AML compliance. We feel this has the potential to become a long-term partnership with the RegTech provider.”

Napier works cooperatively with institutions like ClearBank to offer its AI-powered platform for “intelligent” KYC, AML and trade compliance. The company reports doubling its yearly revenue. Recently, Napier has also been focused on strengthening its senior management team while onboarding new global clients.

Andy Maguire, the former HSBC Group COO and BCG Global Banking Chair, has joined Napier as a Board Advisor. The Regtech firm has also been named as the official anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) tech platform for Australia Post.

Julian Dixon, CEO at Napier, remarked:

“We are honored to be the vendor of choice to help ClearBank supercharge its Transaction Screening. Our technology will help provide its agency and transaction banking services with a faster, smarter way to meet regulatory requirements while driving business efficiency. We are going to be building on this new relationship with ClearBank by partnering on future cutting-edge product development too, so there’s a lot to look forward to that will really raise the bar for the industry as a whole.”

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JPMorgan Is Working with Bahrain’s Central Bank and Bank ABC to Launch Real-Time Cross-Border Payments, May Work on CBDCs Later




The reserve bank of Bahrain is reportedly working with J.P. Morgan (NYSE:JPM) and Bank ABC in order to launch a real-time cross-border payments system (as part of a digital currency settlement pilot program).

Bank ABC and J.P. Morgan will be conducting tests including the transfer of money from and to the Middle Eastern Kingdom of Bahrain in USD or for payments made by buyers to suppliers.

The central bank of Bahrain will be serving as a key partner in the pilot program carried out between the local Bank ABC and J.P. Morgan. It’s expected that this partnership and program will be extending further and may include the development of a central bank digital currency (CBDC).

H.E. Rasheed Al-Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain, stated:

“We at the Central Bank of Bahrain are extremely pleased to announce this collaboration which is in line with our vision and strategy to continually develop and enrich the capabilities extended to the stakeholders within our financial services sector in the Kingdom using emerging technologies. Through this pilot with J.P Morgan and Bank ABC, we aspire to address the inefficiencies and pain-points which exist today in the traditional cross-border payments arena.”

Ali Moosa, Vice Chairman of Wholesale Payments at J.P Morgan, remarked:

“J.P. Morgan ONYX has been setup with the mandate to lead the buildout of next generation clearing and settlement infrastructures and we are delighted to partner with a leading central bank and regulator like the CBB and an innovation-focused partner like Bank ABC to lead the buildout of a next generation payment and settlement infrastructure.”

The rapid advancement of Fintech platforms is allowing companies and businesses across the globe to conduct seamless digital transactions instantly and at very low costs.

As reported recently, DBS teamed up With JPMorgan and Temasek in order to launch blockchain-based cross-border payments.

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Hong Kong based Digital Bank livi Is Offering New BNPL Product with a Mastercard Virtual Debit Card




livi bank, which is notably one of Hong Kong’s eight digital banks, is now offering a Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) service with the introduction of livi PayLater that provides an instant installment option along with a virtual Mastercard debit card.

The livi PayLater BNPL solution comes with automatic installments and flexible repayment periods ranging from 3 to 36 months. The pay-over-time option is available for transactions valued at HKD 100 (and the approved credit limit).

livi’s management noted that clients are able to get approval within seconds with a quick application process and transparent monthly fees.

Clients will receive a handling fee waiver for up to 3 months on livi PayLater transactions. They’ll have the option to pay back their installment spending in full so that they are not charged any extra fees.

By having the virtual livi PayLater Mastercard debit card and being able to add it to their digital wallets, clients are able to make convenient purchases online and at in-store locations as well.

Transactions performed with the card get split into more manageable installments during the repayment period selected by the client, with no additional applications needed.

Clients can then conveniently manage their installment spending via the livi banking app.

Livi bank’s latest announcement has come when the BNPL sector in Southeast Asia has become quite crowded with major competitors such as Grab, GoJek, Razer and Oriente taking part in this new trend.

Carol Hung, Chief Product Officer at livi bank, stated:

“Consumers in Hong Kong are in constant search for smarter, more flexible payment options that meet their daily spending needs. livi’s existing payment products offer great convenience to our customers, but we didn’t stop there. With livi PayLater, our customers not only benefit from one of the most competitive instalment financing offers in Hong Kong, they also have the capacity to gain greater control of their spending and create the financial flexibility to help them to live life to the full.”

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