Digitisation and industry collaboration top the agenda at the inaugural SWIFT Business Forum Ireland
SWIFT’s first Business Forum Ireland 2019 gathered 200+ delegates to explore how Irish financial institutions can deliver a truly digital customer experience through a spirit of collaboration, while staying secure against evolving cyber threats.
Opening the day in Dublin, Cate Kemp, Head of UK, Ireland & Nordics at SWIFT noted that the financial industry is in unchartered territory. Customer demands and regulatory innovation are driving competition in the marketplace, while financial crime threats evolve at a tremendous pace – targeting financial institutions by leveraging the same technologies that banks are using to innovate, she said.
The speed of digitisation
In the first panel discussion, the question was posed as to where Ireland is in its digitisation journey. Recie Breen, Head of Customer Innovation at Bank of Ireland noted that Ireland is a little bit behind some other markets, but observed that there are green shoots visible today. Regulatory drivers such as open banking, PSD2 and SEPA Instant Payments are catalysts for Irish banks, forcing innovation, competition and customer-centric solutions.
Gulru Atak, Global Head of Treasury & Trade Solutions Innovation for Citi commented that countries must learn from each other on their digitisation journey and be driven by a focus on customer expectations, where corporate demands are increasingly reflecting consumer demands.
The theme of putting the customer at the heart of innovation was brought up multiple times throughout the day. In order to develop corporate solutions that are fit for purpose, Marco Hughes, Managing Director, Global Head Core Payments at HSBC, said banks should begin by speaking to clients to better understand their pain points.
There are different ways to roll out a product, and Hughes used SWIFT gpi as an example. HSBC had deliberated either launching parts of the solution across all markets at once, or the entire customer journey in one country. The bank decided to start in one country, launching in the UAE in April 2018. At that time they were offering 30 currencies out of Dubai. Having proved the concept and value to clients to help them improve their efficiency, the bank rolled-out the service rapidly and is now live in over 50 countries in 90 currencies, making it one of the largest users of gpi globally.
Transformation through collaboration
Collaboration is becoming the norm in the financial services industry, with many institutions realising the advantages of working with both fintechs and other banks. As Kemp noted earlier in the day, the increased willingness of institutions to collaborate is something that has been observed throughout the SWIFT community.
But what is driving the greater willingness to collaborate? Citi's Atak highlighted how regulatory initiatives such as PSD2 and open banking are reshaping the entire industry. With prices in payments coming down, for example, they are becoming a commodity – leading to banks not only partnering with fintechs but also with each other, in some areas.
In the opening panel, Niall Buckley, Head of Digital Ecosystems at AIB Group said that Irish banks are currently looking to collaborate with each other on a foundational infrastructure in the country, and also with banks from different countries.
Collaboration was also touted as a possible solution to the challenges that remain in the payments landscape. Ad van der Poel, Head of Product Management Global Transaction Services, EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said that incumbents, innovators and regulators should collaborate in order to overcome hurdles around integration, scalability and regulation in order that new solutions become widely accepted.
Brian Hayes, CEO of the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland also observed a shift in how banks view fintechs over the past five years, from worrying about fintechs eating their lunch to the new focus on collaboration. He added that collaboration is crucial and has to be done in a way where all parties win and the consumer receives the biggest benefit.
The cyber threat remains
A popular session in the afternoon of the SWIFT Business Forum Ireland included a live hack, which illustrated the length that cyber criminals will go to compromise financial institutions, as well as how the industry is safeguarding itself against this evolving threat. Stefan Broeder, who works as an ethical hacker for SWIFT’s Red Team, carried out the live hack on stage.
Following Broeder's demonstration, Roy Belchamber, Product Manager, Financial Crime Compliance at SWIFT took to the stage to demo how SWIFT’s Payment Controls service can help its users to fight back against fraudsters.
Brett Lancaster, Head of Customer Security Programme at SWIFT highlighted the severity of the problem facing banks when he cited findings from the World Economic Forum that place cyber-attacks as the third biggest macro threat to the global economy.
Banks need to be prepared to protect themselves in the real-time environment and establish the level of protection that is suitable for their specific institution, said Lancaster. He advised delegates not to click on any links that look suspicious, as this is still one of the most successful tactics for fraudsters. He also advised implementing multi-factor authentication for all key systems.
Technology and talent dually shaping Ireland's financial future
Michael D’Arcy TD, Minister of State at Ireland's Department of Finance closed the day by speaking about the steps the government is taking to ensure the future prosperity of the Irish financial services sector that benefits the whole country.
D'Arcy stated that developments such as AI and blockchain could be as revolutionary to Ireland as the internet has been. He added that the government is making 'disruptive technology' funds available to develop innovation in this area.
Alongside technology, talent was identified by D'Arcy as a key focus for Ireland's future as a global financial hub. He said that education is critical to making this a reality, in terms of both skills and diversity.
The debut SWIFT Business Forum Ireland clearly showcased where the country's financial services industry stands today, the potential it has for growth in the future, and the steps that need to be taken to ensure the success. Industry collaboration and digitisation will play a key role in this journey. Check out the Finextra live blog for a full overview of the debate at SWIFT Business Forum Ireland.