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How AI is transforming the financial services industry

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By Ibrahim Youssry – Regional General Manager, North, West, East, Central Africa, Levant & Pakistan, Microsoft

 

Digital transformation is remaking the world around us, and artificial intelligence (AI) is a frontrunner. No industry will be left untouched by this digital journey, but one sector that is seeing the fastest and most fundamental effects is the financial services industry (FSI).

 

FSI players are geared to be dramatically disrupted by the power of AI – both internally (in the ways they operate) and externally (in terms of dealing with clients and customers).

 

A 2018 report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) on The New Physics of Financial Services unpacks this phenomenon at length, but one high-level take-away is that the AI changes here cannot be overstated. The long-term impacts of AI are radical and transformative, putting the FSI ecosystem into a period of reorganisation.

 

Competition from the underdogs

FSI has traditionally been dominated by large and established corporations, often with extensive heritage and market dominance. Through this, many FSI companies have enjoyed relatively low competition for customers, and have been slow to innovate and change ‘with the times’. Enter the leveling power of the cloud, accessible analytics and machine learning, and we see how a scrappy, determined fintech startup can disrupt a whole market or sector.

 

Many of these startups offer alternatives for banking, payments, transfers, payroll, credit, and other financial services. These digital-first businesses are highly agile, and are creating a whole new customer base that was underserved by established FSI companies – putting the pressure on older firms.

 

As a result, many FSIs have started embracing cloud technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their own agility, their array of service offerings, and their customer experiences. Recent studies suggest that approximately 40 percent of African banking customers prefer to use digital channels for transactions over branch channels.

 

Added competition is good for the entire industry, and customers will benefit from new and improved technologies that change the way the industry interacts with them and meets their expectations.

 

AI at the core of digital transformation

But just what form do these advances take? AI lies at the heart of things like chatbots, advanced customer credit assessment, relationship management, security, anti-money laundering and fraud detection.

 

Chatbots draw from big data and machine learning to respond to customer queries and concerns. They can streamline customer support on routine services like banking transactions, and make product recommendations. This is customer-facing AI that helps FSI companies be ever-present for their clients, while reducing the resources required to do so.

 

For fraud detection, AI-powered technology enables computers to mimic, extend and amplify the thought process of a human analyst, at a pace and scale unmatched by humans. It can review trillions of transactions in every possible portfolio in the organisation. Because of this, banks, fintechs and payment facilitators are able to detect or be alerted to potential fraud – receiving fast, efficient and accurate alerts of the likelihood of an individual’s card or account being compromised, for example.

 

Foresight beats hindsight

AI and analytics can draw inference from vast stores of data and spot trends that are often beyond the possible scope of human sight, driving insight to analysts, investors and the like. AI is also able to evaluate an organisation’s public remarks and documents, bundle that up with sentiment analysis, and cross-correlate this with historical data to predict the performance of upcoming stocks, in literal split seconds.

 

These functions provide agility and resilience in an increasingly risky global market. In short, they inject a new level of intelligence into our organisations. Pairing this with our unique human capabilities of relationship management and creativity, and we unlock huge potential for our FSI companies.

 

Safe as houses, and more democratic

Through Microsoft’s security solutions (in which we have invested more than $1 billion year-on-year), we are working with FSI organisations to improve their security standards globally. Solutions such as the Customer Lockbox for Microsoft Azure, for example, assists customers with controlling and auditing support engineers’ access to compute workloads on Azure that may contain data while resolving the support issue.

 

These solutions have a proven success record, evidenced by our work with Interswitch, a payments and fintech innovator in Africa. Through partnering with large banks and corporates in Nigeria, Interswitch has been able to build a bank-guarantee service on Azure that extends the reach of banking systems to non-traditional players, corporate suppliers and borrowers – allowing them to manage their supply chain financing under objective terms and transparency.

 

Within the next decade, Africa’s objective is to ensure that the next 100 million Africans are financially included. AI has the potential to achieve this. As AI adoption increases, we’re constantly thinking about how we can help institutions make the transition to modern innovations, while still taking advantage of legacy investments.

 

 

 

Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University.

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Helpful International Travel Tips for First-Time Travelers

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By Adeniyi Ogunfowoke,

You’re excited, obviously because you’re about to head off for your first international trip, and it’s an amazing feeling. It’s also a daunting feeling. How will you cope? How much money will you spend trying to deal with it? It’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes the first time you travel. Regardless, you can limit these mistakes by following these helpful international travel tips especially if it is your first time.

Get your passport in advance

This is the most important of all tips for first-time international travellers. Avoid unnecessary stress by applying for a passport well before your expected departure date. Don’t book a flight or make any arrangements that can’t be changed until you have a passport in your hand. Some international flights require that you enter your passport number when booking or during online check-in, so it’s best to just have it first before you start booking anything.

Ensure you have access to your money

Gone are the days when you need to carry cash or travellers’ cheques to travel overseas. Now, thanks to the internet, it’s much easier to manage and access money while travelling all over the world. Check with your bank to see if you need to set up a travel alert while you’re abroad so your bank knows when and where you’re travelling. You can also inquire about international fees, and whether they have partner banks in the destination that will help you save money on costly foreign transaction ATM fees. Overall, ensure that you have access to your money.

Book everything in advance

How advance should you book everything? Some experts say that booking airfare between 56-62 days before the departure date is the best way to get a good deal. No matter what, the best time to book is whenever you have the money and are ready to commit to your first international trip. However, as earlier stated, ensure that your documents are ready before booking your flight. Notwithstanding, when you are ready to travel, you can visit Jumia’s hotel and flight marketplace to book your flight. You will get the best available rate.

Give yourself ample time to get over jet lag

As you start booking your first international trip, you may want to pack it all in by planning to visit as many destinations as possible immediately you arrive. This is an action that will leave you stressed. The best advice is to slow down, at least for the first day or two, to recover from jetlag.

Research events going on while you’re there

This will help you make sure that you’re not missing the best events going on in the city — fun things like festivals and ceremonies. Also, be sure to research some of their best cuisines. You don’t want to leave the country without experiencing it.

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Court Dismisses Suit on Sale of 9mobile

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A Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday dismissed a suit filed by Spectrum Wireless Communications Limited against Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), owners of 9mobile, challenging the sale of the company.

 

The court, presided over by Justice CJ Aneke, in a ruling on the preliminary objections filed by counsel to EMTS, upheld that the defendant’s prayers in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/153/2018 that there was no direct shareholding relationship between Spectrum Wireless and EMTS, thereby vesting on Spectrum the right to sue EMTS to protect its alleged shareholding in

 

The court also upheld the defendant’s position that there was no privity of contract between EMTS and Spectrum as Spectrum was not a shareholder in EMTS and could not be said to have been directly affected by the actions of its shareholders – Mubadala Holdings Cyprus Ltd, Myacynth and Etisalat International Nigeria Ltd.

 

The court further upheld the defendant’s position that if at Spectrum had a right of action, its action should be against PTHNV, the company it originally invested in and not EMTS.

 

The court, therefore, upheld the submission of counsel to EMTS that not being a shareholder of EMTS, Spectrum lacked the locus standi to bring the suit against EMTS on the basis of any decision taken by the shareholders of EMTS.

 

The court, therefore, upheld the defendant’s prayers saying that Spectrum lacked the locus standi to sue, adding that the concept of “indirect shareholding/economic interest” claimed by Spectrum was unknown to Nigerian law, which only recognized members of a company as those named in its Register of Members.

 

Justice Aneke also held that Spectrum is not a party to the credit facilities which it claimed were unlawfully obtained, and its elementary law that only parties to a contract can make judicial claims in respect thereof.

 

The court, therefore, dismissed the suit in its entirety.

 

In his reaction to the ruling, Ore Olajide, Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, 9mobile, said “this was victory for democracy, victory for the rule of law in Nigeria, victory for company law, victory for legal practitioners, victory for corporate lawyers, academia and students of law.

 

“9mobile will continue to focus on satisfying our numerous customers and stakeholders who have faith in us and have stayed the course with us”.

 

It is recalled that Spectrum Wireless Communications sued EMTS and 16 other defendants including United Capital Trustees Limited (‘the Lenders’), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the sale of the telco.

 

The company claimed that it acquired indirect holding of 30 per cent of the shares of EMTS after a private placement and was allotted 4,041,096 Class A shares of Premium Telecommunications Holdings NV (“PTHNV”) which owns 99% of the shares in MyaCynth Coperative UA (“MyaCynth”).

 

The plaintiff also claimed that MyaCynth holds 30 per cent of the shares of EMTS BV and EMTS BV, holds 99.9 per cent of the shares of EMTS and that EMTS’ syndicated loan from the 2nd to 4th defendant’s and was granted without the requisite statutory approval of the CBN, and can, therefore, not be enforced through the sale of EMTS’ shares and assets by the 2nd to the 14th defendants.

 

Spectrum also claimed that its investments in EMTS would be lost if 15th to 17th defendants were allowed to effect the sale of EMTS.

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Home Lottery Fetes Winners with Mouth-watering Prizes

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Winners have emerged in the “win-a-home-today”, an initiative of the Home Lottery Limited.

In a well-attended event at De Santos Hotels in Lagos, the audience comprising bettors and would-be bettors, organisers, regulators – Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria, Nigeria Lottery Commission, and Lagos State Lottery Board – and members of the press, witnessed a live electronic raffle draw which saw six winners emerging.

The grand prize of a three-bedroom bungalow was won by Ticket Number 1529564392946 while Two Category A prizes of a 32-inch TV went to Ticket Numbers 1528378751686 and 1533624661389 respectively.

Three Category B prizes of a 1.2KV generator went to Ticket Number 152880223234 and Ticket Number 1528126343860 while a bettor with Ticket Number 1534243547513 completed the list.

Although none of the winners were in the audience, they were called on phone and placed on speaker to the hearing of all present. In an April Fools season, it wasn’t a surprise that skepticism got the better of the winners.

“Are you sure that this is not a prank?” Joy, the star prize winner said when informed of her winning entry.

However, Oladayo Oyelaja, the project lead of Dreamview Enterprises a partner of Home Lottery Limited, doused her fears.

“You are on phone with a live audience and they are interested in knowing you are real and the winner of the house,” he said.

“It is not a Fool’s Day prank. Congratulations.”

Now in a joyous mood, albeit with a little doubt, the lucky winner continued: “I bought the ticket last year and have even forgotten about it. You have to send me a mail and until the key of the house is handed over to me I won’t believe you.”

But Nkiru Onusili, a deputy director and coordinator of National Lottery Regulatory Commission, was full of conviction.

“You know that anything lottery requires transparency so the commission went for inspection to ensure everything was in place. And today we came to witness the event and so far, so good. We are quite impressed. The process was free and fair,” she said.

“But our work won’t end here. We shall go further to ensure that the winners get their prizes.

“After that, we have what we call winners’ verification. It is a follow-up exercise. After presenting the house and other gift items to the winners, we make sure the organisers don’t go and take back from them.”

Home Lottery Limited offers Lagosians the opportunity to own a home in a most accessible and affordable way by providing hundreds of homes annually through a credible, sustainable and trusted lottery scheme properties in Lagos developing to all over Nigeria.

The presentation of the prizes won takes place on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at Home Lottery Limited’s corporate head office, Block 113,plot 32A, Jay Jay Oladimeji street off Freedom Way Ikate roundabout Lekki Phase 1.

The next draw comes up in July 2019. To participate, send an SMS ‘home’ to 718 on an MTN network only.

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