Aruna Rao, Senior EVP and Group CTO, Kotak Mahindra Bank

The banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) industry has been among the first to leverage information and communications technology (ICT) solutions to digitise operations and streamline processes. Owing to the sensitive and confidential nature of consumer data, data privacy and cybersecurity have become crucial for the efficient functioning of enterprises in the industry. BFSI organisations are stepping up investments to bolster the security of their networks and plug loopholes. Going forward, several emerging technologies such as big data, internet of things (IoT), blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to find widespread application in the industry. IT heads of leading BFSI enterprises discuss their strategies, technology trends and the level of cybersecurity readiness in the industry…

What are the key IT and telecom solutions be­ing deployed by your organisation? How has the development of a cashless ecosystem al­tered your IT requirements?

Launched in March 2017, the digital native, downloadable 811 account, which can be opened within five minutes, is one of Kotak Mahindra Bank’s unique solutions. It also offers a paperless credit card opening facility. By leveraging biometric technology, the entire process has been made paperless and our sales productivity has increased by 60 per cent. Biometric account opening has also been extended to corporate salary accounts and for on-boarding individual current accounts. It is especially designed to facilitate digital transactions in a cashless economy.

What are your views on the cybersecurity readiness of BFSI companies? What solutions have you deployed to ensure customer data security?

Cybersecurity and customer data protection are a priority, given the sustained inc­rease in digital transactions by custo­mers. Often, the customer experience on a digital interface and cybersecurity become co­m­peting alternatives. Ensuring extra authentication by using a second factor, for example, makes the login process lon­ger and adds friction to the experience. This year, the focus has been on finding less intrusive solutions, which can authenticate in the background with less impact on the customer experience.

How has the emergence of big data analytics, cloud, IoT and blockchain technology impacted the BFSI industry? Do you use/plan to deploy these technologies?

There is an explosion of new technologies from analytics to cloud. The goal is to apply and leverage these technologies to deliver business value. One of the technologies that we have leveraged this year is natural language processing (NLP). Keya is the first AI-powered voicebot in the banking sector that has been built using NLP. Developed on a library of millions of phone banking conversations, Keya services customers in English and Hindi and facilitates query resolution in a single interaction.

“As data is the new oil, technologies that can store and analyse data will shape customer interactions in the near future.” Aruna Rao

What are the key challenges faced while implementing new technologies?

Each technology has its own set of challenges. For example, in NLP, a large amount of research on customer behaviour has to precede the actual technology implementation. Also, accents and local dialects have to be factored in.  However, there are also some common challenges that all new technology implementations need to resolve, such as change management for users of the new technology solution, new cybersecurity challenges specific to that technology, etc. Further, each new technology requires specialised skills that need to be developed and nurtured.

What are the key technology trends that will shape the industry in the next few years?

In our country, the India stack technologies provide a lot of infrastructure and facilities like biometric, QR codes, etc. For example, Aadhaar-based authentication facilitates digital account opening and India QR code provides a means for making payme­nts through a mobile device without the need for cash or plastic money (credit cards and debit cards).  Banks and other financial institutions will develop customer solutions by building on this infrastructure.

Also, as data is the new oil, technologies that can store, analyse and predict from the data will shape customer interactions in the near future. Big data platforms to store data, machine language and AI will be used to customise design offers and solutions for individual customers.