Gururaj Rao, Chief Information Officer, Mahindra Finance

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?

To enable the business of retail and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and provide financial solutions to its rural and semi-urban customers, Mahindra Finance leverages technology effectively. We have a strong base of business systems supported by enterprise platforms, multiple channels, integration with external agencies, and systems for financial reporting and control. Some of the key systems in this portfolio are the loan origination and ma­na­­gement systems for retail and SME lending, business intelligence, business pro­cess management, customer relationship management (CRM), service channels, e-KYC, tele-verification, etc.

In order to accommodate a cashless ecosystem, multiple changes have been made in the architecture/enterprise service bus. Payment channels have been integrated and collection systems have been en­han­ced. We have also spread awareness about digital channels and collection partners among our customers and our em­ployees. A key feature of our systems is the­ir strong offline capability, which enables us to cater to customer requirements even in the remotest part of the country.

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

We consider information security to be a continuous race where organisations try to keep pace with the changing rules of the game. BFSI companies need to be more mindful due to the very nature of the domain. In addition to the traditional layers of security at the network, perimeter and data centre levels, systems based on big data analytics and AI are deployed to monitor and safeguard the information of stakeholders. We are also conscious of the access to information being provided on a need-to-know basis.

“Given the digital footprints generated by retail customers, it is imperative to use big data analytics to mine and analyse data.” Gururaj Rao

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?

Although these technologies are in the initial stages of implementation at present, they will become mainstream in the near future. Given the digital footprints generated by retail customers, it is imperative to use big data analytics to mine and analyse data to provide meaningful business insights. Similarly, reduced time to market and scalability of cloud solutions is a huge benefit for various business initiatives. Blockchain technology is a disruptive concept and use cases are being developed for its adoption. We, at Mahindra Finance, have already developed a solution to put this into production.

What are the key challenges faced while implementing new technologies?

The key challenges faced while implemen­ting technology are:

  • Last mile connectivity constraints at ru­ral and remote locations: Connectivity plays a pivotal role in the success of te­ch­nology solutions. For example, a solution like e-KYC would work only online. Some of the challenges can be tackled by building offline capabilities, but even today, online solutions are a challenge in remote locations.
  • Resistance to change: It is essential to carry customers and employees along while designing changes. People adopt changes if the benefits outweigh the discomforts. This requires communication and training.
  • Technology and vendor risks: Risks of interoperability, skills and support, security, etc. are inherently associated with new technologies.

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

The key technology trends that would affect financial services are AI (including NLP, image recognition, machine learning, etc.), cybersecurity and big data analytics. The advancement in risks and security would also be significant. We would also see the widespread implementation of encryption, biometric and multi-factor authentication, and use of chatbots and digital assistants for customer service. These would significantly impact the way we behave and interact with each other.