Organisations with an agile, flexible approach to doing business and who use the smartest technology and cloud-based solutions are the ones who are best placed to come out of the pandemic fighting fit.
One such organisation is financial Transaction Lifecycle Management and digital strategies company SmartStream. Already the talk of multiple towns for its clever use of artificial intelligence and the streamlined way it approaches transaction management, the London-headquartered firm’s services are deployed by 70 of the world’s top 100 banks.
More than just another player in the FinTech space, SmartStream has already emerged as an industry leader in the locked down, home-working new world we find ourselves in. The reason for this is attributable (and not just to this journalist) to the company’s focus on innovation not just as a buzz word, but as a department within the company whose raison d’être is to develop products that will make its customers’ transactions processing needs smoother and simpler. And while, pre-COVID-19, these products seemed best suited for a future where clients realised how much we needed these solutions, the need for SmartStream’s solutions and services has never been more vital.
Speaking to Private Banker International from his offices in New York, chief marketing officer Mark Roth hastens to add that while he absolutely agrees that the need for this tech is more pressing than ever, it’s not a cheap ploy to take advantage of the current vulnerable position the world finds itself in.
“The fact that so many new customers have approached us during the pandemic is telling,” he says, albeit with a hint of modesty. “This isn’t us repositioning, it’s just that we’re really, really good on the type of technology that people have now realised that they need to survive this.”
Chipping in from his office in Dubai, SmartStream CEO Haytham Kaddoura agrees: “The coronavirus caught everyone by surprise and all of a sudden, all everyone was talking about is how to adapt to change. It is a harsh reality, but COVID-19 has given us a sanity check on what we need to be prepared. No one envisaged this. Everyone was caught out in the cold.”
So, what can we do, now we’re out in the cold? They key, says Roth, is to make sure you learn the lessons the pandemic has offered, and truly begin future-proofing.
“The smart money is on using this to work wiser,” he explains. “So many organisations have been putting off the digital transformation they so desperately need.”
Kaddoura agrees: “This new reality for financial institutions and even other companies will drive managed services. Corporations that were hesitating about moving services to the Cloud will now have no choice. They will plan so that if this happens again, they won’t need to go through the same learning curve.”
So, where does SmartStream come in?
“We use artificial intelligence in different, smarter ways,” explains Roth. “We use artificial intelligence reconciliations in services for managed service plans, which no one else on the market is doing. Instead of just throwing more people and man hours at problems, we are actually seeing through the tech flow where the issues and disconnects are. It means we get more accurate data faster and we can respond more quickly once we have it.
“Exactly,” echoes Kaddoura, “and this is incredibly important now, because we literally have less people at work, less money to pay staff because of the crisis. So moving to artificial intelligence and cloud-based solutions is just a no-brainer at this point.”
While both CEO and CMO might sound incredibly confident, it’s with good reason: SmartStream has a successful, dedicated innovations department – the Innovations Lab – where the brains are charged with continually coming up with new products, new solutions and new applications for old solutions.
“Our innovation centre in Austria is more active than ever,” Kaddoura points out. “Clients are becoming much more proactive in fixing problems and are working more closely with us now in the development phase. For banks, this is because they are having to handle their usual volume of business under new circumstances. That pushes creativity and innovation.
“So, financial institutions need more exceptions processing and that is where AI comes in,” he continues. “With artificial intelligence in managed services, for instance, we are doing a lot to build efficiencies for our clients.
“Banks will need more Cloud offerings – our products such as AI Reconciliation (AIR) and our collateral management solutions, which is very important right now. As businesses close, the value of collateral becomes very important. Our digital payments solution launched last year and it is picking up a lot of interest. Our fees and expenses management system is very important now, as the markets are seeing a spike in trading volumes. Then, of course, there is our managed services offering. We just have the right way of working to help in the current climate.”
SmartStream’s AIR v.1.5, the latest release of its AI reconciliations solution, was launched in April of this year, and Kaddoura tells us that the company has plans to launch 2.0 in September, which incorporates even more functionality driven by customer requirements. And rumour has it, there are a few more tricks up the company’s cloud-based, digitally-transformed sleeve.
Kaddoura summarises the situation succinctly: “As a result of this pandemic, we could see another industrial revolution. It would be one that began with a real slap in the face, but it could nevertheless change the way that this and many other industries do business, forever.”