Fintech makes the world go around

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October 19, 2018  12:12 PM

The fintech interview: Part 6 Rebuilding Society

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

In the sixth interview in this series I speak to Rebuilding Society, a fintech operating in the peer to peer lending sector.

It is a great example of how fintechs can offer customers a better deal and have different revenue streams in tech and financial services. It is also a good example of some of the stuff going on outside London.

Leeds based Rebuildings Society was set up by Dan Rajkumar in 2012, on the back of the success of companies like Zopa.

The peer to peer lending platform generates loans for SMEs, and being a tech firm it makes also money selling tech to organisations setting up peer to peer lending services.

Being a small company that can respond to customer needs it offers a fairer service, according to Rajkumar. He said borrowers get a better deal. “When you are a business and you borrow from a bank that agreement is with the bank and it can call it in at any time. They also take quite a high margin with low savings rates,” explained Rajkumar.  “I created Rebuilding Society to give everyone a better deal.”

Rajkumar graduated with a degree in computing management from Leeds University in 2002. He has that mix of tech and entrepreneurial skills so important in the fintech space. “I have always had an interest in computing and I started a small company which helped businesses trade in different languages, known as Web Translations.”

He moved into the fintech industry about six years ago and took an interest in peer to peer lenders like Zopa. Soon after Rebuilding Society was born.

The platform itself relays all the payments from the borrowers to the lenders with all the interest is paid to the lenders. “Everyone gets a better deal. Essentially it’s like a building society but online,” said Rajkumar. Rebuilding Society takes an arrangement fee from the business taking the loan as well as some other administration fees.

It took the company about nine months to have the first version of the platform on the market and about another six months “to get momentum” said Rajkumar.

There are currently 14 members of staff, but the company also uses software developers in Eastern Europe, Central America and the Philippines.

About.250 businesses have so far borrowed through Rebuilding society since 2013 when it started lending. The average loan that goes through the platform is about £75,000 said. Rajkumar said that many of these customers have come back when they need refunding.”

One of the advantages of a company like Rebuildings Society is businesses can borrow form people they want to.  Rather than   just borrow from big banks and see their money channeled through London borrowers can get loans from local businesses or even from their own employees so interest flows to them rather than big banks.

Furthermore lenders can use the ISA investment allowance to receive tax-free interest and tax-free capital gains on funds lent through peer-to-peer lending platforms

When Rebuildings Society made its the first loan in 2013 the peer to peer lending sector was unregulated. In 2014, when it became regulated, companies operating in the sector could operate under a status of regulatory approval pending full approval. Rebuidlings Society got FCA approval to be a peer to peer lender, or Network Principal as the official title is, in 2017.

This opened up new revenue stream for the company. As a Network Principal it could become the platform for other organisations in niche markets looking to offer peer to peer lending in their communities.

“This is very important in niche markets. For example we are working with a Sharia compliant platform at the moment as well as property crowdfunding platform,” said  Rajkumar.

 A spin-off company, White Label Crowdfunding, which licenses the same technology used by Rebuilding Society was created.

Today more of the company’s profit comes from licensing the technology than through the commission for setting up the loans. “The peer to peer lending sector has become fragmented with businesses focusing on their niche. As a result we see growth coming from partnerships although we do want to grow are direct business.”

He said partnerships include working with organisations targeting specific markets and helping them with technology and compliance.

The company is also working on services that will take advantage of open banking. “We are doing some exciting things around open banking and we are going to apply to become a Payments Institution Service Provider.” This will enable the company to create technology for financial intermediaries that automates the relay of investment funds. This helps intermediaries return funds to investors, brings more transparency and automate banking administration

Rajkumar said the main challenge today facing fintechs like Rebuilding Society is marketing.  “We have to bang the drum a bit more.”

He is not just shouting about Rebuilduing Society but also the fintech sector in the North of England through his directorship of Fintech North, which creates events to bring together fintechs in the region.

Read the previous fintech interviews

The fintech interview: Part 5 Honcho

The fintech interview: Part 4 Akoni

The fintech interview: Part 3 Wrisk

The fintech interview: Part 2 CreditLadder

The fintech interview: Part 1 Taina Technology

 

If you are a fintech and want to feature email me on kflinders@techtarget.com

 

October 17, 2018  7:41 AM

The fintech interview: Part 5 Honcho

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

In this instalment of my fintech interview series meet Honcho, a startup created to take on the price comparison websites in the car insurance market.

This is a case of a startup disrupting the existing disrupters. Price comparison companies were the early tech pioneers in insurance, and have largely replaced traditional insurance brokers. Now they themselves face competition from a new breed of companies known as insurtechs.

Honcho offers a free mobile app which rather than the asking the customer looking for the best deal, they put their requirements into the app and the insurance providers make bids to the customer. Insurers pay £1 to bid and there are three rounds of bidding, with insurers able to see what prices competitors are offering. Makes sense as insurers are usually happy to offer a better deal if you have a better deal on offer.

It all started in Newcastle in August 2014 when the company was formed as YuCo, which was received capital in December 2014 with a mixture of investment from wealthy individuals, business angels and local venture capitalists. Further injections of private capital were made during 2015 by several of the existing shareholders. Then in October 2016, it received more capital and in November it changed its name to Honcho Markets Limited.

I first came in contact with Honcho in December last year when it announced it was trying to raise its next round of capital through a crowdfunding platform, after European Union (EU) funds allocated to support its launch were put on indefinite hold due to Brexit. The company was preparing to launch when the EU funds were put on hold and was left with a £650,000 shortfall. More on this later.

Frank Speight, chief commercial officer at insurtech Honcho, who describes himself as a “late founder” was brought in back in 2015 to add some insurance industry know how to the project. He told me the story.

He was contacted by a headhunter asking him if he knew anyone with expertise in the insurance industry, including a good understanding of the regulatory requirements. “The headhunter was calling on behalf of Honcho and wanted some names of people I might know as I was his only contact in insurance,” said Speight.

Speight asked about the company that wanted the information and was told it was a startup looking to take on the price comparison websites. “When I finished laughing and choking on my cornflakes I asked him to hook me up with them so I could really understand what they were doing so he could advise them who to talk to,” said Speight.

Twenty four hours later he found himself sitting down with the two original founders. “I went in to the room very skeptical, but came out after two hours thinking they may have something.” He asked for 48 hours to have a think about it and went back with his advice on how he thinks the company could succeed. Within a few hours, Speight was offered the job of CEO, which he took.

The original founders were North-East based serial entrepreneur Hossain Rezaei and a former British army soldier, who had an interest in telematics and Internet of Things. “They looked at price comparison websites and thought there must be a better way of doing that,” said Speight.

When Speight met the founders in March 2015 they had already built a version of the app. But while the technology was being developed little had been done to generate potential business, and to meet the regulatory approval that it would inevitably need. Speight said: “When I asked them how many insurance companies have you spoken to and they said none. When I asked if they had FCA approval they said no. And when I asked them when they are going to launch they said June.”

“Over the next four months I began all the conversations with the insurers with the FCA,” said Speight. He had interest from insurers and conceptual agreement from FCA, a marketing plan was in place and then it was time to raise capital.

Former hedge fund boss Gavin Sewell later took over as CEO at Speights behest, with Speight moving to the role of commercial director. “I was too old to be CEO,” he joked

This takes us to November 2017 the point when the plug was pulled on its EU funding. With a £650,000 shortfall the company decided to source through crowdfunding platform CrowdCube, with Investors getting shares in the company. It exceeded its target and has received £850,000 in investments. “We reached our target and had to pull it as we were giving away the equity too cheaply,” said Speight.

On 01 March 2018 Honcho got going again from new offices in Durham, the following month in April 2018 it received formal authorisation from the FCA as an approved intermediary, and in June it became an Associate Member of British Insurance Brokers Association.

It anticipates launching in early 2019, and a Series A funding round towards the end of the first quarter of the year.

Read the previous fintech interviews

The fintech interview: Part 4 Akoni

The fintech interview: Part 3 Wrisk

The fintech interview: Part 2 CreditLadder

The fintech interview: Part 1 Taina Technology

If you are a fintech and want to feature email me on kflinders@techtarget.com


October 16, 2018  7:53 AM

Will CYBG integrate Virgin to its digital platform and is it curtains for Virgin’s digital bank?

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

It will be interesting to see how Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank (CYBG) integrates Virgin Money from an IT perspective now that the £1.7bn takeover has been confirmed.

The acquisition will create the UK’s sixth largest bank and be in a position to take on the biggest high street banks. Its IT will be key to this.

Hugh Chater, managing director of the core bank of Virgin Money, said: “Today marks an historic milestone for CYBG and Virgin Money, creating the first true national competitor to the status quo in UK banking with a clear ambition to provide customers with the best service in the UK.”

CYBG has an interesting IT strategy as I recently discovered after interviewing the CIO, Fraser Ingram. After creating a digital banking platform known as iB, it created its B digital bank. The success of the latter has led it to migrate all its brands to the iB platform. This has given customers of Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks the same functionality.

Ingram told me: “B was the start of that, but now we don’t do things purely for B. We use B to test things quite a lot because it has a more tech-savvy customer base,” he added.  “Anything that Clydesdale and Yorkshire have, B has, but B has some functionality that the other two don’t.”

It was always CYBG’s plan to migrate its traditional banking brands to the iB platform once it was proven through B. So Virgin will be next then?

But this is unlikely to be a Big Bang migration. Another TSB IT disaster is unlikely. Ingram told me that a lot of banks have gone after modernising core banking platforms. “But this is very high risk and does not really give you differentiation. To change the back end of a bank when you have got live customers, you have to be sure that what you get will work and will actually give you a point of differentiation.”

“The differentiation comes in how customers access their information and how the bank and customers use this information.”

I wrote recently about what the takeover could mean for Virgin Money’s planned digital bank, which the company had already invested £38m in. I was told by a source that this would be dropped if CYBG acquired Virgin. CYBG has a digital banking platform, known as iB, and a digital bank known as B. So what would be the point of developing another?


October 12, 2018  8:13 AM

The fintech interview: Part 4 Akoni

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

In my latest fintech interview meet London based Akoni, a company which offers SMEs a platform that provides functionality normally reserved to large corporate treasury departments.

Read how Akoni’s platform links SMEs to banks and automates the process of finding the most appropriate account to keep their capital. It uses an algorithm that works out  what best suits their needs by taking into account when capital is needed as well as the level of risk they want to take.

Despite not having the resources of large corporates SMEs in the finance sector hold millions of pounds on customers money, which they need invest. But while large companies have big treasury management systems, smaller companies rely on a lot of manual processes.

Working as a finance director at a Lloyds insurance broker, which often held up to £50m in client cash, Co-founder and CEO Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, experienced how difficult and time consuming it is for small businesses to find the best place to put cash and then move it.

Meyerowitz Singh said she wanted to offer SMEs the functionality that a large corporate gets from a treasury management system, via an automated and Amazon-like platform.

Insurance brokers, for example, can hold client money for periods ranging from one month to six months. Cash is an asset that needs to be put to work. This means the companies that hold client money need to put it in the highest rate accounts at low risk banks.

Imagine if it all happened automatically through a regulated and trusted platform. That’s what Meyerowitz Singh did. She wondered why there wasn’t Amazon type service to help SMEs find the best banking products for their cash?

But unlike consumers, who can easily plan where to put money and for how long, businesses have complex requirements around when they need cash and how much risk they can take.

“The biggest problem that we had was that we had to go to the banks to find out what they could offer us in terms of interest.” She said staff would have to call around the banks to try and get the best rates. “But because we are a corporate there is more complexity and you have to find all the rates that best suit the liquidity profile.”

“Also we had very specific risk criteria,” she added.

“We would have to gather all the information, and go through the whole process which would take months and then by the time you decide where to put the money there are new offers from the banks.”

Meyerowitz Singh asked around the industry and people said there was nothing to  make this easier for mid-sized companies. “Most companies do nothing because it is too much effort,” she said. It also turned out the banks were of little help and were missing out on business as a result.

“I thought this is ridiculous,” she said.   “If I am a global multi-national and I have a treasurer and a treasury management system I don’t have this problem. But why is it that they can have a solution and because I am an SME I am almost denied a solution?”

A combination of a financial portfolio and an algorithm seemed the answer to manage where to put the money, she decided. She left her job in an insurance broker to start a family and after a few years, in 2014, Meyerowitz Singh decided to set up her own business to create the service she had imagined.

The overriding drivers were; she did no not want to be trapped in the demanding corporate world, and her insistence that there must be a platform for small companies to give them similar capabilities to the treasury management systems.

She was no techie so she teamed up with Panos Savvas , co founder and CTO, who she had studied her MBA with. He had experience in technology as well as banking

“I told him what I was thinking and how it could work from a legal and regulatory perspective and asked whether a platform would work. He said ‘yes I reckon it would.”

They put a prototype together over a few months which was aimed at investors rather than potential customers. This is because investors were Akoni’s first port of call. A third partner, a former CEO of an investment bank, joined soon after and was the first investor. Other investors followed, most of which come from a financial services background.

At the core of the offering is an engine that collects information from various sources and can automatically act on what it finds.

Akoni got a place in Accenture’s Fintech Lab in 2017. The startup accelerator programme put Akoni into the right ecosystem. “This gave us access to the fintech pipeline and raised our profile. It is hard to quantify but it raised our profile before that nobody knew us.”

In 2017 it also had its minimum viable product which was released for user feedback.

Then after updating the product and getting FCA regulatory approval, which took about 4 months, it approached the banks. After about a year it had signed up 17 banks, including its hub bank Barclays.

Akoni’s platform has Barclays as what is known as the hub bank, which holds funds before they are sent by Akoni to the appropriate account at Barclays or one of the other 16 banks.

Akoni does not hold the money it only moves it. Barclays as the hub bank holds it until it is moved. “As a client you are not exposed to Akoni. You are exposed to Barclays.”

Over 600 SMEs are already using the Akoni platform with about £132m in cash going through the platform

There are three parts to the service, all automated. It personalises for customers after collecting information about them such as financial position and risk requirements; it then offers them the products on the market that match their needs; and then transfers the money to the account. The final part is where the FCA approval is needed.

The service does not end when the money is in an account.  As things change in the market customers are automatically prompted if it would be better for them to move the money.

“I liken it to Amazon for none financial services people,” said Meyerowitz Singh. “The first to me you log into Amazon it asks you a bit about yourself and gathers more information as you use the platform and public sources, then as your circumstances change like having a baby it offers you different products, and finally although it does not make the products it delivers them to your door.”

These steps are at the core off our proposition but because we are not delivering videos or broomsticks the way we deliver it is highly regulated. To this end the company is split in two with one part, Akoni Hub, FCA regulated. This has 17 banking partners as partners and offers about 250 financial products. Customers go in chose their products from Akoni’s banking partners and create a portfolio which Akoni delivers it.

Akoni also does the anti-money laundering checks and the customer onboarding process.

Akoni has another business as a tech platform supplier. It sells its product on a white label bases to banks and other financial services companies who sell it on to their own SME customers. This is a business the company is not yet pushing aggressively but will step up activity next year

Akoni has a tech team based in London and gets tech work from an outsourcing service provider in Macedonia.

Read the previous fintech interviews

The fintech interview: Part 1 Taina Technology

The fintech interview: Part 2 CreditLadder

The fintech interview: Part 3 Wrisk

 If you want to feature email me on kflinders@techtarget.com

 

 


October 11, 2018  7:37 AM

Is Indian tech sector a threat or opportunity to UK’s fintech sector?

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

The lord mayor of London is in India scoping out opportunities for the London fintech sector to develop relationships and trade links with Indian companies.

Lord mayor Charles Bowman is meeting government and industry leaders during the visit. He is with a delegation of UK fintechs.

Bowman said: “India is an important priority market for us. Travelling with me on this visit are some of the best and brightest fintech firms the UK has to offer, and I can’t wait to see them fly the flag for UK industry.”

Maybe by working in partnership with India fintechs in the UK can share in the inevitable growth that will come in India? London wants to be a leading location for fintech but India will expand much quicker. Look what happened in IT services. Large western IT services companies, apart from a couple, have been overtaken by the large Indian players. And it is not just about cheap labour these days but high level tech and business expertise. Of course lower wages is an added bonus.

Indian cities today are a hive of business and tech activity with the world’s biggest corporations rubbing shoulders and sharing ideas with tech startups. Cities like Bangalore today have real estate prices that are a fraction of that in places like New York.

The financial services know-how of London could be attractive to Indian fintechs looking to expand. Tech and financial services expertise combined. But the UK is not alone courting India.

Peter Schumacher, CEO of the Value Leadership Group, which specialises in advising companies on setting up operations in India, said India is a sophisticated tech supply location for many.

“The fintech scene in India is not the same labour arbitrage play as the IT services sector. The whole ecosystem in India has become much more sophisticated in just a few years – in many ways, India is now an extension of Silicon Valley with all the power that comes with this – it is a very formidable part of the global software industry that should not to be underestimated.”

He warned London to move quickly. “Singapore has already started a similar charm offensive. Everyone wants to plug into the Indian start-up ecosystem for obvious reasons – access to a huge market and virtually unlimited, low-cost talent.”

“India remains a blank canvas. The opportunity to develop without the need to disrupt well-capitalised, deeply entrenched fintech players gives Indian companies vast opportunities for growth in the long run – and the potential for high valuations in the near future. Whether they soar and become global powerhouses or they are acquired by Western companies (along the lines of Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart), the future of the best of these companies is bright.”


October 9, 2018  8:20 AM

IT professionals losing faith in direction IT is going at banks

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

Last week I featured the views of a software development expert on why UK banks seem to have more software glitches than banks in other regions.

This followed a string of outages at UK banks of late with the biggest being to huge problems experienced by TSB following the migration of its core banking system to a new platform. But in the last couple of weeks customers of TSB, HSBC, Barclays, RBS and NatWest have all suffered problems connecting to digital services.

In the blog post Lev Lesokhin, senior vice president strategy & analytics at CAST, was scathing of UK software development practices.  He said Cast research has consistently shown the UK scores the lowest on all factors used to measure code and software health.

He even described some UK practices as “code-slinging cowboy DevOps.”

I received an email from an IT professional within the banking sector who agreed. He even said he is losing faith with the direction IT has take. This is worrying with IT today playing an even more central role in banking.

This is what he said. “I agree with [Lev Lesokhin’s]  comments – that’s what I’ve seen emerge over the last 20 years. “

He added that an increase in outsourcing and in particular offshoring has a part to play in the problems. “I also witnessed the brain drain out of the UK as offshoring took hold as well as the brain drain from firms as outsourcing grew. So a lot of the know-how that should have stayed in the banks and in the UK now sits within 3rd parties offshore. A self -inflicted injury in the ongoing quest for profits over social responsibility. Now it seems the legacy impact of that strategy is manifesting itself through increasing failures and extended fix times.

I’ve lost faith in the direction IT has taken. Total IT meltdown in the foreseeable future would not surprise me at all.”

How will fintech effect t or change this?

Please share your views.

 


October 5, 2018  7:25 AM

The fintech interview: Part 3 Wrisk

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

This is part three of a series of interviews with finetch firms to shed some light on the kind of digital services available to enterprise IT directors via this growing sector.

This interview is with Wrisk, a company which falls within the insurtech part of the fintech sector. It provides flexible insurance to suit peoples’ lives with the customer considerations at its heart and all delivered through the latest digital tech.

I have written about Wrisk before as it has already announced a big enterprise customer in the form of BMW in the UK. The German car maker’s UK arm is using Wrisk to offer insurance policies to customers of BMWs and Minis when they buy through its UK dealers.

Wrisks insurance industry backer is Munich Re which provides the insurance finance.

I spoke to co-founders Darius Kumana and Niall Barton about the origins of the company and what the future might bring.

Kumana was a tech consultant with experience in multiple industries. He had done roles in a diverse range of companies looking to disrupt their sectors through digital technology and new business models.

But it was when he was working in the insurance sector that he had a moment of clarity. “When I was eventually dropped into insurance it was a bit like being in my grandmother’s attic. My eyes lit up and I thought as there was clearly so much opportunity for [tech disruption],” he said.

He also realised if he was going to achieve what he thought was possible in the sector he would have to be inside it so he joined a specialist insurer as head of digital.

“I took the company on a bit of a transformational journey, but what I quickly noticed was that changing the technology in isolation wasn’t enough.” He said you would hit inertia partly as a result of culture, legacy and a general reluctance to try anything new.

“So if I wanted to make real change I realised I couldn’t do it as a consultant and couldn’t do it as part of a big company,” he said.

That is when he realised he would have to go it alone or at least find like minds. That he did at an insurtech dinner at the end of 2015 when he met Niall Barton, an insurance industry veteran, and the idea of Wrisk was born soon after.

The company’s first prototype, in sketch form, was ready a few days after the idea.

Barton said the company was a result of the combination of the founders’ deep insurance and tech experience.

“Insurtech is a very complex part of fintech because you are selling a product on trust which is highly regulated,” he said.

They hired a company called Adaptive Labs to run a two week sprint to see if the idea could work. “I needed to know if this really made sense,” said Barton.

When they realised it did they shared a sole desk and drummed up some early investment from friends to enable them to put together some early prototypes.

Barton said to build the product was more complex than they originally imagined, with over £5m raised and a product built even before it has launched.

Although the company targets insurance companies with its service it was designed with the consumer of the insurance in mind. To that end the early days they spoke to consumers about what they didn’t like about insurance products. Kumana said: “You would get all manner of emotion and insight going right across the value chain. Including the buying process, the claims process and the fulfilment process”

He said that as a result it was very hard to know where to start. But there were some recurring themes such as customer confusion about how insurance products are priced. “Customers did not always have reason to believe in the pricing, so we wanted to do something about that through transparency.”

Another bone of contention consumers among was the fact that the whole insurance industry was set up in silos so as an individual you end up having lots of different policies for different insurance. Car, buildings, home, and gadget insurance etc. Kumana and Barton believed in the concept of the insurance being linked to the person.

“These ideas we had early on but quite naively because bringing things like this to reality in a regulated industry is really very hard,” said Kumana.

But he said the concept of tying insurance to the person has been the “the North Star” of everything the company has done.

Wrisk, which now has 38 full-time staff, began recruiting people in the Spring of 2016, only a few months after the concept was hatched. Kumana said initially people would be writing code for Wrisk after their day jobs. “We used people that thought the idea was good and believed in it.”

Barton said it is important to note that Wrisk thought about customers of insurance first before approaching the insurance industry.

But eventually Wrisk spoke to Munich Re, which became the main backer. “Munich Re had no channel conflicts, wanted to push change, is international, said they liked our products and then agreed to back us in the UK, Europe and the US.”

“This was our hyperventilation moment number one,” he added. This was the late summer of 2016.

Barton said this is when the hard work started: building the solution, working our distribution and then getting regulated.

“There are a whole load of considerations that most people in the tech space are not used to,” said Kumana.

Wrisk was chosen by BMW UK in 2016 to be part of its Innovation Lab, where it helps startups understand business opportunities.

Kumara said the company was interested to find out more about the car insurance space but did not know at the time that BMW was looking for a partner to take its insurance offering into the digital age. By the end of the programme they had an agreement with BMW UK. Today all new insurance sold by BMW UK with cars goes through Wrisk. It replaced insurance giant Allianz on that particular deal.

Wrisk is now working with BMW in the US as part of its Innovation Lab.

Wrisk’s main focus is on working with large enterprises that want a different way to engage with their customers. BMW is its first such corporate customer in this B2B2C model

Wrisk is also available through the Apple App Store for content insurance.

Read previous fintech interviews here:

The fintech interview: Part 1 Taina Technology

The fintech interview: Part 2 CreditLadder


October 3, 2018  2:39 PM

Blockchain found at bottom of scraped government barrel

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

It’s funny how some in government don’t like the views of experts if it risks dismantling their plans to take the UK out of the EU, but are happy to indulge in their lack of expertise to propose technology solutions to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

It was only a matter of time until blockchain was mentioned by the government as a solution to the problem of avoiding a hard border between two jurisdictions that will no longer have free movement of goods and people.

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the guilty party. “I don’t claim to be an expert on it but the most obvious technology is blockchain,” Hammond said. That is okay then as he is not an expert.

I had to write this as it seems blockchain is the answer to everything these days, but so far is only really used as the ledger that underpins the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. There are lots pf pilots of the technology being done and I am certain blockchain will eventually become mainstream, but to hear a senior minister suggest it as a solution to the Irish border means we have reached a new level in the Gartner hype cycle.

Almost every meeting I have these days, with a technology executive or a supplier, ends up with a blockchain solution to something.

I hardly understand it myself and I write about enterprise technology. It is very complicated to understand how it works for non techies and even more difficult to find a place for it in business or government.

What is probably more disturbing is Hammond’s comments are clear evidence that the government has got no closer to finding a technological solution to the Irish border problem.

Hold on for an announcement next week that Facebook is the solution.

 


October 3, 2018  1:49 PM

Why do UK banks suffer more software failures than those in other countries?

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

The massive TSB banking outage recently is just one of many. It was the biggest for a while as you have to go back to 2012 for an outage of this magnitude when Royal Bank of Scotland’s CA-7 batch process scheduler froze locking customers out of accounts for weeks.

But outages happen all the time although they usually last hours. For example in the last couple of weeks customers of TSB, HSBC, Barclays, RBS and NatWest suffered problems connecting to digital services.

So I asked a contact of mine why UK banks have so many problems. I am familiar with the problems caused by legacy banking systems and the speed at which banks are trying to introduce digital services, but I thought Lev Lesokhin senior vice president strategy & analytics at CAST, which tests software quality, might be able to shed some light on the bad reputation of UK banks in terms of software outages.

He said Cast research has consistently shown the UK scores the lowest on all factors used to measure code and software health. “The UK is behind the rest of Europe, the US and India in particular when it comes to the robustness, the transferability and the performance of the code.  We have observed that the UK’s score is low compared to other countries when it comes to the changeability of the code. This means it is more difficult to change prevalent legacy software and modernise it to meet current standard,” he said.

He described some UK practices as “code-slinging cowboy DevOps” which he claims disregards global industry standards. “This sheds some light as to why UK banks have such frequent IT glitches. However, it is only part of the explanation,” he added.

“The banking sector is particularly affected by glitches because of the amount of legacy systems. Banks have software piling on top of software, and the UK lacks the Software Intelligence to control their structural quality and the IT talent to fix them.”

He said outsourcing is partly to blame. “What differentiates the UK is that it has had the most active approach to outsourcing and offshoring software development. Every time you outsource, you lose some of your institutional understanding of how the software is architected and how it works. Now UK is in an insourcing trend, which will again erode that institutional knowledge.”

Strong words from Lev. But what do you think?


October 2, 2018  8:14 AM

UK Blockchain startups, who are you?

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

It seems fintech and technologies like Blockchain are being shaped as industries that might help the UK economy after the UK leaves the EU.

Listening to Margot James, minister for digital and the creative industries, speaking at the recent Blockchain Live event in London it was clear that governments interest in Blockchain is not so much its ability to make departments more efficient, but that it could become a key industry for the UK.

Which of course is a good thing. According to Gartner the business value-add of blockchain will grow to more than $176bn by 2025, and then it will exceed $3.1trn by 2030. Yes forget billions and think trillions.

You can almost hear a call in the corridors of power: “Don’t worry Blockchain will save us.”

She did mention how government departments have run pilots of Blockchain, but the passion in the talk was all about the opportunity to grow an industry around expertise around Blockchain and other technologies.

The government looks set to throw money at it and create the right regulatory and skills environment for fintech development, and of course Blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLTs).

This is good news for companies in the Blockchain space but will it make up for the loss of EU membership, I am not sure. How big could the UK be in Blockchain and is it not better to be a Blockchain leader within the EU?

The reason I am writing this post is for feedback. I am no expert in the technology but as it moves towards the enterprise space I am attempting to understand where it fits.

According to Dean Demellweek digital innovation strategists at BNP Paribas speaking at Blockchain Live in London: “Enterprise Blockchain will help us cross the chasm from early adopters and visionaries to pragmatists in business as we need to show them that Blockchain will have real impact on their business.”

I would like to hear from UK Blockchain companies about what they are doing and how are they approaching enterprise customers?

I am also interested in what these companies think the UK government should do to help the industry.

I also want to know more about other DLTs as all I ever hear about is Blockchain.

So please email me on kflinders@techtarget.com and let me know.


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