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A bank’s ESG record depends on how its technology is built

Source: Finance Derivative

By Tony Coleman, CTO, Temenos

ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) has become mission-critical for banks, from meeting regulatory obligations to aligning with customer values to win market share. 

Many banks have turned to technology to manage their ESG position. But technology is not a panacea. It also presents a risk that banks fall short of their ESG targets. 

Technology that greens

Let’s look at the environmental pillar. Run on-premises or in a private datacentre, technology can be a big consumer of carbon. But deployed with the right infrastructure partners, it can enable banks to reduce their carbon footprint. Cloud is the best example of this. Banks that outsource their computing infrastructure to the public cloud hyperscalers can benefit from their economies of scale and energy efficient build principles. 

The geographical spread and scale of these datacentres allows for carbon-aware computing, which involves shifting compute to times and places where the carbon intensity of the grid results in lower carbon emissions. One study of Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure concluded its datacentres emit 98% less carbon than traditional enterprise IT sites. These hyperscalers have a focussed mindset and the deep pockets to match. The new Graviton3 processors that AWS is now installing in its public datacentres, which claims to use 60% less energy than the standard X86 models that have been in wide circulation, is an example of the progress that only a hyperscaler can achieve.

The green benefits ‘of the cloud’ are enhanced by software purposefully built to run ‘in the cloud’. Software vendors that are committed to decarbonising their solutions in the build phase pass those wins down the supply chain to banks. For example, the latest version of the Temenos Banking Cloud was built with a 12% improvement in carbon efficiency. How the software operates can have an even more profound benefit for banks. For example, banking software that runs ‘scale-to-zero’ protocols will automatically shut down or scale down availability according to demand for its service. This is one factor that has contributed to a 32% carbon efficiency improvement in the run time of the latest Temenos Banking Cloud release.

Collecting this evidence is not simply an internal tracking exercise. Regulations are reaching a point where publishing data against ESG targets will be legally mandated. In Europe the ECB and the Bank of England have launched climate risk stress tests to assess how prepared banks are for dealing with the shocks from climate risk. Meanwhile, initiatives like the UN-convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance (representing over 40% of global banking assets), the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero and ​​the Principles for Responsible Banking add to the clamour for banks to evidence their progress. Tracking ‘Scope 3 emissions’, which includes all indirect emissions that are not owned or controlled by the bank, is the next phase. Recognising this, Temenos has developed a carbon emissions calculator, which gives our customers deeper insight into carbon emissions data associated with their consumption of Temenos Banking Cloud services.

The same concept can be extended to a bank’s customers, with carbon calculators and automated offsetting schemes that help people build towards their personal environmental goals. Doing so brings a bank’s green credentials into the public sphere, turning environmental initiatives into commercial opportunity.

(Box-out)

Flowe, a cloud-enabled digital bank built on green principles, launched in June 2020. It is the first bank in Italy to be certified as a B-Corp and has been able to maintain its overall carbon footprint close to zero, saving 90.81% – 96.06% in MTCO2e emissions compared to the on-premise alternative. Within six months of launch, 600,000 mainly young Italians had become customers, at one point onboarding 19 new customers per second. This rapid launch and growth was only possible with the agility and scalability of cloud. Read more about this story.

Technology that reaches

Cloud also enables financial inclusion, a key tenet of ESG ambitions. Today, anyone with a mobile phone and internet connection can access banking services. With elastic scalability and software automation, banks have an almost limitless capacity to serve more customers. And they might not be where you think; 4.5% of US households (approximately 5.9 million) were “unbanked” in 2021. In the past, banks would have seen them as unprofitable targets. But as cloud and the associated automations cut go-to-market and operational costs, the commercial case for inclusion becomes stronger. 

Embedded finance gives banks another avenue of reach. Via simple APIs, banks can provide their solutions to non-financial businesses. This ready-made audience might otherwise take years to reach through a bank’s own marketing and sale channels. The embedded finance market is set to be worth $183 billion globally in 2027. That can be seen as a proxy of greater financial inclusion. 

AI offers another opportunity to improve financial inclusion. Armed with AI, banks can deliver highly personalised products and experiences for customers. People can be directed to the most appropriate investments, including funds that promote sustainability and loans made with a better understanding of the applicant’s ability to pay it back. ZestAI (previously Zest Finance), a leading provider of AI-powered credit underwriting, claims that banks using its software see a 20%- 30% increase in credit approval rates and a 30-40% reduction in defaults. 

But mismanaged, AI can have a dark side. If the data used to train them has bias, systems will perpetuate these discriminations. This can lead to unequal access to financial services and unjust or irresponsible credit decisions. In a study conducted by UC Berkeley, Latin and African-American borrowers were found to pay 7.9 and 3.6 basis points more in interest for home-purchase and refinance mortgages respectively, representing $765 million in extra interest per year. What’s more, AI algorithms are often complex and difficult to understand, so it is hard for customers to challenge decisions and for regulators to enforce compliance.

ESG by design

So how do banks reconcile the ESG benefits of technology with the risks? The answer is in how the technology is built; or more specifically, in the principle of ESG by design.  

ESG by design is the concept of incorporating environmental, social, and governance factors into new technology and software features from the outset. The desired outcome is that the solution’s architecture, functions and UX enable ESG optimisation. But it is enabled with a commitment that all decisions taken through the design and build phase are judged through the lens of ESG criteria and targets. 

At Temenos, ESG by design is a core principle to how we build technology. Let’s unpick what that means in practice, with some examples.

  • Shift-left is how we systematically embed ESG into our banking software services. It means estimating the potential carbon footprint of a new project from the start, and then working back to mitigate it at every stage. The same goes for usability, compliance, and other factors that impact ESG. Detecting and addressing issues earlier in the development process is more effective than taking remedial actions after the event, which risks both compromising the efficacy of the solution and increasing the cost and time of the development lifecycle. 
  • If there’s a choice to be made, banks should make it. Though ESG goals align with most bank’s commercial aspirations (i.e less carbon equals less cost, more choice and better experiences equals more customers) it is not binary. Banks will have varying appetites of commitment to ESG. Take scale-to-zero, which I referred to earlier. Limiting service availability and adding latency impacts the customer experience and regulatory SLAs, such as payment processing speeds. 

The optimum balance is not a call for us, as the technology vendor, to make. Instead we give banks the parameters and configurabilities to make the choice themself. This higher degree of control encourages banks to (a) use carbon-aware computing solutions, and (b) engage with the technology with more purpose.

  • Use technology to improve technology. Humans are fallible. AI is only as good as the people that program it. Their biases become the system’s biases. But the black box nature of many AI systems means that these biases go unnoticed. At Temenos we embed an explainable component to our AI tools (XAI). It allows us and our banking clients to understand how AI decisions have been made, and in doing so surfaces flaws that can be fixed. We extend this capability to a bank’s customers, allowing them to interrogate and challenge decisions.
  • The complex supply chains in technology makes ESG a collaborative effort. The work we do at Temenos to support banks with their ESG goals would be undermined if our partners didn’t share our same commitment. That means working with hyperscalers and partners in our ecosystem, and opening ourself up to third party validation. We did just that, using an independent carbon calculation platform (GoCodeGreen) to assess our carbon efficiency. I shared the evidence earlier; a 32% carbon efficiency improvement in the run time of the latest Temenos Cloud release, and a 12% improvement in build time. These are the sort of independently verified data points that banks should be asking their technological providers to submit. 

Collaboration also means being honest about what others can do better, and enabling their innovations. The Temenos Exchange has almost 120 vendors that are continually extending and improving our core solutions. These include Bud, an AI capability that drives highly personalised experiences for lending and money management; and Greenomy, that makes it easier for banks to capture sustainability data and report on it.

Conclusion

ESG by design is an holistic approach to all tenets of ESG: energy efficiency, financial inclusion, transparency and accountable governance. By working with technology partners that elevate ESG to a core design principle, banks can recognise a wide range of commercial opportunities and ensure compliance with evolving regulations. That should make ESG a core selection criteria of software vendors. Banks will want to find the evidence that their technology partners are as serious about ESG as they are; and that they have the design and build practices that bring these to life.

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Business

Time is running out: NHS and their digital evolution journey

By Nej Gakenyi, CEO and Founder of GRM Digital

Many businesses have embarked on their digital evolution journey, transforming their technology offerings to upgrade their digital services in an effective and user-friendly way. Whilst this might be very successful for smaller and newer businesses, but for large corporations with long-standing legacy infrastructure, what does this mean? Recently the UK government pledged £6bn of new funding for the NHS, and the impact this funding and investment could have if executed properly, could revolutionise the UK public healthcare sector.

The NHS has always been a leader in terms of technology for medical purposes but where it has fallen down is in the streamlining of patient data, information and needs, which can lead to a breakdown in trust and the faith that the healthcare system is not a robust one. Therefore, the primary objective of additional funding must be to implement advanced data and digital technologies, to improve the digital health of the NHS and the overall health of the UK population, as well as revitalise both management efficiency and working practices.

Providing digital care

Digitalisation falls into two categories when it comes to the NHS – digitising traditionally ‘physical’ services like offering remote appointments and keeping electronic paper records, and a greater reliance on more innovative approaches driven by advances in technology. It is common knowledge that electronic services differ in GP practices across the country; and to have a drastically good or bad experience which is solely dependent on a geographical lottery contradicts the very purpose of offering an overarching healthcare provision to society at large.

By streamlining services and investing in proper infrastructure, a level playing field can be created which is vital when it comes to patients accessing both the care they need and their own personal history of appointments, GP interactions, diagnoses and medications. Through this approach, the NHS focus on creating world-leading care, provision of that care and potentially see waiting lists decrease due to the effective diagnosis and management enabled by slick and efficient technology.

This is especially important when looking at personalisedhealth support and developing a system that enables patients to receive care wherever they are and helps them monitor and manage long-term health conditions independently. This, alongside ensuring that technology and data collection supports improvements in both individual and population-level patient care, can only serve to streamline NHS efforts and create positive outcomes for both the patient and workforce.

Revolutionising patient experiences

A robust level of trust is critical to guaranteeing the success of any business or provision. If technology fails, so does the faith the customer or consumer has in the technology being designed to improve outcomes for them. An individual will always have some semblance of responsibility and ownership over their lives, well-being and health. Still, all of these key pillars can only stand strong when there is infrastructure in place to help drive positive results. Whilst there may be risks of excluding some groups of individuals with a digital-first approach, technology solutions can empower people to take control of their healthcare enabling the patient and NHS to work together. Tandem efforts between humans and technology

Technology must work in tandem with a workforce for it to be effective. This means the NHS workforce must be digitally savvy and have patient-centred care at the front and centre of all operations. Alongside any digital transformation the NHS adopts to improve patient outcomes, comes the need to assess current and future capability and capacity challenges, and build a workforce with the right skills to help shape an NHS that is fit for purpose.

This is just the beginning. With more invtesement and funding being allocated for the NHS this is the starting point, but for NHS decision-makers to ensure real benefits for patients, more still needs to be done. Effective digital evolution holds the key. Once the NHS has fully harnessed the poer of new and evolving technologies to change patient experiences throught the UK, with consistent communication and care, this will set the UK apart and will mark the NHS has a diriving example for accessible, digital healthcare.

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Business

Driving Business Transformation Through AI Adoption – A Roadmap for 2024

Author: Edward Funnekotter, Chief Architect and AI Officer at Solace

From the development of new products and services, to the establishment of competitive advantages, Artificial intelligence (AI) can fundamentally reshape business operations across industries. However, each organisation is unique and as such navigating the complexities of AI, while applying the technology in an efficient and effective way, can be a challenge.

To unlock the transformational potential of AI in 2024 and integrate it into business operations in a seamless and productive way, organisations should seek to follow these five essential steps:

  • Prioritise Data Quality and Quantity

Usefulness of AI models is directly correlated to the quantity and quality of the data used to train them, necessitating effective integration solutions and strong data governance practices. Organisations should seek to implement tools that provide a wealth of clean, accessible and high-quality data that can power quality AI.

Equally, AI systems cannot be effective if an organisation has data silos. These impede the ability for AI to digest meaningful data, and then provide the insights that are needed to drive business transformation. Breaking down data silos needs to be a business priority – with investment in effective data management, and an application of effective data integration solutions.

  • Develop your own unique AI platform

The development of AI applications can be a laborious process, impacting the value that businesses are gaining from them in the immediate term. This can be expedited by platform engineering, which modernises enterprise software delivery to facilitate digital transformation, optimising developer experience and accelerating the ability to deliver customer value for product teams. The use of platform engineering offers developers pre-configured tools, pre-built components and automated infrastructure management, freeing them up to tackle their main objective; building innovative AI solutions faster.

While the development of AI applications that can help streamline infrastructure, automate tasks, and provide pre-built components for developers is the end goal, it’s only possible if the ability to design and develop is there in the first place. Gartner’s prediction that Platform Engineering will come of age in 2024 is a particularly promising update.

  • Put business objectives at the heart of AI adoption – can AI deliver?

Any significant business change needs to be managed strategically, and with a clear indication of the aims and benefits they will bring. While a degree of experimentation is always necessary to drive business growth, these shouldn’t be at the expense of operational efficiency.

Before onboarding AI technologies, look internally at the key challenges that your business is facing and question “how can AI help to address this?” You may wish to enhance the customer experience, streamline internal processes or use AI systems to optimise internal decision-making. Be sure the application of AI is going to help, not hinder you on this journey

Also remember that AI remains in its infancy, and cannot be relied upon as a silver bullet for all operational challenges. Aim to build a sufficient base knowledge of AI capabilities today, and ensure these are contextualised within your own business requirements. This ensures that AI investments aren’t made prematurely, providing an unnecessary cost.

  1. Don’t be limited by legacy systems

Owing to the complex mix of legacy and/or siloed systems that organisations employ, they may be restricted in their ability to use real-time and AI-driven operations to drive business value. For example, IDC found that only 12% of organisations connect customer data across departments.

Amidst the ‘AI data rush’ there will be a greater need for event-driven integration, however, only an enterprise architecture pattern will ensure new and legacy systems are able to work in tandem. Without this, organisations will be prevented from offering seamless, real-time digital experiences, linking events across departments, locations, on-premises systems, IoT devices, in a cloud or even multi-cloud environment.

  • Leverage real-time technology

Keeping up with the real-time demands of AI can pose a challenge for legacy data architectures used by many organisations. Event mesh technology – an approach to distributed networks that enable real-time data sharing and processing – is a proven way of reducing these issues. By applying event-driven architecture (EDA), organisations can unlock the potential of real-time AI, with automated actions and informed decision making using relevant insights and automated actions.

By applying AI in this way, businesses can offer stronger, more personalised experiences – including the delivery of specialised offers, real-time recommendations and tailored support based on customer requirements. An example of this is in predictive maintenance, in which AI is able to analyse and anticipate future problems or business-critical failures, ahead of them affecting operations, and dedicate the correct resources to fix the issue, immediately. By implementing EDA as a ‘central nervous system’ for your data, not only is real-time AI possible, but adding new AI agents becomes significantly easier.

Ultimately, AI adoption needs to be strategic, avoiding chasing trends and focusing instead on how and where the technology can deliver true business value. Following the steps above, organisations can ensure they are leveraging the full transformative benefit of AI and driving business efficiency and growth in a data driven era.

AI can be a highly effective tool. However, its success is dependent on how it is being applied by organisations, strategically,  to meet clearly defined and specific business goals.

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Auto

Preparing for the Surge: Meeting the MCS Requirements of Electric Trucks

John Granby, Director of eTruck & Van, EO Charging and Erik Kanerva, Sales Director at Kempower

Auto electrification is moving at a rapid pace, with electric vehicles (EVs) going from a passion project for early technology adopters to the mainstream – especially when you consider the need to electrify consumer and commercial vehicles ahead of the government’s 2035 Zero Emission Vehicle mandate.

Electrification is also starting to play a vital role in public policy and commercial plans, leading to vehicle availability and a variety of improvements and increasing interest among commercial fleets’ prospective customers. As a result, all of the main car and van manufacturers have a respectable EV offering, and the eBus industry is well on its way to proposing a similarly credible offering for citizens.

Heavy-duty vehicle electrification has progressed slowly, but the pace has picked up over the last year, with several of the major truck manufacturers testing completely electric heavy trucks that are now near-ready to enter the general market.

This is a critical shift in the move towards net zero, given that heavy commercial vehicles account for around 25% of CO2 emissions from road transport emissions in the EU and approximately 6% of the region’s overall emissions. It’s a similar situation in the US, where medium and heavy-duty trucks account for around 29% of total road transport emissions or approximately 7% of the country’s total but make up fewer than 5% of all vehicles on the road.

Having clear goals and objectives in place for fleet electrification will be vital to ensuring the transport sector is on track. For example, Scania’s goal is that 50% of all vehicles it sells annually by 2030 will be electric. Despite Scania being the slowest into the market with battery electric vehicles, other vehicle manufacturers are following the same target, with Volvo Trucks setting itself a target for 50% fully electric vehicles by 2030 and the same with Renault, for example.

Meeting this ambitious goal will require the appropriate charging infrastructure in place so customers have the confidence to invest in the large-scale electrification of their fleets. That is one of the reasons why charging system manufacturer Kempower expects the commercial vehicle DC charging market in Europe and North America to have a 37% compound annual growth rate until 2030.

Trucks require substantial battery packs to provide a similar range as traditional engines, and having the right infrastructure in place to keep them regularly charged is certainly a key factor to consider when electrifying truck fleets. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), trucks will require up to 279,000 charging outlets by 2030, with 84% located in fleet hubs. By 2030, buses will require up to 56,000 charging outlets, with fleet hubs accounting for 92% of the total.

The Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN) is a global organisation that has been working on a standard for the rapid charging of trucks for several years. CharIN developed the Megawatt Charging System (MCS) concept, which serves as the foundation for the ISO and IEC standards which govern the design, installation, and operation of truck fast charging infrastructures.

The MCS is intended to standardise the quick delivery of enormous amounts of charging power to vehicles and provide stronger communication, which minimises downtime caused by unsuccessful charging events.

Customers who drive commercial vehicles follow particular driving habits. By taking advantage of the required break time from the hours-of-service restrictions governing their drivers, customers can travel further each day thanks to the increased charge rate that MCS offers. Better electrification of commercial cars is made possible by legislation that mandates that drivers take rest breaks. As a result, shorter charging durations to accommodate these breaks are beneficial.

The MCS will operate at up to 3,000A and 1,25 KV at its final development stage, delivering up to 3,75 MW of power when charging. With the backing of a significant segment of the industry, MCS is founded on an international consensus on technical standards. An internationally recognised standard is essential to promote harmonised solutions that reduce costs and boost interoperability without sacrificing safety and uptime.

Trucks on the highway are a key focus of the MCS, not only depot pricing. Large truck units operating long-haul routes and some smaller rigid trucks operating cross-border short-haul deliveries—such as logistics organisations operating deliveries between the United Kingdom and continental Europe—pay particular attention to this issue.

Most MCS charging occurs while drivers take breaks from their routes, but some depots may have a single MCS charger on site to do a flash charge if a truck needs to be turned around quickly. In order to balance this unit’s demand against other chargers on site, load management is crucial because it will require a power supply of at least 1 MW+.

Fleet operators should look to consider incorporating MCS into their whole charging ecosystem and solutions, regardless of whether they are thinking about how electrification will affect their fleet of vehicles on the road or how their depots will operate.

Adopting cutting-edge energy management technology solutions will enable effective fleet electrification, particularly at depots. Investing in effective load management technologies will be critical to maximising existing grid infrastructure capacity while decreasing the need for additional investments in generation or distribution capacity.

Investing in and deploying effective energy management technologies is the key to a smoother, more efficient shift for commercial fleet operators. They are critical in lowering energy expenses, both economically and environmentally.

Energy management solutions for charging electric fleets will also help maximise existing grid capacity, reducing the need to invest in new generation or distribution capacity. This will be an essential factor for fleet managers to consider as eTruck fleets expand and other commercial vehicle fleets, such as buses, increase demands on infrastructure.

With unprecedented energy and investment going into electrification, 2024 looks to be a pivotal year for picking up the momentum of progress around MCS in the logistics sector. If done right, it will create a shift of optimism in the market to accelerate the electrification of commercial fleets and promises to positively impact other sectors, such as marine and aviation, contributing significantly to reducing carbon emissions.

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