AI and IoT in the financial services KPO industry

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Mr. Sameer Goyal, Director & Head of Engineering of Acuity Knowledge Partners.


  1. What is the importance of AI, cloud computing and IoT in the KPO industry?

KPO – a knowledge industry – continues to grow aggressively year after year. Deriving and sharing insights and analytics from data are increasingly becoming integral to our work. These tasks have become calculation-intensive more than ever, building a robust case for KPOs leveraging the benefits and opportunities cloud computing and applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) offer. Cloud computing has allowed businesses in our industry to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, most significantly by enabling business continuity using end-user computing solutions such as digital workspace in the cloud. AI and IoT, among others, offer immense potential to identify new, unexplored sources of data (such as internet or social media mining) and present opportunities to do more with all the data to deliver even greater business values to customers. Cloud as well as AI and IoT also offer potential to improve efficiency and productivity, both operationally and financially. This is particularly important for financial services KPOs like us as we take steps towards digital transformation using modern technology and help customers transform their businesses. At Acuity Knowledge Partners, we leverage cloud computing to deliver end-user computing infrastructure so that our people can work in a hybrid work environment. We offer our customers a secure, highly available and resilient set-up on the cloud for our technology platforms. Most of our proprietary technologies implement AI and machine learning to improve data identification and acquisition as well as deliver predictive analytics in candidate applications and use cases. We continue to explore more applications for these modern technologies.


  1. How can humans and technology come together as KPO sector accelerates business transformation?

Historically, KPO has been a human-centric industry where specialists have worked as an extension of customer teams and delivered the scope of work mostly manually. Over the last several years, the dynamics have changed. The advent of technology has brought opportunities and augmented the willingness of KPOs and customers alike to explore and leverage the same. Humans and technology are already working cohesively to deliver high-value outputs to customers. This will only grow with time as AI and IoT start to become more industry-oriented instead of being of academic interest only. There is a growing trend where business processes are being automated to an extent, and the human expert is validating and checking the quality before the output is pushed out to the requestor or the next stage of the process. This is a great example of how technology is improving efficiencies and allowing people to focus on more analytical and differentiated work, which is not possible for technology or machines to deliver today.


  1. Importance of security maintenance over the company’s data

Data are the new oil, but I can go to the extent of saying that they are the life blood of a business, industry and eventually economy. Access to right, accurate data can help businesses scale, build value and give back to society, but if data are not protected appropriately and get into the wrong hands, the outcome can be catastrophic. Data are the competitive edge and critical input that decide the business outcomes and fate of businesses. When customers decide to engage with us, they must share the data on which most of the services are performed. Ensuring that the data shared remain secure and are always protected from unauthorized access, theft or corruption is the number 1 responsibility of KPO businesses. We have taken measures to offer a secure environment, both technologically and operationally, to our customers to build confidence that their data will be safe under all circumstances and that Acuity Knowledge Partners will always maintain customer confidentiality. Furthermore, we have procedures in place to mitigate the impact or loss should the data be compromised or get exposed. As we mark our 20 years in business, we cannot be prouder as have never had to face such an event where we endangered a customer’s data. This consideration reflects not just in our operational business but also across the digital product development process and functions where we implement secure software development life cycle, which benefits from ‘shift-left’ principles, which form the core strategies to pre-empt issues and fix them before the software gets to the production stage.


  1. How to fuel technological infrastructure, analyze target markets, and create business models

This is a great question, but there is no one correct answer. Each business entity is different and would like to carry out these activities differently. In our case we have established an innovation programme at Acuity Knowledge Partners, where we constantly evaluate new ideas around business transformation, digital acceleration, process and service optimisation, etc. We source ideas both internally and externally. We have a well-laid-out process, which considers idea evaluation; feasibility validations surrounding technology, infrastructure, financial and operational fitment, etc.; market analysis; demand and acceptance modelling; cost-benefit analysis and business modelling before a decision is arrived at. We reach out to our existing customers as well and undertake market research to help us with the data required to arrive at the decision parameters. All this is done while keeping our core engineering and business principles in perspective.

  1. Acuity’s proprietary technology that enables financial services and solutions for the clients

We are building a suite of proprietary digital platforms and services – BEAT (business excellence and automation tools). It covers technologies to support most of our lines of businesses. We currently have more than 100 customers and thousands of users on our platform, who are either using the technology themselves in a self-service mode to get things done or leveraging one or more digital services via a digital customer interface supported by our world class subject matter experts. All our technologies are web-based, delivered either as RESTful microservices/APIs or via modern single-page, responsive applications. Few products from our stable are:

  • BEATFlow – Acuity Knowledge Partners’ de facto engagement and workflow management platform that serves as a digital interface to help our customers interact with us and get work done,
  • BEAT Edge – Our award-winning consultant database update service,
  • BEAT Aura – Our automated financial data extraction and standardisation platform used to offer financial spreading as a digital service,
  • BEAT TombstoneHub – An automated deal credential creation service that is a huge hit among investment bankers,
  • BEAT Foliosure – An investment portfolio management and monitoring platform for private equity/venture capitalist audience, among others.


  1. Tech innovations that offer customizable and scalable products​ with a focus on generating immediate ROI​ in the financial servicing industry

Some innovations that have already shown potential are Lowcode/No-Code platforms, which are being leveraged by the industry to accelerate TTM for important business process optimisation, robotic process automation, which has helped optimise and improve things such as reporting and several other critical business processes and, most notably, cloud computing including edge computing, which I believe has had the largest impact in helping companies, especially those in the financial services industry, accelerate digital adoption and transformation, with highly visible return on investment realisation in the short to medium term. Artificial intelligence and associated disciplines including natural language processing and natural language generation, machine learning with image processing, deep learning, etc. also have tremendous potential, which can be exploited to build highly bespoke, scalable digital products for both enterprises and the masses not just within the financial services industry but almost every other industry.


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