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Data-driven transformation holds key to survival for banking and insurance services.

Colm Lyon, CEO and founder of fire.com, was the guest speaker at the FTI Consulting Leaders Breakfast in the Merrion Hotel on Thursday 23 March. On the agenda was how data-driven transformation holds the key to long-term survival and success in financial services and the three main forces driving change in this sector; rising consumer expectations, the emergence of fintech providers, and changes to the regulatory environment. Colm was presented with the FTI Consulting Recognition Award for Industry Disruption by Mark Higgins, senior managing director, FTI ConsultingPerformance Analytics, which specialises in advanced analytics to drive client company performance.


Colm Lyon, CEO and founder of fire.com, was the guest speaker at the FTI Consulting Leaders Breakfast in the Merrion Hotel  at which he was presented with a Recognition Award for Industry Disruption by Mark Higgins, senior managing director.  Photo: Peter Houlihan.

Colm Lyon, CEO and founder of fire.com, was the guest speaker at the FTI Consulting Leaders Breakfast in the Merrion Hotel at which he was presented with a Recognition Award for Industry Disruption by Mark Higgins, senior managing director. Photo: Peter Houlihan.


Entrepreneur Colm Lyon is the former founder and CEO of Realex payments and his new venture, www.fire.com, is the first Irish non-bank to strike a landmark deal to deliver debit cards. Colm said, “Vision and execution are the two key aspects to driving a business forward. In the payments and banking industry there is now considerable opportunity for new players to enter the market. Changing regulations, developments in technology and customer expectations are driving this change. It’s an industry that will never be the same again.”

Mark Higgins said, “Leaders in financial services are beginning to realise that data holds the key to their success. How organisations grapple with and use data to capture commercial value is no longer an IT centric challenge, it’s a CEO challenge. It involves real transformation in a company’s mindset and organisation
Colm Lyon, CEO and founder of fire.com, was the guest speaker at the FTI Consulting Leaders Breakfast in the Merrion Hotel  at which he was presented with a Recognition Award for Industry Disruption by Mark Higgins, senior managing director.  Photo: Peter Houlihan.

The role that regulators are playing to restore public confidence in the financial services industry was also highlighted with incoming changes that includes the introduction of GDPR to safeguard consumer privacy protection, PSD2 compliance to improve payments across the EU and strengthening surveillance for risk, fraud and money laundering.

Mark Higgins said, “Consumers want convenience, personalisation and immediacy. Using advanced analytics, internet one-stop travel shops are enabling customers to identify attractive weekend destinations and secure the best prices and book flights with only seven clicks on their mobile phone. There is no reason why banks and insurance companies cannot be as agile in their customer dealings. They are awash with data but the two big challenges facing them are, one, organising and using data effectively and the second is culture, getting people to line up behind the required change and transformation.”

Ian Duncan, managing director, FTI Consulting Performance Excellence commented “Fintech companies like fire.com are game changers and disruptors of the status quo; they’re nimble and hiring bright, smart people who see a more exciting and attractive future. The challenge facing large financial institutions is how to dismantle outdated work practices and structures and introduce new ways of working that empower small cross functional teams. Only then will they level the playing field in the war for talent.”

FTI Consulting Performance Analytics is headquartered in Dublin and is part of a global business advisory firm operating in 28 countries with 4,700 employees.


Colm Lyon, CEO and founder of fire.com, was the guest speaker at the FTI Consulting Leaders Breakfast in the Merrion Hotel at which he was presented with a Recognition Award for Industry Disruption by  (left) Mark Higgins, senior managing director and Ian Duncan, managing director. Photo: Peter Houlihan.

Colm Lyon, CEO and founder of fire.com, was the guest speaker at the FTI Consulting Leaders Breakfast in the Merrion Hotel at which he was presented with a Recognition Award for Industry Disruption by (left) Mark Higgins, senior managing director and Ian Duncan, managing director. Photo: Peter Houlihan.

15 data and analytics trends that will dominate 2017

big data trends 2017

Along with social, mobile and cloud, analytics and associated data technologies have earned a place as one of the core disruptors of the digital age. 2016 saw big data technologies increasingly leveraged to power business intelligence. Here's what 2017 holds in store for the data and analytics space.

John Schroeder, executive chairman and founder of MapR Technologies, predicts the following six trends will dominate data and analytics in 2017:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is back in vogue.
  • In the 1960s, Ray Solomonoff laid the foundations of a mathematical theory of AI, introducing universal Bayesian methods for inductive inference and prediction. In 1980 the First National Conference of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) was held at Stanford and marked the application of theories in software. AI is now back in mainstream discussions and the umbrella buzzword for machine intelligence, machine learning, neural networks and cognitive computing, Schroeder says. Why is AI a rejuvenated trend? Schroeder points to the three Vs often used to define big data: Velocity, Variety and Volume.
    Platforms that can process the three Vs with modern and traditional processing models that scale horizontally provide 10-20X cost efficiency over traditional platforms, he says. Google has documented how simple algorithms executed frequently against large datasets yield better results than other approaches using smaller sets. Schroeder says we'll see the highest value from applying AI to high volume repetitive tasks where consistency is more effective than gaining human intuitive oversight at the expense of human error and cost.
  • Big data for governance or competitive advantage. In 2017, the governance vs. data value tug of war will be front and center, Schroeder says. Enterprises have a wealth of information about their customers and partners. Leading organizations will manage their data between regulated and non-regulated use cases. Regulated use cases data require governance; data quality and lineage so a regulatory body can report and track data through all transformations to originating source. Schroeder says this is mandatory and necessary but limiting for non-regulatory use cases like customer 360 or offer serving where higher cardinality, real-time and a mix of structured and unstructured yields more effective results.
  • Companies focus on business- driven applications to avoid data lakes from becoming swamps. In 2017 organizations will shift from the "build it and they will come" data lake approach to a business-driven data approach, Schroeder says. Today's world requires analytics and operational capabilities to address customers, process claims and interface to devices in real time at an individual level. For example, any ecommerce site must provide individualized recommendations and price checks in real time. Healthcare organizations must process valid claims and block fraudulent claims by combining analytics with operational systems. Media companies are now personalizing content served though set top boxes. Auto manufacturers and ride sharing companies are interoperating at scale with cars and the drivers. Delivering these use cases requires an agile platform that can provide both analytical and operational processing to increase value from additional use cases that span from back office analytics to front office operations. In 2017, Schroeder says, organizations will push aggressively beyond an "asking questions" approach and architect to drive initial and long term business value.
  • Data agility separates winners and losers. Software development has become agile where DevOps provides continuous delivery, Schroeder says. In 2017, processing and analytic models will evolve to provide a similar level of agility as organizations realize data agility, the ability to understand data in context and take business action, is the source of competitive advantage not simply having a large data lake. The emergence of agile processing models will enable the same instance of data to support batch analytics, interactive analytics, global messaging, database and file-based models, he says. More agile analytic models are also enabled when a single instance of data can support a broader set of tools. The end result is an agile development and application platform that supports the broadest range of processing and analytic models.
  • Blockchain transforms select financial service applications. In 2017, there will be select, transformational use cases in financial services that emerge with broad implications for the way data is stored and transactions processed, Schroeder says. Blockchain provides a global distributed ledger that changes the way data is stored and transactions are processed. The blockchain runs on computers distributed worldwide where the chains can be viewed by anyone. Transactions are stored in blocks where each block refers to the preceding block, blocks are timestamped storing the data in a form that cannot be altered. Hackers find it theoretically impossible to hack the blockchain since the world has view of the entire blockchain. Blockchain provides obvious efficiency for consumers. For example, customers won't have to wait for that SWIFT transaction or worry about the impact of a central datacenter leak. For enterprises, blockchain presents a cost savings and opportunity for competitive advantage, Schroeder says.
  • Machine learning maximizes microservices impact. This year we will see activity increase for the integration of machine learning and microservices, Schroeder says. Previously, microservices deployments have been focused on lightweight services and those that do incorporate machine learning have typically been limited to "fast data" integrations that were applied to narrow bands of streaming data. In 2017, we'll see development shift to stateful applications that leverage big data, and the incorporation of machine learning approaches that use large of amounts of historical data to better understand the context of newly arriving streaming data.

Hadoop distribution vendor Hortonworks predicts:

  • Intelligent networks lead to the rise of data clouds. As connections continue to evolve thanks to the Internet of Anything (IoAT) and machine-to-machine connectivity, silos of data will be replaced by clouds of data, Hortonworks says.
  • Real-time machine learning and analytics at the edge. Smart devices will collaborate and analyze what one another is saying, Hortonworks says. Real time machine-learning algorithms within modern distributed data applications will come into play — algorithms that are able to adjudicate 'peer-to-peer' decisions in real time.
  • More  pre-emptive analytics: from post-event to real-time and pre-event analysis and action. We will begin to see a move from post-event and real-time to preemptive analytics that can drive transactions instead of just modifying or optimizing them, Hortonworks says. This will have a transformative impact on the ability of a data-centric business to identify new revenue streams, save costs and improve their customer intimacy.
  • Ubiquity of connected modern data applications. For enterprises to succeed with data, apps and data need to be connected via a platform or framework, Hortonworks says. This is the foundation for the modern data application in 2017. Modern data applications are highly portable, containerized and connected. They will quickly replace vertically integrated monolithic software.
  • Data will be everyone's product. Data will become a product with value to buy, sell or lose, Hortonworks says. There will be new ways, new business models and new companies looking at how to monetize that asset.

DataStax, which develops and supports a commercial version of the open-source, Apache Cassandra NoSQL database, predicts:

  • The emergence of the data engineer. The term, "data scientist," will become less relevant, and will be replaced by "data engineers," DataStax says. Data scientists focus on applying data science and analytic results to critical business issues. Data engineers, on the other hand, design, build and manage big data infrastructure. They focus on the architecture and keeping systems performing.
  • Security: Growth of IoT leads to blurred lines. IoT's growth has largely gone unchecked, DataStax says. With a lack of standards and an explosion of data, it isn't entirely clear who is responsible for securing what. Most at risk are ISPs, which is why we'll see these providers take a leading role in the security conversation in the year ahead, DataStax says.
  • Hybrid wins, thanks to certain enterprise-ready cloud applications. It is becoming clear that many large organizations that have built their databases on legacy platforms would rather pull out their teeth than switch, DataStax says. Hybrid data architectures that encompass legacy databases, yet allow organizations to take advantage of cloud applications, will be a major focus for these organizations.
  • Cutting ties thanks to serverless architectures. DataStax believes the move to serverless architectures — applications that depend on third-party applications or services in the cloud to manage server-side logic and state, or that run in stateless compute containers that are event-triggers — will become more widespread in the coming years. The adoption of serverless architectures will have a widespread impact on how applications are deployed and managed.

Predictive analytics company InsideSales.com to create 120 Irish jobs.

Dave Elkington of InsideSales, which is opening in Ireland

An international business that predicts future sales patterns through artificial intelligence is set to expand into Ireland as the company looks to boost its presence in EMEA markets.

InsideSales.com also announced it had secured a round of investment from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and had also entered into a partnership with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.

The Insight Centre for Data Analytics is a joint initiative between researchers at Dublin City University, NUI Galway, University College Cork and University College Dublin. The partnership aims to help advance data science and machine learning.

InsideSales is scouting the country for locations, with the firm expected to hire up to 120 new staff over the next three years.

"As an early leader offering AI-fueled tools in the workplace, we're excited to use this new investment to bring InsideSales' technology to new geographies, new platforms and to foster smart growth for companies of all sizes," said ceo Dave Elkington.

"Over the past year we've seen the buzz around AI reach a fever pitch. No other business based in Ireland has a focus on machine learning and data science like InsideSales.com does."

"We're not only looking to hire some of Ireland's best and brightest technology graduates, but also to help build a new, highly skilled industry in the region," Mr Elkington added.

InsideSales.com confirmed the close of a $50m (€46.8m) growth equity round, led by returning investor Polaris Partners with support from Microsoft.

New investors include QuestMark Partners and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.

Existing venture investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Hummer Winblad, US Venture Partners, Epic Ventures, and Zetta Venture partners also participated.

The round brings the company's total venture capital funding to over $250m.

"We are pleased to welcome InsideSales into Ireland's flourishing technology community," said Eugene O'Callaghan, Director of ISIF

"This investment is well-aligned with the ISIF's mandate with the key benefits to the Irish economy being the targeted creation of more than 120 high-quality jobs over the next three years in addition to the collaboration between InsideSales and the Insight Centre in Ireland fostering growth of this important specialist sector," Mr O' Callaghan added.

Skills shortage; a major threat to Irish business growth.

article headline

PwC have today released their latest Irish HR Directors' Survey which shows that over three-quarters (77%) of Ireland's HR leaders are experiencing skills shortages, up from 61% last year. The greatest skills gaps was found to be in the areas of IT, data analytics, risk and finance.

At the same time less than half (45%) plan to increase headcount in the year ahead - substantially below last year's plans (75%). This may point to organisations focusing on retention and skilling-up internally in order to deal with a very challenging war for talent.

HR leaders recognise the skills challenge as developing and retaining key skills (45%) is their top HR priority over the coming year. Around the world, 77% of global CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills at an all-time high.

The lack of appropriate skills (38%) is also a top barrier preventing the HR function from driving value in its organisation. Key skills gaps within the HR function are HR analytics (53%), data analytics (38%), reward strategy development (27%) and talent management (24%).

Over a third (39%) of Ireland's HR leaders reported that they do not have an analytics capability embedded in their HR function right now, up from 25% last year.

The survey suggests that data analytics is yet to be used to its full effect by HR, largely due to a skills deficiency. However, this capability deficit may be in the process of being addressed as the majority (62%) plans to increase their spend on HR technology in the coming 18 months.

According to the survey, well designed employee mobility programmes can be an effective way of attracting senior leadership talent and ensuring organisations have the right skills for their businesses.

Fifty five per cent of respondents identified income tax levels as potentially inhibiting leadership/ specialists relocating to Ireland. The cost of living (50%) and accommodation costs (41%) were also cited as key factors.

Commenting on the research, Director at PwC People & Organisation, Gerard McDonough said, "The survey highlights that Ireland's HR leaders need to rethink some of the key areas of recruiting, retaining and rewarding their people. Some improvement is needed so that organisations can strive to develop a solid pipeline of future leaders, who are well-prepared to tackle the challenges of today's changing world."

He added, "With the high costs of replacing key individuals, it is important that companies really focus on ensuring they identify their key talent, engage with them and reward them appropriately. The survey shows that there is more work to be done in operating a truly effective reward and talent management programme, encompassing greater engagement right across the organisation. It is proven that a highly engaged workforce will be a happier workforce and will be more productive."

AIB agrees five-year DCU partnership to fund chair in data analytics.


AIB is to fund Dublin City University’s first chair in data analytics as part of a five-year partnership to promote a sector that is predicted to generate 30,000 job opportunities out to 2020.

The position will be based in DCU’s School of Computing with AIB also funding the employment of both a postdoctoral researcher and a PhD student.
The size of the funding has not been disclosed but sources in academic circles have put the cost at about €1 million over the period.

Big data is seen as a big growth area in the digital era. The Government’s expert group on future skills needs estimated that about 30,000 job openings in big data and analytics could become available over the next four years.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2018 the United States will experience a shortage of 190,000 skilled data scientists and 1.5 million managers and analysts.

Research
AIB chief executive Bernard Byrne said the chair in data analytics would build on DCU’s reputation by producing research to help both private- and public-sector organisations gain insights from the large volumes of data they collect.

“This partnership between AIB and DCU will help provide world-class graduates with the necessary combination of analytical, technical, numerical and business skills to work in areas that are key to Ireland’s strategic interests such as information and communications technology, finance, healthcare, and agrifood,” he said.

“At AIB, we are investing heavily in data analytics and are focused on getting the best talent to interpret the data helping provide a better customer experience.

DCU president professor Brian MacCraith said the university would also be launching a BSc in data science next year.

“In our increasingly technology-driven world we are inundated on a daily basis with data,” he said. “Data analytics allows us to mine and harness these rich seams of information for insights that can improve our lives in many ways – whether it be improving healthcare, helping science and research to unlock the secrets of our universe, detecting and preventing cyber-attacks or fraud, creating smarter cities and towns for our citizens or helping businesses understand customer behaviour.’’

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