Month: April 2020

Press Release - BEIS Apr 2020

Waymark Tech Secures Phase 2 Grant From SBRI and GovTech Catalyst

Working in collaboration with the Better Regulation Executive and funded by the GovTech Catalyst, Waymark Tech is developing an innovative technological solution to promote understanding of existing regulation and to provide insightful analysis that would inform, as well as improve, the way in which new regulations are introduced in the future.

Founded in 2016, Waymark Tech offers AI-as-a-Service enabling any organisation to reveal hidden patterns and connections within vast, dynamic and unstructured text datasets. Building on Waymark’s proven AI technical capability, the project will develop state of the art natural language processing (NLP) technology that will systematically extract information from thousands of pages of UK legislation and then model the burden it applies on businesses, as well as tagging the content for ease of access.

These are just some of the questions that Waymark’s new solution intends to solve:

  • How can we analyse the stock of existing regulations to identify which requirements apply to different businesses and sectors?
  • How can we assess the level of difficulty for different businesses and sectors will have in complying with the individual regulatory requirements?
  • How can we evaluate how challenging the cumulative stock of regulation is for different businesses and sectors to comply with?
  • How can potential conflicts and overlaps within the regulations be intelligently handled?
  • How can the entire body of regulations be quantified for affected businesses and sectors?

The solution will automate large parts of information analysis currently conducted manually by policy writers, as well as providing entirely new knowledge, currently too complex or opaque for humans to uncover without technological assistance. A solution that will provide policy writers with valuable insight, enabling them to ensure regulation is smarter and better targeted.

Mark Holmes, CEO of Waymark Tech, commented:

“Waymark Tech is thrilled to be given this opportunity to work on such an important Government initiative. This project demonstrates the UK Government’s leading position in encouraging innovation and the adoption of new technology. The results of this development will greatly improve the process of policy writing, better targeting reform and lead to an improved outcome for all sectors of business.”

Mark Holmes, CEO – waymark tech
Could Coronavirus Accelerate Digital and Regulatory Transformation? - Waymark Tech Blog Post

Could Coronavirus Accelerate Digital and Regulatory Transformation?

COVID-19 is already having a disruptive influence on our economy. The changes we’ve seen in a few short months have been profound. Business is being forced to become more mobile and to embrace digital technology – quickly. While concerns about the impact of new technology will remain, and companies must ensure they do not create unforeseen risks, the pull of the new has just become a whole lot stronger…

In the middle of December, an AI system detected a clutch of unusual pneumonia cases centred around a wet food market in the city of Wuhan. Nine days later the World Health Organization alerted the world to a dangerous novel form of Coronavirus; in the new year it had a name: COVID-19.

AI had already proved itself to be valuable in the fight against COVID-19 – and it could be critical as the financial sector seeks to recover.

The system, BlueDot, was designed precisely for this kind of situation. It was originally inspired by the outbreak of SARS in 2003 which killed nearly 800 people around the world and cost the world economy $40bn. As its founder, Kamran Khan said:

“What I learned during SARS is, let’s not get caught flatfooted, let’s anticipate rather than react.”

Kamran Khan – Founder, Bluedot

BlueDot relies on big data to anticipate and conceptualise the spread of infectious diseases. It uses data from public health organisations, digital media, global airline ticketing systems and various other sources to predict how quickly a disease might spread, and where hot spots might occur. Using this data, for example, they were able to predict which cities had the highest connectivity to Wuhan and which would experience the first cases.

The system could have been used to help inform governments about their responses, and also give companies advanced information on how COVID-19 was likely to spread. This would have assisted them to make preparations in advance.

Time for AI

Already, financial institutions have been using artificial intelligence across operations from customer service and algorithmic trading to cyber security and much more. All these applications have potential benefits in helping the world to cope with a “COVID-19 economy”.

Chat bots and AI call assistants might spring to mind, but they represent only the thin end of the wedge. They can answer most simple questions, improve response times for callers and take the load off call centres. S-Bank, for example, has managed to automate 70% of all calls without intervention from a customer services representative.

But what about the more involved applications of artificial intelligence that most haven’t even considered where lies immense value?

Take, for example, the vast swathes of information currently being published around this pandemic and the numerous regulatory updates coming out from the regulatory bodies. It’s impossible to assimilate it all and apply it without working 24/7. Even then, it wouldn’t be doable. With the application of AI in this instance however, it is possible to intelligently “cherry pick” the pertinent information, successfully discerning it from the irrelevant data and being able to access it in an easily digestible format. Not only does this save time but adds enormous value to clients of all types of businesses and within a range of sectors.

But that’s still just scraping the surface of AI’s capabilities in these use cases.

Financial institutions may also turn to AI to safeguard their businesses during uncertain times. As recent Office for Budget Responsibility figures show, the impact of the lockdown could be unlike anything we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Stock markets have gone into meltdown and even the most experienced analyst will struggle to accurately predict what’s going to happen to the economy or to the markets over the next year.

Businesses in all sectors will need to be much more aware of opportunities and AI systems are likely to prove helpful to them. Investors will be able to identify emerging trends earlier, companies will be able to take appropriate positions and thereby be enabled to take a more central role in everything from financial management to cyber security, keeping systems ticking over and alerting management to potential problems a lot earlier.

Regulatory Hurdles

But what about the regulatory hurdles? Given this extremely uncertain time, it has never been more difficult to stay up to date with all the regulatory changes and the new information constantly being released. A week now feels like a year in “normal” times. On the one hand, artificial intelligence can expedite reporting requirements and make it easier for firms to demonstrate compliance, but on the other, less human involvement could potentially reduce oversight and may make it more difficult for firms to ensure the “robots” are behaving appropriately.

Well actually, no.

With the pressures of lockdown and the speed in which the pandemic overtook our world, demand for more advanced solutions has grown significantly and pressure is being placed on regulators to develop frameworks that facilitate the sustainable and safe growth of AI solutions.

This is where AI-as-a-Service comes in and can benefit these businesses. From uncovering connections and patterns in vast, unstructured datasets to improving the way that new regulations are introduced in the future. These, along with insightful analysis are just some of the ways that advanced artificial intelligence solutions are helping businesses to navigate these troubled times.

Protecting Pensions From COVID-19 - Waymark Tech Blog

Protecting Pensions From COVID-19

With stock markets tumbling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, pensions are suffering and customers are anxious. Recent trends have seen people demanding more complex products and a greater control over how their pensions are invested. While this has been popular, and has helped people create more tailored portfolios, it can also create problems given the market volatility caused by the virus.

Regulators’ focus will be on ensuring customers receive the best possible support in making appropriate investment decisions. Investment products should be appropriate for individual needs and marketed in a fair way which is not misleading. Firms will be encouraged to help customers find products that meet their needs as well as provide access to clear information in “plain English” explaining their options.

The FCA is also reiterating the need for higher standards of governance and control to protect customers, while ensuring everything is done with consumer interests at heart.

Avoiding Scams

Unfortunately, the crisis also increases customers’ vulnerability to scams or making bad investment decisions. Before the crisis, pensions were benefiting from a boom in investment markets. However, COVID-19 has sent markets around the world into turmoil. Many people will have seen their investment pots shrink considerably in just a few weeks. Understandably, they may be stressed or anxious, both of which make them more vulnerable to making rushed decisions and falling victim to scams.

In the wake of COVID-19 there has been a surge of cyber scams focusing on the current situation and the FCA is working to reduce people’s risk of harm.

“Fraudsters will exploit the coronavirus to prey on anxiety and fear of savers and investors, especially those who may be vulnerable. That’s why we’re urging anyone who is thinking about transferring their pension to check who they are dealing with and only use firms authorised by the FCA.”

Mark Steward, FCA Director of Enforcement

They advise customers to reject all unsolicited offers and be wary of any offers appearing to have high return rates. At times of stress, customers may be more likely to jump on anything that could be a potential “life raft”. Their defences are down, making them targets for unscrupulous operators.

At this time, high quality advice will be at a premium and firms must be aware that their own customers may be more at risk from scams, especially those claiming to be from their pension providers.

Information is vital. The FCA has proposed to launch a consumer harm campaign to help people make better investment decisions and avoid failing into some of the traps fraudsters have set up for them.

In the long term, pensions will recover, but that’s scant consolation for those relying on their pension incomes now. Nerves are jangling and people will need support to minimise the harm they and their pension pots face from the crisis.

The FCA has issued guidance for pension providers and DB transfer advisers as the coronavirus pandemic develops. They are working with industry to ensure the market can deliver fair outcomes for consumers. They also set out how firms can, and should, support consumers that seek access to their pension savings during the current pandemic.  

Read the full guidance here: https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/pensions-and-retirement-income-our-guidance-firms

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