Himanshu Shah, CTO, Adarsh Credit Co-operative Society Ltd, on the technological changes in the financial sector. By Satyaki Sarkar
In his current role as CTO, Himanshu Shah is focused on maximising the use of technology in the corporate sector while increasing the transparency of applications. During his tenure at ICICI, Travelex, and JP Morgan Chase Himanshu gained extensive experience in automatizing and transporting applications to mobile platforms and overhauling legacy systems into new software defined networks, linked directly to the data centre. During his time at Adarsh Credit Co-operative Society Ltd Himanshu has been consistently trying to expand the reach of technology to the rural area through the use of Mobility to improve the lives of the usually neglected. Here, he talks to us about his work and the trends he foresees in the financial and banking sector.
Bringing technology to the masses
“We are currently trying to create a network where we train a few people to use the technology or the smartphone apps that we develop,” says Himanshu. “These people, in turn, operate it on behalf of other rural members or teach them how to use it. This expands the use of the app and the scope of current advancements in technology in the underdeveloped sector.
“As of right now we have two applications, one is an advisor-based app, while the other is a member-based app. The first is like a regular financial services app and can be used by members or others on behalf of members. It can be used to carry out transactions and conduct business, as well as check financial details, download statements, and other value-added services. This eliminates the need for members to physically run everywhere for simple transactions and business functions. Through the app, they can take care of it by themselves anywhere anytime.”
“The financial sector has been hugely affected by demonetization, along with the rest of the nation, and right now there are a wide number of changes that are taking place in the market. However, we were already working towards the adoption of digitalisation for the last two years, and more than 85 percent of our transactions right now are through mobiles and smartphones. We have been consistently moving towards becoming a completely digital society where branches will not conduct any kind of business, but only handle customer service. That is the target right now and our model is designed to shift all financial processes to the mobile platform latest by April 2017. From receipt of funds through NEFT and RTGS to payments, we plan to shift everything online, with the aim of completely embracing cashless transactions.”
Overcoming inherent challenges
“Right now we are working to revamp our apps with new UI-UX and looking for next generation features like the chatbot. Chatting is a form of interaction that people are more comfortable using, especially in the rural sector. So to increase the adoption and number of members on our platform we are looking at all the possible ways technology can accelerate the achievement of various business goals. Although at the moment it is still in its nascent stage, we are trying to convert all our transactional applications into a natural language processing system. This is because they are a lot more proficient in sending a simple WhatsApp message than they are in doing transactions using a mobile phone. There is fear and mistrust of online transactions, the risks involved, and the level of security offered. However, things are a lot better now than they were a few years ago, as more and more organisations have been placing the utmost importance on security and reliability of their applications. People have also become more educated and aware about the options they have. As a result, they’ve become more accepting towards newer technologies. Since mobile transactions have been gaining in popularity, we also need to create a robust digital ecosystem, along with a UI that is easy to use and solves the issue of people daunted by the interface.”
Be wary when adopting new technology
“A number of innovations and changes have been taking place in the financial sector, but a lot more is still to come. It’s no longer only a mobile-first era, it’s a digital-first one. From iPads to tablets, it is the age of cross-platform digitalisation, and a lot of people are working towards reimagining the technological frameworks. Existing technologies will be combined with IoT. The API economy will see a huge growth in the near future.
“However, it is also important to recognise which trends and advancements to embrace, and which to avoid. There’s a new technology or innovation every single day, and if your try to adopt every new thing that comes your way, you won’t be productive and if the venture shuts down there will be a massive loss to be borne. So it is immensely important to be able to identify which technology/innovation will be able to cross the startup boundary of 18 months and actually flourish. For that, it is important to have a keen knowledge of the market, awareness of trends, and the ability to gauge the performance of an innovation. This will help you understand where to invest your energy so that you’re the first to adopt a technology that’s actually guaranteed to be a huge success.”
The future is chatbots
“The age of smartphones will soon be over. They will become obsolete; I can’t predict the exact timing but can safely say that in the next 18-24 months there’s a huge potential to increase the use artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and cognitive messaging over mobile apps. The next step will be cognitive devices. Mobile apps will be replaced by aggregators and cognition-based systems. All information will get aggregated and integrated into a single platform that serves all purposes. I feel that AI, NLP-enabled chatbots will be the next pioneering move in the digital revolution, as more and more people are becoming comfortable using them, and they can be implemented for a wide range of functions while being easy to use and highly intelligent.”