25 July 2019

“Just because we can do something, it does not mean that we should do it”



In part two of our mini-interview series with Northmill's very own digital security expert Ninos Gawrieh, we continue to talk about how trust and security are reshaping the finance industry. This time we put the spotlight on the highly relevant topic of digital ethics and dig deeper into the handling of customer data.

Ethics and trust are intertwined. How do companies make sure that they are compliant with digital ethics when they are handling customer data? 
Every company needs to be very sensible when it comes to handling data by reflecting on what the purpose was of someone giving us their data. Basically ask ourselves the question, just because we can do something, does that mean we should do it? I mean, it can be OK from a legal perspective, but should we really do it? We need to reflect on responsibility, ethics and the potential impact of the company's own use of customer’s data. There are never any guarantees, but to be proactive and have a strategic plan for digital ethics is very important. Especially when handling and processing customer-critic data. I believe companies need a framework for digital ethics, that includes a filter for security, trust, and integrity. This is how we retain trust in the modern economy.

How do you make sure that the decisions you make are fair and to whom?
For us, the customer is in the center and that is who we need to be transparent and fair too. This really refers back to digital ethics, and also drawing on our experience since 2006, we always have a human as the final decision-maker. We constantly challenge ourselves and our scoring models and process to see how we can improve and make it even more personalised. With PSD2 there will be even more data available and this becomes increasingly more important. But the opportunities to create even better customer-centric products and services will also increase.  

But what are the key things you do to make sure that your customer data is safe?
Having secure processes for handling data was a strong reason for us to migrate to the cloud already in 2013, using only the most established and trusted cloud suppliers. This is a continuous work and something that has to be on top of the list in the day-to-day work. Since the landscape is constantly changing, one needs processes and an organisation that can handle and adapts quickly to new directives and realities. So, for us, we’ve been focusing as much on preparing our own product-oriented organisation and the people, as on implementing the newest security solutions for our platform. We constantly monitor and mitigate threats, trends and legislation, and use established frameworks like ISO27000, NIST, OWASP to name a few, in order to secure data and processes. 

ML – is a machine better or human better at making decisions?
Machine learning will play an increasingly important role and I am really excited about the technology. And the workforce as a whole will be more augmented – routine tasks will be automated, and people will be more focused on value-adding activities. That is something we support and we are strong believers in automating processes to become more effective and be able to scale up quickly. We have also seen how machine learning works well to detect fraud and similar. That is very promising. But to date, even though we have automated the whole process up until the point where we actually pay out the loan, we always have a human as the final decision-maker. 

So, what will be crucial to success for companies moving forward?
To summarise, it will be to handle and analyse data in a relevant and transparent way, running it through a tested filter of digital ethics, and then use the data to develop customer-centric products and services. Each company also have to understand their role in the overall ecosystem and focus on becoming the best in what they do. Companies have to take a holistic approach to PSD2 and look beyond the narrow scope regulated right now and ask - where are we going? We believe that the customer will rule the world of banking to a much greater extent than today, technology becomes the trusted partner and everyone will be able to handle their financial life in a simple and personalised way.


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