Collaboration Is a Way Forward For Financial Services | Sudin Baraokar

Sudin Baraokar, Global IT and Innovation Advisor / CIO | Founder & narrates the functioning of the Bankchain alliance and its benefits to illustrate his point.
What are the exact roles and responsibilities that you perform as a Global IT & Innovation Advisor?
I advise organizations on the run side, on the mission critical services and on the chain side. I advise them on emerging tech, deep tech and innovations. As additional services, I also advise companies to go digital, help them with their IT annuity and emerging tech procurement, technology evaluation, enterprise architecture alignment, technology stack and assessment. I also train the CXOs and senior stakeholders on emerging tech edification.

 How are technologies like blockchain and AI beneficial for Indian BFSI especially in the current post lockdown scenario?
There will be a surge in the use of technologies like blockchain and AI post the COVID world and this will be very beneficial to the Indian BSI sector. A technology like blockchain can be used as trust as a service, especially in use cases like financial inclusion, KYC, stressed asset platforms. We used AI for our conversational bots in SBI way back in 2017-18. And now we are looking at how banks can implement AI solutions, especially from a perspective of risk tech, regulatory tech, compliance tech, audit tach automation. How can we use automation to reduce the workloads on our contact centres? We foresee from our banking sector there will be a lot of cost savings using this technology and a lot of automation. Especially it can be used as a contactless technology, completely automated so that people working from home or transacting from home can easily do all their banking transactions.
With frauds, phishing and other cyber attacks on the rise especially in a predominantly WFH environment, how can blockchain facilitate a more orderly process for settlement by banks?
Blockchain cannot eliminate totally, but it can help reduce some of the fraud. The reason being that blockchain is the immutable system of record or immutable database as a trust layer to the system of engagement. In banking our system of engagement could be our core banking systems.
Work from home is now going to be the new norm. We can definitely leverage blockchain for trust as a service wherein your system of record, which is already secure can be linked to your system of engagement, which will make it secure. This can also help wherein you have to deal with more than one bank, like you could have a home loan with one bank, a credit card with some other bank, and a fixed deposit with another bank or institution or a NBFC.
Linking this, having integrated trust as a service using blockchain will be very helpful. It will reduce the number of fraud and cyber attacks and account takeovers and definitely will help in the digital journey going forward.

 How can banks, fintechs, tech companies and regulators collaborate to improve the financial system?
In 2017, when I was head of innovation at State Bank of India, we formed a bank chain alliance. We got 30 plus banks, mostly from India, large banks/public/ private and even some small banks also from the Middle East. We got all our technology partners together and we formed a BankChain Alliance.
There were a lot of challenges including deficit in terms of skill sets, in adoption.
So by combining forces together, by evaluating these technologies, we evaluated blockchain fabrics.We in fact evaluated more than 17 blockchain fabrics altogether. We also pooled our resources. We also got domain experts from other banks as part of our bankchain alliance to work with us together. This was a very successful collaboration. It made us understood how we can evaluate, test out emerging technologies like blockchain and then look at best practices and use cases for their adoption.

How did SBI collaborate with BankChain and Intel for blockchain adoption?
As a banking alliance, we’= have worked with various technology partners. We worked with Intel, IBM, Microsoft and a few others. One of the interesting collaborations we did with Intel was to use the intel blockchain fabric. We did a couple of pilots on the smart contracts. The first use case was to ensure that we could incorporate the smart contract for our NDAs. In State Bank of India, we also had our start-up engagement program. And every time we engaged with the start-up, we have to sign up with a NDA, and so we could use the blockchain smart contract technology. By having this blockchain contract on the cloud itself, we could get start-ups actually sign that contract. We could thereby reduce the time it takes from probably one to two weeks to just few minutes.

How have the digital transformation goals and levels changed in the post-COVID scenario? How would you advise on this transformation now while conforming to regulatory guidelines?
Everything is moving from domain tech or from domain expertise to deep tech expertise. The investments that we made in our digital payments infrastructure are running perfectly well without any failure. In SBI, we run the most complex and the most advanced core banking system. It is benchmark at 24000 transactions per second or 1.5 billion transactions in a day to serve more than 400+ million customers and 600+ million accounts. This is the most complex and scalable technology platform in the world, built-in India by Indian Technologies.

Furthermore  now investing in going digital and emerging tech like blockchain and AI will really help with giving the best customer service, reducing our costs, bringing agility to all our processes, making them very seamless, improving the governance, risk and compliance. We have presented all our findings to the central banks and authorities and regulators. They are also very keen that banks keep pushing this transformation agenda. This would ensure that the customers are able to leverage our mission critical services and do all the transactions. Bringing more trust and audit to the system help us banks serve the customer even better.

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