Taking financial services to the edge

By Pascal Holt, Director of Marketing, Iceotope
Pascal Holt, Director of Marketing at Iceotope, shares his insights into the future of edge computing, and how the financial sector will be impacted

Edge computing, cloud, and AI are changing the competitive landscape for financial service organisations. In a highly sophisticated and digitally mature market, speed and efficiency have become paramount to securing an advantage in retaining customers and maximising profits. 

For traditional retail banks, edge computing creates opportunities to improve customer service, reduce costs, and ensure regulatory compliance. It also enables banks to personalise their services by processing data quickly and effectively. These real-time analytics translate to bespoke value-added services that provide the customer with exactly what they need. 

High-frequency trading firms utilise edge computing to maximise profits on high-volume, low-margin trades. Edge computing brings computation and data storage closer to where the data is being generated. Reducing latency issues can help a firm gain a competitive advantage in high-speed order execution.

Defining the edge

The edge is the physical location where things and people connect with the networked digital world and it’s changing the way we process data. We are moving towards a more interactive world. Data is no longer merely being pushed towards us on our devices, but rather it’s being collected or “pulled” from our interactions with IoT sensors we encounter in our daily lives. 

As a result, the data centre is rapidly changing to no longer be the centre of data. The need to handle, manipulate, communicate, store and retrieve data efficiently is moving processing capacity closer to the user than ever before. This phenomenon is known as “data gravity” and draws the physical location of digital infrastructure closer to the data source itself. This creates a new set of challenges – and opportunities – for financial service organisations. 

Changing the competitive landscape

Financial firms are not only adopting cloud-based technology to deliver a much better service for their clients, but they are doing so to remain relevant. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one such example. For processing simple, repetitive tasks or extracting insights from large amounts of data, AI applications, in combination with edge computing, have the power to create significant competitive advantages. 

Management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, estimates that AI technologies could potentially deliver up to $1 trillion of additional value each year for global banks. They found that AI could “help boost revenues through increased personalisation of services to customers (and employees); lower costs through efficiencies generated by higher automation, reduced errors rates, and better resource utilisation; and uncover new and previously unrealised opportunities based on an improved ability to process and generate insights from vast troves of data.” 

A more personal customer experience

Technologies like AI, ML and natural language processing (NLP) utilise the cloud but require edge computing for processing data closer to where the data is generated. For traditional retail banking firms, that creates an opportunity to improve customer service while reducing costs. 

Going back to our “push” vs “pull” discussion, retail banking has historically been very much in the push category. All customers are given the same product information, regardless of whether it is relevant to them or not. With edge computing, the data gathered helps the bank better understand individual financial needs enabling them to customise advertising and product offerings accordingly. 

HSBC is taking this type of customisation one step further with Pepper, a semi-humanoid robot, operating in several branches in the US. Pepper uses NLP to interact with customers. The data intelligence needed for Pepper to successfully and beneficially engage with human customers also requires real-time, low-latency analysis of large quantities of data. All of which are easily served through edge computing. 

While Pepper may be a fun way to engage with customers, there are plenty of other use cases for edge computing in banking and financial services. Security and fraud detection/prevention are critically important as unauthorised financial fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £360.8 million in H1 2022, according to UK Finance. There is also a significant regulatory burden on modern banking and edge computing enables real-time monitoring of compliance to those regulations required by law. 

Challenges ahead

Many banks have net zero targets they are trying to achieve by 2030. The Big Six US banks have announced a variety of carbon neutral and net zero plans in the last two years. In addition, the UN-backed Net Zero Banking Alliance is bringing together more than 100 banks from 40 countries to align their lending and investment portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050. 

From a data centre perspective – whether that be in the cloud, on-premises, in colocation, or at the edge – technology solutions are available today to help achieve these goals. Advanced liquid cooling solutions can achieve a 1.03 PUE or below. Precision immersion liquid cooling, for example, captures >95% of server heat inside the chassis, significantly reducing energy costs and emissions associated with server cooling. Water consumption is negligible as little to no mechanical chilling is required.

Beyond sustainability, there are some unique considerations for edge computing. IT computing loads are usually required to operate reliably in locations not built specifically for IT equipment. Whether it is indoors around people or in harsh external environments, the equipment needs to be purpose-built for edge computing. With precision immersion liquid cooling, the sealed chassis form factor provides the same kind of protected environmentally controlled conditions found in a data centre facility. It is also designed to withstand all types of IT environments with minimal impact on its local surroundings. 

Edge computing is just starting to make an impact on the financial services industry. As technology continues to improve customer service and increase competitive advantages, it will become more important than ever for organisations to have the right solutions in place to enable those opportunities. Many of these applications are pushing the limits of existing technologies and opening the door to new alternatives. Now is the time for organisations to take a bold step and embrace these new technologies. 

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