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How ML Ensures Data Privacy At NatWest Group

How ML Ensures Data Privacy At NatWest Group

  • We already have a good foundation of tools on-premise, but we need the cloud's elasticity and advanced analytics and deep learning capabilities.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have infiltrated across industries, including banking, insurance and financial services. It will inevitably affect customer experiences, loans and credit scores, fraud mitigation and investment advisories.

Scotland-based NatWest Group, formerly The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, is a banking and insurance holding company. To understand how NatWest is employing AI and ML to enhance customer experience and support business ambitions, Analytics India Magazine caught up with Neeraj Goyal, Head of Technology, Global Hub India at NatWest Group. Neeraj comes with over 20 years of expertise in the global financial industry as an accomplished IT executive. He has been with NatWest Group for more than ten years and served earlier as an Information Technology officer at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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AIM: What is your role as Head of Technology at NatWest Group India?

Neeraj: Technology in India plays a critical role in helping NatWest Group achieve its purpose of championing potential to help people, families, and businesses to thrive. Over the past several years, technology in India has evolved into a mature delivery business unit and is a key enabler in the execution of the bank’s strategy.

My role is to build out technology in India as a differentiated, high performing digital IT Hub, influencing the Group’s top line and bottom line. Additionally, building a learning organisation with a high-performance culture and innovative mindset and making NatWest Group India a great place to work for its employees. 

AIM: Do share with us your plans on integrating data analytics, machine learning and tech-based solutions in the next 2-3 years.

Neeraj: Over the next 2-3 years, we look to rapidly adopt public cloud capabilities for our analytical and machine learning workload. We already have a good foundation of tools on-premise for this, but we need the cloud’s elasticity and advanced analytics and deep learning capabilities. This is primarily required to be able to support the business ambitions, ranging from highly sophisticated fraud detection models to protect our customers to enhancing customer experience by anticipating the needs of our customers using Customer Lifetime Value ML modelling, which got an industry award in the UK (DataIQ). 

The journey to the cloud will involve re-engineering and re-platforming a number of our existing solutions. This task demands very close collaboration with the various business stakeholders over the next three years.

AIM: How well do you think the tech at NatWest is equipped to tackle fraud in banking and financial services?

Neeraj: NatWest Group has been doing particularly well in containing fraud losses. Our strategic investments in AI, ML, behavioural biometrics, and device profiling have resulted in the lowest fraud loss percentage in the top five banks of the UK. Our Mobile Banking app has been recognised as the best, safest banking app in the UK by the ‘Which?’ magazine. As a bank, we have a multi-pronged approach that is helping us achieve these results.

AIM: How does NatWest take care of the data privacy issues of its customers?

Neeraj: Customer data privacy is of utmost importance to NatWest Group. We have very strict controls on who gets access to data in the bank, including role-based access controls in our data systems, encryption in transit and at rest, pseudonymisation (tokenisation), very high level of background checks and screening for our employees, and advanced detection and alerting systems for flagging up any data loss instances. In addition, our Innovation & Solutions teams are constantly reviewing the market for innovative solutions to strengthen this position further.

As we continue to embrace the use of technologies like AI and ML to drive our decision making, we understand the associated privacy risks entailed by the usage of these newer technologies. Our customers trust us not just with their finances but also with their information. To prevent market abuse and detect inappropriate disclosures of information, we use different types of monitoring and surveillance

Our Privacy and Client Confidentiality (P&CC) Policy effectively governs the processing of customer and personal data by all parts of the NatWest Group in all jurisdictions. We also have a clear set of internal guiding principles (Info SAFE) for colleagues regarding how customers’ and colleagues’ information should be stored, used, and shared. Most importantly, regular training ensures there is awareness around privacy and client confidentiality policies and procedures to support our colleagues with the knowledge required to keep our customers safe.

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AIM: What all opportunities are open for young graduates in India in the technological domain?

Neeraj: NatWest Group is a technology-led bank; there are exciting opportunities for young graduates in India in this domain, allowing them to build niche technologies skills. Some of these exciting opportunities are:

  • Build a world-class scalable, performance, and cost-effective credit risk decisioning engine leveraging AWS Cloud services (like EC2, S3, Lambda, etc.) in order to serve the borrowing needs of our 19 million retail and commercial customers across diverse product offerings like mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, business loans, etc.
  • Enable “speed of change” and lower cost for business by breaking large applications into smaller microservices-based architecture leveraging private and public cloud platforms.
  • Build “Open Banking APIs” and open the same to our partner banks and FinTechs to help our customers get access to better services.

AIM: Also, what kind of specific skills do you look for?

Neeraj: We look for the right attitude, aptitude, potential, technical acumen, and passion for technology, which we gauge through an online assessment comprising algorithmic, aptitude and coding questions, followed by interviews.

Subsequently, we invest in building the skill through an extensive 8-week long training boot camp, which comprises training in technical (Java, Object-Oriented-Programming/OOPS concepts, SQL, etc.) and domain areas (data security, credit risk, retail banking, commercial banking, etc.), hands-on assignments, assessments, and hackathon events.

AIM: Can you list some of the difficulties you face as the head of technology at NatWest Group India?

Neeraj: Talking about the difficulties, I can say the following two are of utmost importance and should be taken care of:

  • A rapid change in the technology landscape leads to skill gaps for future and legacy areas along with changing regulations.
  • In the present scenario, employee wellbeing is a key concern and focus area.
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