AMP's IT team seizes Royal Commission opportunity

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AMP's IT team seizes Royal Commission opportunity
Pic: AMP

Upgraded focus on compliance.

The ongoing Royal Commission into misconduct in the banking and financial services industry might have rolled the most senior heads at investment heavyweight AMP, but on the IT floor the probe is a golden opportunity to reset systems to hardwire in better corporate governance.

That was the take yesterday as clients and industry piled into the company’s headquarters at Sydney’s Circular Quay for its 13th annual ‘Amplify’ innovation festival, where AMP’s chief technology officer Chris Bell revealed how to make your own luck.

Pressed during an interview at the event over whether there was still any real appetite for pursuing advanced analytics, machine learning and chatbots in the wake of the Royal Commission, Bell insisted there “absolutely” was.

“In fact, probably it’s amped up even more,” Bell said.

“I think the opportunity to put machine learning and advanced analytics in play with a lot of the compliance activities that we have in train at the moment is absolutely there.

"As part of our response program, we are kicking off a piece of work around how we get intelligent automation into the remediation activities that we are doing around client files.”

One of the hard realities AMP is now facing - along with other institutions that appeared before the Commission - is that the technology that drives compliance has quickly shifted from being a cost to be minimised, to an immediate existential priority.

The gift of regulation

Bell certainly views recent events as a glass half-full and a real chance to move the needle, especially as AMP revealed a once-in-a-generation tech overhaul in March this year.

“If we look at these pivots and external events as opportunities, I see this one as a great opportunity. If you think about the regulatory impost around providing data, it’s only going to increase,” Bell said.

“We have to be more sure around the data that we have, and have more trusted data sources to get to that and analyse it quicker. It’s a bit of a game changer for us in terms of kicking off some the initiatives that we want.”

What data institutions possess, and the quality of it, has been largely central to the battering banks and financial services companies have copped over recent months, especially when misconduct or anomalies went seemingly unnoticed.

In AMP’s case clients were charged fees for services that were simply not provided, raising the obvious issue of when alarm bells should have started ringing.

Beyond ‘vanity metrics’

AMP’s head of cyber security, Rahn Wakeley, was equally frank about the need for systems to spit out meaningful intelligence and data in an escalating threat environment, especially as regulatory scrutiny intensified.

Wakeley said that there was now a shift within cyber to move from generating “vanity metrics” to more meaningful measures which prompted more action to be taken.

AMP’s cyber practice has also this year hired its first data scientist, a move squarely aimed at distilling the analytics around vulnerabilities and designing strategies to patch and fortify applications and infrastructure.

Smart buildings, smarter people

The cyber estate is also growing quickly as more physical assets and infrastructure become smart and connected in areas that were once external to technology.

“Some of the things [where] we are starting to see more movement is some of the building control systems …in buildings that we own. These are things that historically have not fallen into [the remit of] traditional IT shops," Wakeley said.

Staff culture, awareness and demystifying technology is firmly also on AMP’s agenda, and not just in the workplace.

“We’re doing a lot more ‘lunch-and-learns’ on all sorts of topics,” Wakeley said, observing that monthly informal staff sessions canvassed issues around families, kids and social media profiles right through to blockchain.

“Practical things parents can do,” Wakeley said, adding that IT provided volunteers to field “freestyle” questions without compliance checks.

And with financial services an enduring target for phishing attacks, AMP’s cyber team has also taken to upping user vigilance by using their own benign clickbait that plays victims an instructional video if opened.

Politely declining to give specifics around the effect and typology of attacks, Wakeley noted that Tuesdays tended to be the biggest baiting day of the week. Why is something that’s now being looked into.

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