At the end of 2017, Nordea announced that it would join the we.trade consortium as a founding partner. The consortium is, in conjunction with IBM, developing a platform based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) that aims at making domestic and cross-border commerce easier, safer and more efficient for companies. It is the first such blockchain-based trade finance platform, marking a milestone in the practical adoption of DLT in the financial industry.
A significant step forward in Blockchain/DLT adoption
Nordea joins Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KBC, Natixis, Rabobank, Societé Generale and UniCredit as a founder of we.trade, which will simplify trade finance processes for SMEs mainly. Larger companies have documentary credit (D/C) and tailor made guarantees as tools to reduce their risks, while these are not always appropriate for the SME segment. However, large companies that favour open account solutions may also find we.trade a good solution.
Ville Sointu, head of DLT & Blockchain at Nordea, explains the significance: “In the current broad landscape of blockchain technology based initiatives in trade finance we see we.trade as a standout in its focus and realistic execution strategy. We’re looking forward to providing a Nordic perspective to the future of trade finance.”
If you’ve briefly thumbed through any treasury or finance magazine of late or have cast a passing glance at agenda topics topping the major cash and treasury conferences over the last 12 months, it will have left you in no doubt: The robots are coming.
But what is it that they are coming to do exactly? Humiliate your feeble human mind, take your job and steal your spouse? Or are they rushing in to take away your dull, repetitive tasks and leave you with the time to focus on strategy and forward planning and shine in your organisation? And what will AI actually mean for areas such as cash management and trade finance?
“AI should be seen as an assistant for treasury that can monitor and execute a given set of tasks,” explains Christian Skøtt Maltesen, Head of Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning at Nordea. “In short, treasurers can focus on the value-adding parts of the job and leave the repeatable and overly complex analyses to machines. Treasurers can focus on deciding policies, improvement opportunities and address the challenging issues where AI will bring additional insights.”
The field of Artificial Intelligence was established back in the 1950s but only now has it become a column-inch coloniser and crowd-puller at conference keynotes. And it’s not that AI algorithms are that new either – it’s just that explosive growth in online interaction has created a veritable embarrassment of analysable data, from which AIs can learn. This capability, built on sharp advances in computer performance, has also been fuelled by massive investment sums; in 2016 alone, USD 5bn was pumped into the industry.
The field of AI was essentially an academic discipline at its inception in the 1950s but has in recent years seen an accelerating development, fuelled by growing computer power, better understanding of how the human brain functions, and the flood of analysable Big Data from humankind's exploding connectivity online.
This has led to launches of numerous AI technologies, in use in our daily lives in applications such as video gaming, search engines, advertising and cars. All of these are highly tailored to specific tasks. No general AI with self-sustaining long-term goals and intent has been developed, nor is it likely to be in the near term, but the risk of a future AI becoming self-aware and hostile has been highlighted by experts.
AI – Now in the mainstream
Most of us have become used to seeing the term "artificial intelligence" mentioned in the media on a regular basis, and many of us have come across the concept in some dramatised Hollywood form. There are many examples of films and novels depicting supercomputers or robots becoming aware of their own existence and turning hostile to their human creators. And we often hear or read concerns about machines, software or robots replacing humans in the labour market. As an illustration, just consider that Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Party's candidate in the French presidential election in May 2017, made a campaign pledge to introduce a specific tax on robots. The idea was that anyone investing in a robot to do a human's job would have to share the profits from productivity gains through tax.
So what is artificial intelligence? And should we humans be afraid of becoming unemployed, or even becoming extinct? AI, or intelligence exhibited by machines, is a field of computer science typically defined as the study of intelligent agents: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions to maximise the chance of success of its objectives. More generally, we tend to use the term artificial intelligence when describing machines using cognitive functions associated with human minds, such as learning and problem solving. AI as an idea and as a concept has arguably existed since the Middle Ages, but the actual field of AI research is widely considered to have been born in 1956, when five prominent US researchers met for a workshop (essentially a six- to eight-week brainstorming session) at Dartmouth College.
From sustainability in finance to Open Banking and innovation, Nordea has had a lot to say during 2017.
At the recent Sibos event in Toronto and the NextGen Banking Nordics conference in Stockholm, we put some of our experts and innovation leaders in front of the Finextra lens to discuss the hottest topics of the year.
Swix Sport AS is an internationally recognised Norwegian company that specialises in ski equipment and technical sportswear, selling to stores and distributers globally. Given the seasonal nature of their business, Swix face some related challenges such as fluctuating cash flows as well as having to account for foreign exchange rate fluctuations.
Swix products are distributed from their headquarters in Oslo and Lillehammer through subsidiaries in Sweden, Germany, the United States and Japan with sales to other markets handled through a network of suppliers.
“Where there’s snow, you’ll find Swix,” says Kjell Magne Sunde at Swix Sport. As Chief Financial Officer for a highly innovative company within the niche industry, one of the challenges Kjell Magne Sunde has to manage are deep seasonal fluxes and highly volatile FX markets. To stay on top of a fluctuating cash-flow while coping with unpredictable foreign exchange rates, the CFO needs a bank that truly understands his business – a bank he can trust, and rely on through ups-and-downs, and call whenever he wants.
Technologies are reshaping the treasury – here we outline some of the most important new terms for treasurers.
Nordea is an active participant at this year's Sibos, with our Cash Management and Trade Finance experts taking part in a range of Sibos talks, roundtables and discussions. Catch up with the latest trends from Sibos below.
In our 2017 Q3 Economic Outlook, Nordea says it expects the global economy to grow by 3.6 per cent this year, 3.7 per cent in 2018 and 3.6 per cent in 2019.
The rise of cybercrime has resulted in a robust industry of cyber security professionals, endlessly engaged in a cat-and-mouse struggle for dominance with would-be hackers. We interview two cybersecurity experts on the current trends, their expectations for the future and their advice for how companies can best protect themselves.
Andreas Bogk, a hacker and member of the Chaos Computer Club for more than 20 years, is a Principal Security Architect at HERE Technologies. Tonje Vik Jevard is a Cybersecurity Advisor at NorSIS, The Norwegian Center for Information Security, which works to promote a secure digital environment in Norway.
In June 2017, the Maersk Group was hit by the NotPetya ransomware attack, shutting down their systems for days. Some of their teams resorted to logging shipments by pen and paper, while other facilities were closed altogether. Ultimately, the disruption to their operations cost Maersk over $200 million in lost revenues.
However, despite the damage wreaked by the ransomware, the attack was not nearly as damaging as it could have been. Though NotPetya gained access to Maersk’s main operation systems, it never accessed any secure data and no sensitive information was made public.
Maersk was by no means the only victim of the NotPetya attacks. The ransomware, which originated in the Ukraine, tore through Europe, crippling many organisations. The NotPetya ransomware came on the heels of WannaCry, another ransomware attack that had a debilitating impact on the UK’s National Health Service, among others.