Asia Blockchain Review recently spoke to Uriel Ekstein, FinTech Consultant at The Floor, an exclusive platform that drives unmatched technologies for tier-1 banks with the mission to enable partners to continue leading their industry and deﬁne the future of ﬁnance. Ekstein talked about the firm’s unique “challenge-first, solution-second” approach, bridging the human and the digital world, the importance of quantum protection, and the future of financial technology.
Asia Blockchain Review: Can you tell us about your “challenge-first, solution-second” approach? How does this enable you to bring business value to partners?
Uriel Ekstein: Our “challenge-first, solution-second” approach is really the secret sauce of The Floor. Our co-founders have dubbed the approach our reverse innovation model. Instead of creating technology and then trying to find applications for it, we start by working with our banking partners to understand the challenges and pain points they are facing; then we research the specific solutions that they need. In the event that there is no complete solution, we work together with our partners to develop the exact technology that they need. This approach gives our partners a huge advantage in being part of the innovation process and allows them to become more involved in shaping the future of banking.
ABR: Working in financial technology, or FinTech, how do you address issues of trust and security for your clients? What are some of the key issues that you have encountered?
UE: With all the technology today, there is a trust issue that must be addressed, and it’s even more prevalent when it comes to financial technology. To address this issue, we need to start from both the business and technology perspectives.
From the business side, we have to know our customers and verify their identities to assess their suitability. By doing so, we know each other better, and we can start to build mutual trust. In terms of data, we need to collect it responsibly and know how we are going to use it.
As for the technology side, there are more and more emerging technologies that could be used to provide security for our clients. For example, The Floor Cyber and Nitromia are two great companies that The Floor has founded to address cybersecurity issues for our banking partners.
ABR: How do you deal with the different regulations for blockchain and cryptocurrency across different countries?
UE: First of all, regulation for blockchain and cryptocurrency is not the same. Cryptocurrency is just one of the applications of blockchain, whereas blockchain is more like an infrastructure technology that could add value to many fields. Although some countries have implemented bans on cryptocurrencies or ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), most countries are supportive of blockchain technology.
Although it has been 10 years since blockchain appeared on the scene, regulators around the world are still dealing with how to treat it. So it’s essential that we stay up to date and have a clear understanding of the evolving regulations around the world.
Also, most companies that we are looking at are those that master the underlying technology, not one specific application of the technology. Local regulations come into play when providing customized solutions to our partners, which are tier-1 banks operating around the world. Considering these local regulations, along with knowledge of the banks, we are able to optimize our solutions accordingly.
ABR: What does innovation mean to you, and how do you deliver innovation to your clients?
UE: Innovation for me is the ability to provide a solution and answer a need in an unconventional way, by being creative and resourceful. At The Floor, we innovate by working with our partners to identify key challenges for the banking industry, upon which we create category-leading companies that harness the power and know-how of outstanding Israeli entrepreneurs. The Floor promotes and nurtures collaboration between our global tier-1 banking partners. We have cultivated a growth environment in which banks can safely co-design solutions in non-competitive technological areas (e.g. compliance, regulation, etc.), allowing them to join forces to solve common key issues for the global banking industry.
ABR: Can you tell us about Pai-Tech? How does this project bridge the gap between the human and digital world?
UE: Today, people are in need of solutions that can empower them to move away from old, manual, unnecessary processes that take up time and cost extra money, and move towards autonomous solutions that help speed up everyday workflows and assist with day-to-day tasks — in other words, make your life easier by shifting towards automated, digital solutions.
To make this shift to a more digital world, businesses need to embrace new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics. This adoption can be very complicated, challenging, and expensive, so in order to make this process as simple and affordable as possible, businesses depend more and more on bots: software robots which can be configured to automate tasks, are easily accessible, and understand their way around a digital environment.
To ensure that companies have the ability to efficiently and effectively manage the ever-growing workforce of bots, they need a ‘bot controller’. Pai-Tech helps companies adopt the Fourth Industrial Revolution and bridge the gap between the digital and human world by providing a Bot Operating System Standard (Pai-BOSS) that acts as a bot controller for entire bot workforces.
ABR: Can you tell us about Nitromia?
UE: Nitromia provides end-to-end data protection technology. By leveraging the power of four cryptographic algorithms (Fully Homomorphic Encryption, Secure Multi-Party Computation, Secret Sharing, and Zero-Knowledge Proof), Nitromia provides a security and privacy solution that enables data collaboration and analysis while being encrypted.
Banks have a strong need to collaborate and analyze their highly sensitive data for the optimization of their services. While having limited access to the data and the need to comply with new regulations such as the EU’s revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and open banking, AI and machine learning capabilities are limited. Thanks to Nitromia, they’ll be able to analyze and act upon the data without revealing the data.
ABR: What are some of the developments and projects that we will see from The Floor in the near future?
UE: It’s challenging to elaborate on them for some obvious reasons. We have a constant pipeline of new projects that we receive from our banking partners, and since the industry is developing very fast, the projects are as well, with the need to adapt and to stay ahead of the curve.
I can tell you that we are predicting a lot of new and innovative developments involving AI, machine learning, cybersecurity, cryptography, and automation. I know… a lot of buzz words in one breath, but they are dominating subjects in FinTech and the banking industry. They will undoubtedly form the next wave of new FinTech startups.
ABR: How does The Floor differentiate itself from other similar players?
UE: The key difference at The Floor is the way we innovate and how we attack the challenges. The traditional way of innovating is by finding new technology and then detect suitable use cases and customers. This is where we are different.
Our reverse innovation model and our strong network of partners gives us the advantage of sourcing and developing the technology based on existing challenges and use cases. By having tier-1 banks as partners and daily interactions with C-level people at these banks, we are privileged to have high-level insights into banking challenges and can get to a test/PoC (Proof of Concept) environment very fast.
ABR: In your opinion, what is the future of FinTech, and how will it change our everyday life?
UE: The trend of technology being leveraged and implemented in the financial sector is already dominating the innovation spectrum and is going to grow even more in the future.
I do see a trend of FinTech merging more and more with cybersecurity. The financial industry is a delicate one when it comes to innovation, client privacy, and data collaboration. The banks will have to adapt with new applications and new features, but this will always be tied to making sure that they’re covered by cybersecurity. Actually, this is how we see the bank of the future — a platform with loads of applications to manage all banking needs.
And this is how it will change our everyday life (more than it has changed it already). Digital payment and banking, virtual assistance, bot operating systems, and distributed ledger technology are a few of the innovative features and technologies we are already using today.
Overall, the FinTech industry is continuing to transform how financial services are delivered to the customers. This transformation will have a huge impact on the customers’ user experience, access, cost savings, and most importantly, their security.
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