Technology meets Humanity – Panel with Jay Prag

Technology meets Humanity – Panel with Jay Prag

As former senior executive within FirstRand and also a founding member & CTO of a new digital start-up bank, you have experienced both being an incumbent in a very traditional market but now also a disrupter to this same market. South Africans always had an entrepreneurial spirit and as founding member of these organisations you must have seen an opportunity to disrupt the existing establishment? What is driving this?

There are a few things we need to understand

1. Banking and Financial services is extremely mature in South Africa. Banks have embraced technology within their banking systems and through which a host of innovative solutions, products and services are available digitally. We have in the financial services sector a very robust banking system with competition across the BIG5 and also the smaller incumbents and new players coming aboard. Our Reserve Bank is extremely knowledgeable and is probably one of the best reserve banks in the world. Their processes ensures the financial system is trustworthy and safe from external events employing very strict balancing and settlement processes with regulatory reporting that is strictly controlled and managed.

2. Against that backdrop, my experience working for a large banking group was one within which innovation was at the core of everything we done. Being the most innovative bank in the world to world first implementations, it was a journey well-travelled. But it was still a corporate with many policies and processes and many changes being made to a formula that worked well. So that has resulted in many banks catching up and some even being extremely different in what they offer.

3. Moving from a corporate world into an entrepreneur world provides a very different view of the world. The paradigm change and the maturity in thinking patterns starts a journey within which there are no rules, there are no limits to what can be done. The penny only drops when you start seeing things through many different lenses which unfortunately is difficult to see within corporate structures.

4. The existing establishments are mature and very well capitalised. We believe there is tremendous value to be added via a traditional take on banking with modern day realities in a fully digital and socially connected world. This requires highly digital, highly secure with true connectedness.

Do you think local companies are moving fast enough with innovation on the back of technologies like Cloud and AI? Any advise on how they should look at these technologies and how do they architect to win?

We have seen many different types of practices across a few industries now:

1. There are those that use technology to enable services such as Cloud and AI and have started implementing processes to manage private clouds with AI. This sometimes with an unclear understanding of where they want to be. It is using technology for technologies sake.

2. Those that start the journey slowly and make use of a proper use case to test out the strategy before enabling the technology around it. They then get quite intense and start doing all sorts of things only to find out that they have lost their original strategy.

3. Those that actually begin to start understanding their data, what they have as an asset and what they can do with it. This leads to a use case driven framework, where each implementation is a use case and parallel streams to handle different use cases. Technology then becomes the enabler to these use cases and suddenly you have a formidable team of people doing the right things with proper business value. Not many in this league as yet.

4. Those that have heard the terminology and don’t know where to start. Still trying to find some way to convince the business.