By Majella Gomes
To manage risk effectively, firms will need to rely increasingly on technology, and apply Big Data analytics (BDA) and artificial intelligence (AI) in support of their existing processes and operations. Far from displacing accountants, AI will be a boon that takes over onerous, repetitive tasks – freeing up finance professionals for higher value-added roles, including risk management and controls.
Plan your Tech Strategy. While AI can make work easier and enable humans to move to the next level of both tech and decision-making, organisations need to first understand their tech needs, and determine if they have the capacity to effectively harness it. ‘Before embarking on an AI journey, companies should plan a comprehensive, long-term tech strategy,’ advised Dr. Nurmazilah Dato’ Mahzan, CEO, MIA, moderating the first session on technology adoption, risks and governance at the MIA Risk Management Conference 2018.
Ensure Risk Controls are Consistent with Long-term Strategy. AI and BDA are able to capture and analyse huge amounts of data rapidly but risks – such as human error at the most basic programming level – could skew results. When these occur, the resulting damage could be irreparable, particularly when reputations are involved, hence the need to put in proper risk management measures and controls that are consistent with long-term business and risk management strategy, explained Dato’ Merina Abu Tahir, Head, Group Internal Audit, Malaysia Airlines Berhad. One key way of enhancing risk management is to use AI and computer-aided auditing tools and techniques to assist in identifying and managing risks and to continuously audit the business to ensure that there is no deviation from risk controls, she continued.
Prioritise your risk management. Technology use brings new risks in its wake. Topping the list is managing the risks that come with making digital payments, as the mode, frequency and amounts transacted are speeding up and diversifying at a dizzying pace. Suhana Ali, Axiata Digital eCode’s Head of Risk Management, confirmed that the company’s digital platform for customers already had a built-in risk management component.
Find a niche. BaliPay founder Dr.John Vong recommended that firms leverage on evolving technologies to find new areas of value. For example, extrapolate new uses from big data, along the lines of AI diagnostics that can tell whether a cough on the phone indicates bronchitis or pneumonia, by crunching cough patterns, and facial recognition software that can tell if a person is well or not from a smart phone photo; or the retina scanning security system he developed for a bank that was then utilised to spotting developing cataracts.
Change mindsets. In a dynamic business landscape that is evolving exponentially, firms need a more agile, 360-degree and integrated perspective and approach to risk management, advised Dr.Nurmazilah. To boost risk management culture that is supported by technology, she recommended that the current low levels of IT use could be boosted by having a champion in every firm, either the Chief Data Officer or an IT-savvy auditor “able to harness technology to make it work at optimum level” to support good governance and a robust risk culture.