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Being At Cutting Edge Of Technology For Best Governance

Posted on February 22, 2016 at 1:55 PM

I am confused. Isn't the point of 'corporate governance' to ensure that business is conducted in the best possible way, with benefits to all concerned, esepcially customers?

Four days ago, the BBC splashed a story saying 'HSBC is launching voice recognition and touch security services in the UK in a big leap towards the introduction of biometric banking.' (my emphasis). I felt as if I was in a time warp - because I distinctly remember writing a piece for a magazine ages ago about the exciting arrival of biometric technology....and I thought it involved Barclays. It's so vintage, I can't find it.

A bit lower down, the story said: "Barclays has already introduced voice recognition software, but it is only available to certain clients." AHA. Presumably the high net worth ones....

The fact is, this technology has been around for a long time. But why pay for something that benefits your customers when you can spend that money in large bonuses for the top of an organisation instead ?

This morning's Guardian story: HSBC 'taking too long to tackle financial crime'  begins: "HSBC is taking too long to tackle financial crime, US authorities have said, with an official monitor installed at the bank after a money-laundering scandal four years ago raising “significant concerns”."

There have been a few pay cuts at HSBC. But the time lag is tremendous. No wonder short-termism is rife in the thinking in our boardrooms.

This is not about bashing the finance sector alone. I have another example of not using technology that is even more ironic - BT. For years my landline suffered from being swamped by spam calls (and as far as I can tell from anecdotal evidence and media coverage I am far from alone). It got to the point where I just did not answer it - reasoning that as my mobile is on my answerphone, if it was a genuine call  - or a very brave PR - they would try that. Usually there was no message, and no call on the mobile.

I did ask BT repeatedly why they could not do anything, given that it was a so-called 'ex-directory' number. There were mutterings about being unable to deal with international spam calls. Really, I thought.

Then - lo and behold - BT brought out a 'nuisance call bllocker' telephone - which it sold to grateful customers driven mad by nuisance calls. I got one through Amazon, a bit late to the party, but in relief.

Now I see that BT has announced a 'major breakthrough' and a service to block unwanted nuisance calls. There is pressure from Ofcom, which is looking at BT and Openreach and broadband in the UK - and the sales of those phones might be slowing......and harassed consumers will welcome anything that makes their home life easier, which equals money well spent on PR.

Cynical, moi ? I would argue it's the responsibility of every business to be at the cutting edge of providing the best technology can offer within a quality, undisrupted service. Quite why BT gets patted on the back for this now, I do not know.

We should definitely have a 'digital quotient' to better measure corporate governance.

But then, I am not sure what we would do with companies like Experian. You miust have heard the non-stop ads on commercial radio while driving.....with the sad man on the couch talking about Experian helping him massage his credit score.

That one has me even more confused.

Using data and technology to provide credit scoring has been big business for Experian worldwide. That seems to me to be an objective and value-neutral service - to the extent that is possible.

But helping the same consumer to 'massage' their credit score ? Um, how does that work? And doesn't it make the numbers all a bit suspect?

Categories: Technology, Governance, Scrutiny