Learn which announcements from AWS re:Invent 2020 will shape the financial services industry in 2021.
AWS re:Invent is arguably the bellwether cloud event of the year as Amazon dominates the public cloud market, they have a massive ecosystem and partner network, and they announce multiple new products and features annually. As we close this year’s historical virtual event, we’ve included the top non-compute announcements that will help the financial services industry continue to modernize in 2021.
SageMaker Data Wrangler
One of the several announcements around SageMaker, Amazon’s machine learning (ML) service is SageMaker Data Wrangler, a new AWS service designed to speed up data preparation for machine learning and AI applications. This provides a way to normalize data from disparate sources, so the data is consistently easy to use. The service contains over 300 built-in data transformations to leverage without having to write any code. According to AWS, it reduces the time it takes to aggregate and prepares data for machine learning (ML) from weeks to minutes.
Benefits: Companies like Thomson Reuters and JPMorgan Chase are using SageMaker as their ML platform to improve customer service, improve customer insights, and personalized money management advice. Data Wrangler makes it easier to build models and should drive further adoption.
Amazon QuickSight Q
Amazon announced Amazon QuickSight Q, which is a Natural Language Query (NLQ) feature powered by machine learning. Amazon Quicksight Q uses ML algorithms to understand the relationships across the data and build indexes to provide accurate answers. With this new feature, users can now utilize Amazon QuickSight to ask questions about data using natural language and obtain specific answers within seconds such as, “What is our compound annual growth rate over the last 5 years”?.
Benefits: This improves responsiveness to business users and simultaneously reduces demand on the technology team. For example, financial services firms can now deploy QuickSight Q in a variety of customer service functions.
AWS Proton is a new service designed to help organizations automate and manage infrastructure provisioning and code deployments for serverless and container-based applications. Maintaining hundreds or more microservices with constantly changing infrastructure resources and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) configurations is a nearly impossible task. Development teams can use Proton to connect and coordinate the different tools needed for infrastructure provisioning, code deployments, monitoring, and updates. AWS Proton will integrate with commonly used CI/CD pipelines and observability tools such as CodePipeline and CloudWatch.
Benefit: AWS Proton simplifies this which will be a major benefit for many financial services organizations that are on the legacy modernization journey and have been deploying a microservices pattern.
Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL
This new capability for Amazon Aurora, which will allow customers to run SQL Server applications directly on Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL with little to no code changes. This new capability makes it easier for customers to migrate from SQL Server to Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL.
Benefits: This is another direct move by AWS to entice customers to migrate off of Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM on-premise relational databases by making it much easier to transition and less costly to operate. Many financial service institutions had already been adopting PostgreSQL for its ability to handle online transactional processing (OLTP), provide high availability, and support high volume concurrent access and critical data financial data all on an open-source platform. This should continue to accelerate adoption.
In his keynote, Andy Jassy spent quite a bit of time on Amazon Connect, their solution which makes it easy for customers to build contact centers in the cloud. During the pandemic, over 5,000 new Amazon Connect contact centers including many in financial services, have started using the service to help them operate as their customer service agents continue to work remotely. Announcements included:
- Amazon Connect Wisdom provides contact center agents with information to solve issues in real-time. Connect Wisdom ingests and organizes knowledge content that agents need (e.g., support documents, FAQs, how-to directions, etc.) from homegrown databases and third-party knowledge repositories and supports pre-built connectors for Salesforce and ServiceNow. Connect Wisdom uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to detect customer issues during the call and subsequently recommends relevant content stored in the knowledge repositories.
- Amazon Connect Customer Profiles gives agents a unified profile of each customer to provide more personalized service. Content about customer activity and experiences, like product and service information, is often spread across various databases and user interfaces in homegrown applications and third-party services.
- Contact Lens for Amazon Connect offers a new capability for contact center managers to impact customer interactions during a call. Real-Time Contact Lens gives managers the ability to know when customer interactions are going poorly, provides an alert giving them the ability to intervene and improve a call that may be going south.
- Amazon Connect Tasks automates, tracks, and manages tasks for contact center agents, improving agent productivity by up to 30%.
- Amazon Connect Voice ID delivers real-time caller authentication using machine learning-powered voice analysis. Voice ID provides real-time caller authentication without disrupting the natural conversation eliminating the need for multiple questions
Benefits: AWS has announced significant enhancements to AWS Connect which makes it an even more compelling alternative to traditional vendors in the space that have complex hardware and software dependencies that make the simplest customer experience changes costly and time-consuming. We are seeing more financial services firms adopt AWS Connect as either a wholesale replacement or part of a next-generation solution for call centers.
Lastly, another big focus area for AWS has been hybrid cloud. AWS is redefining what hybrid cloud means into a vision that is comprised of the cloud along with various other edge nodes with on-premises data centers being one of them. AWS Outposts is intent on bringing the cloud experience into the data center. Outposts is AWS’s move to define hybrid and dominate the edge allowing users to operate on-premises or in collocated facilities using the same AWS application programming interfaces and tools that they do in the cloud.
Benefit: Many financial services firms have had to choose to adopt a hybrid cloud model frequently due to requirements around data residency. For example, you can have financial institutions that must do local data processing due to regulatory requirements.
In the past, if your cloud provider did not have a regional or local zone in that space you were out of luck in terms of leveraging cloud and all the capabilities that come with it. With Outposts, you can bring AWS capabilities to places where they need to be. Now available in 51 countries and all 22 AWS Regions, the technology added 15 new services and incremental features in 2020. They announced more AWS local zones at re:Invent including Boston, Houston, and Miami. Another announcement is the arrival of smaller Outposts form factors coming in 2021. These servers will be the size of pizza boxes according to AWS.
Benefit: Combined with VMWare on AWS, the options for hybrid and leveraging AWS tools on-premise have never been better. This is good news for those financial services firms still maintaining onsite data centers.
A Promising Future
These AWS advancements are very promising for the financial services industry. As Jassy noted, a very small percentage of workloads are currently running in the cloud which means there are a lot of firms including financial services who will be more likely to move forward in their cloud adoption and cloud-first journeys.
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– Bob Graham, Senior Vice President – Financial Services