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The financial sector finds itself rapidly approaching a crossroads. With digital transformation happening everywhere, banks and other financial institutions need to transform quickly while remaining cautious about security and regulatory standards. While such caution is indeed expected, there still exists the risk of being the safest dead company in the market. As a countermeasure, banks and other financial institutions must look towards Silicon Valley fintech startups using advanced digital technologies to capture emerging opportunities while still fending off increasingly sophisticated adversaries. Established financial corporations will do well to seek partnership opportunities as such partnerships hold the key to unlocking the next level of rapid and secure growth.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

A general weakness of current cybersecurity solutions is that even the more advanced ones are mostly reactive. They are a form of sophisticated whack-a-mole. This inherent weakness means cybersecurity efforts are always playing catch-up to criminals. AI, on the other hand, offers an opportunity to identify and thwart attacks preemptively. Such systems would utilize ML to learn the patterns criminals use to attack and then create patches and other remedies preemptively.

One example of a startup using AI and ML to combat financial crime is Merlon Intelligence. By plugging into a financial institution’s Financial Crime and Compliance (FCC) ecosystem, the Silicon Valley startup can deploy its AI solution to among other things, reduce false positives across the FCC structures, automate risk ranking, and understand and automate recommendations. Financial institutions partnering with the startup can leverage extensive AI capabilities for threat identification, classification and mitigation without having to do the hard work of building the AI solutions themselves.

Blockchain and Crypto Technologies

Blockchain and crypto technologies are seen as the next step in fraud detection and mitigation. The immutable nature of data on the blockchain naturally makes it attractive to the financial sector. Turning banking records into immutable records can go a long way in helping banks innovate faster. However, challenges remain in understanding and implementing blockchain solutions. Central to this challenge is a lack of blockchain specialists in the market. For legacy institutions interested in experimenting with blockchain, building internal teams of blockchain specialists will prove to be costly and difficult. A better solution would be to identify and work with Silicon Valley startups building blockchain and crypto technology solutions for the financial sector.

Chain, a fintech startup based in Silicon Valley, utilizes blockchain technology to build ledger-as-a-service infrastructure for financial institutions. The technology, which integrates with existing infrastructure, allows financial institutions to track and transfer balances in a token format securely. For clarity, tokens are entries in a blockchain that provide an immutable record of transactions while blockchain is the technology on top of which applications like Bitcoin are built. Partnering with a startup like Chain would afford a legacy financial institution the kind of dynamism and nimbleness to leap into the blockchain future of finance.

Biometrics and Biosignatures

When it comes to cybersecurity, access control is perhaps the most crucial means of keeping data safe. It is by bypassing these access controls that criminals infiltrate and steal. Biometrics and biosignatures are an emerging technology that can help solve this issue, especially from a user perspective. These technologies provide identity screening and matching based on a customer’s physiological traits including fingerprints, iris, heart rates, blood oximetry, among others.

When combined, the bio profile provides an unassailable compilation of unique identifiers that would be impossible to mimic. This technology will be crucial in fintech as users increasingly access financial services through digital channels. As omnichannel access escalates the number of hurdles financial institutions must jump, matching each account to a user’s biometrics and biosignature can help significantly reduce instances of fraud.

SecuredTouch approaches biometrics in a novel way. The startup, founded in 2014 and headquartered in Silicon Valley, creates biometric profiles of users by measuring things like scroll speed, keyboard typing speed, touch pressure, and finger size. By doing so, the SecuredTouch platform can detect fraud before any accounts or data are compromised. By continuously analyzing and updating user profiles, a simple anomaly like a different typing speed will immediately create an alert. For a financial institution seeking to include advanced fintech products in its portfolio, partnering with such a startup would provide a viable cybersecurity solution.

Cloud and Big Data Analytics

Corporate cyber-attacks often occur because they offer an easy target for hackers. Consider a large bank that has an IT department with perhaps thirty to forty cybersecurity professionals. Compare this to a cloud infrastructure provider like Amazon AWS, which hires hundreds. What this shows is businesses hosting their data on shared cloud infrastructure stand a better chance of resisting cyber-attacks compared to those with on-premises infrastructure. Another vital aspect of cloud infrastructure is the pooling and analysis of data. For a large bank with cloud infrastructure, identifying threats and deploying system-wide patches can be done in a matter of seconds, while a bank relying on legacy systems may need days to accomplish the same.

However, moving data and infrastructure to the cloud can be a thorny affair. That’s where startups like Dome9 come in. The cloud security startup based in San Mateo, California, provides cybersecurity solutions for enterprises deploying their infrastructure to the cloud. By automating security policy management for cloud, dedicated, and Virtual Private Servers (VPS), the startup makes it possible for financial institutions to seamlessly maintain compliance while still harnessing the advantages of moving to the cloud. In partnership with such a startup, a large financial institution can have confidence that it has the tools needed to keep its data safe in the cloud.

Partnering vs. Competing

The startups mentioned here, and others, are all part of a growing number of Silicon Valley fintech startups that are building advanced tools and infrastructure for legacy financial institutions. These institutions, on their part, have recognized that more value can be derived from such startups through partnerships than from outright competition. As a result, major banks and other financial institutions maintain close ties with Silicon Valley, always on the lookout for startups that can either enhance their current offerings or launch them into new markets altogether.

Visit Silicon Valley Fintech Startups

Silicon Valley Innovation Center helps financial sector executives experience and connect with the Silicon Valley fintech startup ecosystem through the Navigating FinTech Disruption executive immersion program. As Silicon Valley is a hotbed of fintech innovation, company executives benefit greatly from visiting the innovation hub and interacting with startups like the ones mentioned in this article. Through this immersive experience, executives also gain deep insights into how partnering with Silicon Valley startups can be a game-changer for their businesses.


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