Progress report: With AI to innovation and sustainable growth

As a member of Germany’s AI Plattform Lernende Systeme it is very inspiring to read this progress report and learn what has been achieved by Germany’s best experts in this field.

Please find the LINK TO THE REPORT HERE

Concept and aims of the Platform

Self-learning systems are increasingly becoming a driving force behind digitalisation in business and society. They are based on Artificial Intelligence technologies and methods that are currently developing at a rapid pace in terms of performance. Self-learning systems are machines, robots and software systems that learn from data and use it to autonomously complete tasks that have been described in an abstract fashion – all without specific programming for each step.

Self-learning systems are becoming increasingly commonplace supporting people in their work and everyday lives. For example, they can be used to develop autonomous traffic systems, improve medical diagnostics and assist emergency services in disaster zones. They can help improve quality of life in many different respects, but are also fundamentally changing how humans and machines interact.

Self-learning systems have immense economic potential. As digitalisation takes hold, they are already helping companies in certain sectors to create entirely new business models based on data usage and are radically changing conventional value creation chains. This is opening up opportunities for new businesses, but can also represent a threat to established market leaders should they fail to react quickly enough.

Developing and introducing self-learning systems calls for special core skills, which need to be carefully nurtured to secure Germany’s pioneering role in this field. Using self-learning systems also raises numerous social, legal, ethical and security questions – with regard to data protection and liability, but also responsibility and transparency. To tackle these issues, we need to engage in broad-based dialogues as early as possible.

Plattform Lernende Systeme brings together leading experts in self-learning systems and Artificial Intelligence from science, industry, politics and civic organisations. In specialised focus groups, they discuss the opportunities, challenges and parameters for developing self-learning systems and using them responsibly. They derive scenarios, recommendations, design options and road maps from the results.

The Platform aims to:

  • shape self-learning systems to ensure positive, fair and responsible social coexistence,
  • strengthen skills for developing and using self-learning systems,
  • act as an independent intermediary to combine different perspectives,
  • promote dialogue within society on Artificial Intelligence,
  • develop objectives and scenarios for the application of self-learning systems,
  • encourage collaboration in research and development,
  • position Germany as the leading supplier of technology for self-learning systems.

Technological Breakthroughs: A Beacon of Hope for the Future

After a challenging 2022 this year ends with HOPE due to a rally of technological innovation breakthroughs. Technological progress has the potential to help address many of the challenges facing the world today, including the energy crisis, the need for better education, and financial inclusion. Three of them shall be brought to your attention: 1. CLEAN ENERGY – Breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology; 2. EDUCATION – ChatGPT is changing the way to experience artificial intelligence; 3. PRIVACY & FINANCIAL INCLUSION – New compliant pathways for privacy and security in the blockchain-based financial ecosystem

Breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology

One area where technology is helping to address the energy crisis is through the development of nuclear fusion as a potential source of clean, abundant energy. Nuclear fusion is a process in which atomic nuclei combine to release energy, and it has the potential to provide a virtually limitless source of energy with low carbon emissions. While significant progress has been made in developing fusion technology, it is still in the early stages of development and has not yet been fully commercialized. However, the potential for nuclear fusion to help address the energy crisis makes it a promising area of research and development.

In December 2022 the National Ignition Facility (NIF) has successfully sparked a fusion reaction that released more energy than went into it. Even though there’s still a long way to go toward fusion as a clean energy source, this step can be considered as a major step forward.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS BREAKTHROUGH IN THIS FUSION TECHNOLOGY MARATHON

ChatGPT changes the way you experience artificial intelligence

ChatGPT, also known as OpenAI’s GPT-3 Chatbot API, is a natural language processing (NLP) tool developed by OpenAI. It is based on the GPT-3 model, which is a large, advanced AI language model that is capable of generating human-like text.

Overall, ChatGPT is changing the way we experience and interact with AI by making it easier to build and deploy chatbot applications that can understand and respond to user input in a natural, human-like way.

ChatGPT can be used to build chatbots and other NLP applications that can understand and respond to user input in a natural, human-like way. It is designed to be easy to use and integrate into existing systems, allowing developers to quickly build and deploy chatbot applications without the need for extensive training data.

One advantage of ChatGPT is its ability to understand and respond to a wide range of inputs and topics. It is trained on a large dataset of text and has the ability to generate coherent and contextually appropriate responses to a variety of inputs. This can make it a useful tool for building chatbots and other NLP applications that need to handle a wide range of queries and topics.

(Text has been created by ChatGPT)

CHALLENGE ChatGPT YOURSELF AND BE AMAZED. FIND OUT MORE HERE

New compliant pathways for privacy and security in the blockchain-based financial ecosystem

Innovation in blockchain privacy can bring a number of advantages to the financial ecosystem, particularly in terms of increasing the security and confidentiality of transactions. By combining this innovation with a 100% collateralized stablecoin, it is possible to create a more secure and stable digital currency that can be used for a wide range of financial transactions.

One advantage of using a 100% collateralized coin is that it is pegged to a specific asset, such as a fiat currency or commodity, which helps to stabilize its value and reduce price volatility. This can make it more attractive to users, as it reduces the risk of loss due to price fluctuations. The German Digital Cash GmbH just announced to have issued the first 100% compliant, central-bank-money-backed, Made in Germany, Euro-coin on UniSwap, called Digital Cash Euro (DCEUR). READ MORE ON THE DCEUR HERE

In terms of privacy, a blockchain-based stablecoin that incorporates innovative privacy features can help to protect the confidentiality of transactions by making it more difficult for outsiders to track and monitor them. This can be particularly useful for financial institutions and individuals.

Researchers from German crypto blockchain-based payments fintech etonec and other organizations have proposed using zero-knowledge proofs to ensure regulatory compliance and privacy in stablecoins. They have created a design that allows fiat-based stablecoins to be used like cash, within limits.

Dr. Jonas Gross, states on December 15, 2022 to CoinTelegraph: “How can privacy for digital payments be preserved, while ensuring stability and regulatory compliance? In this feasibility study co-authored by @etonec_gmbh@MinaFoundation@Privatbank1796, and @SnT_uni_lu we show how it can be done.“ FIND THE THE FULL STUDY HERE

Overall, the combination of a 100% collateralized stablecoin with innovative privacy features can bring a number of benefits to the financial ecosystem, including increased security, stability, and confidentiality.

Conclusion

Overall, technological progress has the potential to help address many of the challenges facing the world today, and it will likely continue to play a crucial role in finding solutions to these problems in the future.

December 2022 seems to be a good month in this respect. A month that shall give hope.

Experts Exchange to develop prosperity, freedom, social participation and sustainability: The Federal Government Digital Summit 2022

It was a great pleasure to meet again personally and be connected virtually with friends like Dr. Andreas Heindl and Dr. Johannes Winter who, like many others inside and outside this Digital Summit, dedicate their passion to the digitisation of Germany day after day. Their passion is the engine for Germany’s competitiveness and prosperity. Exchanges like today between Germany’s leading experts in the field of digitalisation and the German government are crucial for the country’s future innovation.

This was underlined today by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the ministers Robert Habeck, Volker Wissing, Nancy Faeser and Bettina Stark-Watzinger. A special motivation was given by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Japan’s Digital Minister Tarō Konō.

Congratulations to the organization committee and thank you for the kind invitation. Details can be found HERE

Digital Summit 2022

Germany’s digitisation continues to remain one of the main topics of the German government. The aim is to accelerate and promote digitisation processes and to exploit their potential to develop prosperity, freedom, social participation, and sustainability.

In this context, the Digital Summit remains the central platform for shaping the digital transformation with all parties involved. It focuses on the key fields of action within the digital transformation across ten topic-based platforms. The platforms and their focus groups are made up of representatives from business, academia and society who, between summit meetings, work together to develop projects, events and initiatives designed to drive digitisation in business and society forward. The Summit will serve to present the results of the work that has been done in the past, to highlight new trends and discuss digital challenges and policy approaches.

This year’s Digital Summit of the Federal Government will be held on 8 and 9 December 2022. The Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action will jointly coordinate the summit’s preparation in the future. In the new legislature, new formats, concrete results and international impulses are to make it the driving force and showcase for digitisation in Germany and beyond.

The Quantum Race

It was very inspiring to have the opportunity to participate in the workshop on responsible quantum technologies with some of the world’s most recognised experts in the field. Congratulations and thanks a lot to the organisation committee.

Please find details HERE

The second quantum revolution has been ongoing for more than two decades now and many countries around the globe have noticed the promises of these technologies. Just in the last decade, the number of publicly supported national initiatives grew from zero to more than 15, with globally more than 20 B€ of public investments allocated or planned. Both the number of new publications per year and patents granted on quantum technologies (QT) has also been climbing steadily for the last decade, so has been the number of start-ups being founded and established companies getting into the field. Finally, the field started receiving attention from private funding sources in recent years, which some have been calling the ‘quantum gold rush’. Within two decades, QT became a strong contender for a potential future industry from a topic that was mainly discussed in physics conferences.

All this rapid development triggered a sort of quantum ‘race’, where countries, companies, and institutions compete to become the first to achieve a checkpoint or to be the current best at some quantum benchmark. However, it is also noted by many that the real/transformative effects of QT on society will be in the long run. In this respect, we would like to initiate a discussion on responsibility and introduce QT as a noteworthy emerging topic for technology assessment (TA) studies.

This workshop aimed to be another step towards establishing connections between the QT and TA communities and to introduce some current discussions in the QT community to a new audience. It is organized as a collaboration between the QuTec project under KIT-ITAS, and the QUCATS Coordination and Support Action of the Quantum Flagship program. 

The conference program consisted of panels such as:

Panel on Responsible Education and Workforce Development for QT

  • Moderator: Araceli Venegas-Gomez (QURECA)
  • Panelists: Tatjana Wilk (MCQST), Maria Luisa Chiofalo (University of Pisa), İlke Ercan (TU Delft)

Panel on RRI and Ethics in QT

  • Moderator: Pieter Vermaas (TU Delft)
  • Panelists: Oxana Mishina (CNR-INO), Carolyn Ten Holter (Oxford), Douglas K. R. Robinson (CNRS), Robert Whitney (Université Grenoble Alpes)

Panel: How to think responsibly on the geopolitics of QT?

  • Moderator: Astrid Bötticher (University of Jena)
  • Speakers: Pieter Vermaas (TU Delft), Matthias C. Kettemann (IQEL, University of Innsbruck/HIIG), Mira L. Wolf-Bauwens  (IBM Research Europe)

Trends in Society & Security – Thought Leaders Discussion at the Future Summit

It was a pleasure and inspiration discussing with other thought leaders future relevant trends in society and security. 

As follow-up to their keynotes and moderated by Stefanie Dreyer, the panel participants Daniel Kroos (OSCE – Organisation for Security and Collaboration in Europe), Steven Koleczko (DGC – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Cybersicherheit), Jay Tuck (Investigative Journalist) and Jochen Werne (Prosegur Germany & Prosegur Crypto) discussed impacts of technological changes on society and security. The panel took place during the 25th anniversary of the Hamburg@Work Future Summit on the historic freight ship Cap San Diego in the port of Hamburg and consisted of outstanding streams on digital future trends with Nils Müller – Trendone, political trends with Federal Minister Wolfgang Schmidt, Dr. Thomas Mirow – Senator ret. Hansestadt Hamburg, Dr. Carsten Brosda – Senator Hansestadt Hamburg, Prof. Henning Voepel – cep, Centrum für Europäische Politik, Thomas Fuchs – Hamburgische Beauftragte für Datenschutz und Informationsfreiheit, technological trends with Dalits Steiger – SwissCognitive, Dr. Mira Wolf-Bauwens – IBM Research Europe  

Congratulations to the board and the team of Hamburg@Work under the leadership of Uwe-Jens Neumann for this outstanding achievement.

Details are available at: https://www.digitalcluster.hamburg/de/events/2022-09-22%2025th%20Anniversary%20SUMMIT-232933

Keynote: Analog Battlefields and Cyberwarfare: Risk & Opportunities in a Changing World

Until recently, most of us in today´s modern societies had had the privilege of assuming that a “real” war is a relics of a bygone era. This has changed. War in Europe is real and Cyberwarfare has become an asymmetric battlefield aiming at destabilizing whole economies and societies. In his keynote, Jochen Werne will lead you through historical analogies and share his thoughts with you on what soon might be a new reality and how you should prepare.

Kuppinger Cole – Cybersecurity Leadership Summit 2022

Hybrid Event

November 08 – 10, 2022

in Berlin, Germany & Online

Keynote Session by Jochen Werne

Wednesday, November 09, 2022 16:20—16:40

Location: Historic Kassenhalle

From Antarctica to Artificial Intelligence

CONGRATULATIONS ON THE 100th ANNIVERSARY
of the Siemens Graduate Program

and thank you for the invitation to take a thought-provocing journey together from Antarctica to Artificial Intelligence.

A New Age of Enlightenment? Human Behaviour in the Light of New Technologies. From Antarctica to Artificial Intelligence, a human-made journey between madness and brilliance. By reflecting carefully human mankind’s past, we discover a quite schizophrenic story of partial madness and absolute brilliance, not only when it comes to the use of new technologies.

The talk will show how new technological approaches influenced visionary leaders in science, business and politics. The goal of the talk is to inspire the audience to understand and to take their role as leaders for change for good in their company as well as in society.

Next100 #SiemensGraduateProgram #Impact

X-VOLUTION: Technologie und Gesellschaft – Ein Plädoyer für Aufklärung

Sascha Adam befragt im Schlußplädoyer die Teilnehmer des X-Volution Tech-Talks über ihre persönlichen Aussichten zum Thema technologischen Fortschritts und seinen Auswirkungen auf Wirtschaft, Unternehmen und unsere Gesellschaft.

Jochen Werne, Chief Visionary Officer von Prosegur German, Managing Director der Prosegur Crypto GmbH und mehrfach international ausgezeichnet für sein Engagement in International Relations antwortet mit Zuversicht und einer Reflexion für die internationale Politik.

Sascha Adam in his interview with Jochen Werne

In his closing statement, Sascha Adam asks the participants of the X-Volution Tech-Talk about their personal outlook on the topic of technological progress and its impact on the economy, companies and our society. Jochen Werne, Chief Visionary Officer of Prosegur German, Managing Director of Prosegur Crypto GmbH and winner of several international awards for his commitment to international relations, answers with confidence and a reflection for international politics.

Das gesamte Interview finden sie hier:

TIME of MISTRUST

A plea for trust in a time of mistrust. Trust is the foundation on which monetary systems are built. Trust forms the basis of international diplomatic relations and is the foundation for all progress.

But what happens once trust is shaken?

The diplomatic dispute over a multibillion-dollar submarine treaty – which took place three months before the Russian – Ukrainian war, concerns about a new cold war, and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system exactly 50 years ago are the manuscript for this maritime-themed French-American story about money and trust. It is an object lesson for our times, where we are witnessing the emergence of crypto-financial markets and thus stand on the threshold of a new form of money.

TIME OF MISTRUST

by Jochen Werne

After the traditional long summer vacation, France awakens in September from its brief self-created slumber, as it does every year. Life begins to take its usual course, even if some are still reminiscing, perhaps enjoying the first harbingers of post-Covid worry-free life. Not so Philippe Étienne. For him, on the other side of the Atlantic, in Washington, which is actually picturesque at this time of year, autumn begins with a diplomatic thunderstorm. A storm that must have been new even for the 65-year-old gray-haired eloquent ambassador of France. 6160 kilometers away, at the Élysée Palace, Président de la République Emmanuel Macron decides to call his top diplomat in the United States, along with his Australian counterpart Jean-Pierre Thebault, to Paris for consultations. The unprecedented act in Franco-American history is justified by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian with the “exceptional gravity” of an Australian-British-American announcement, and impressively underlined with the words “lie,” “duplicity,” “disrespect” and “serious crisis.”

At the heart of this crisis is the surprise announcement by the aforementioned countries to enter into a strategic trilateral security alliance (AUKUS) with immediate effect. An alliance that also provides for the procurement of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, effectively putting to rest a 56-billion-euro French-Australian submarine order already initiated in 2016. The conclusion of the agreement comes at a time when U.S. President Joe Biden has asserted to the UN General Assembly, “We do not seek – I repeat, we do not seek – a new cold war or a world divided into rigid blocs.” However, experts, such as renowned historian Niall Ferguson, have been talking about this so-called “new cold war” between the U.S. and China since 2019, and it is not about nuclear arms races, but rather about technology supremacy in cyber security, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Even though nuclear-powered submarines are at the center of the diplomatic dispute, one is quick to note in the AUKUS agreement that cooperation in the aforementioned fields is one of the most important components of the treaty. An objective that is perhaps also congruent with French interests. But the dispute between the old friends is less about the “what” than about the diplomatic “how” – that is, about the breach of trust that is triggered when close allies are simply presented with a fait accompli. Facts that also affect them financially and personally.

Because money and trust are closely interwoven. The trust of a bank that the creditor will repay its debts. A citizen’s trust that the currency in which he or she is paid their salaries is stable. A state’s trust in a currency system that the agreements made there will be honored by all. Georg Simmel, in his “Philosophy of Money,” sums it up this way: “Money is perhaps the most concentrated and pointed form and expression of trust in the social-state order.”

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of another French-American trust-busting melodrama with a maritime backdrop. Benn Steil, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, describes the moving events of August 6, 1971, in his book, The Battle of Bretton Woods, as follows: “…a congressional subcommittee issued a report entitled ‘Action Now to Strengthen the U.S. Dollar` that concluded, paradoxically, that the dollar needed to be weakened. Dollar dumping accelerated and France sent a warship to pick up French gold from the vaults of the New York Fed.”

At first glance, this dramatic gesture by then French President Georges Pompidou in the final act of the collapse of the Bretton Woods system seems as strange as the withdrawal of ambassadors today. The basis, however, is similar and lay then as now in an equally shaken trust between the great nations that were nevertheless so closely intertwined. Without going deeper into the new monetary order created after World War II, with the U.S. dollar as the anchor currency, it is important to understand the reason for the French revolt evident in the “White Plan.” The plan provided that the U.S. guaranteed the Bretton Woods participating countries the right to buy and sell gold indefinitely at the fixed rate of $35 per ounce. The dilemma of this arrangement became apparent early on. For by the end of the 1950s, dollar holdings at foreign central banks already exceeded U.S. gold reserves. When French President Charles de Gaulle asked the U.S. to exchange French dollar reserves for gold in 1966, the FED’s gold reserves were only enough for about half that amount. The ever more deeply anchored loss of confidence forced the American president Richard Nixon on August 15, 1971 to cancel the nominal gold peg and the so-called “Nixon shock” ended the system as it was.

And where something ends something new can or will inevitably begin.

Today we live in a world where the stability of our currency is based on our confidence in government fiscal policy, the economic strength of our country, and the good work of an independent central bank. However, we also live in a time when new currency systems are already looming on the dense horizon. The basis for this was laid in 2008, not surprisingly, by one of the most serious crises of confidence in the international banking system that modern times have seen. And the new systems are being implemented with the help of cutting-edge distributed ledger blockchain technology. The new, with its decentralized nature, is challenging the old. While many of the new currencies in the crypto world, such as bitcoin, are subject to large fluctuations, stablecoins promise a link and fixed exchangeability to an existing value, such as the US dollar or even gold. However, the old Bretton Woods challenge of being able to keep this promise at all times remains in the new world. Millions of dollars in penalties imposed by the New York Attorney General’s Office on the largest U.S. dollar stablecoin, Tether, for not being fully verifiable do little to help trust, especially when less than 3 percent of the market capitalization is actually deposited in U.S. dollar cash. As always with new ones, trust has to be built up. This can be done privately, perhaps with a stablecoin backed 100% by central bank money, or by the state, with well thought-out central bank digital currencies, such as the digital euro planned by the European Central Bank.

We live in a world of perpetual rapid change and trust is, as Osterloh describes it, “the will to be vulnerable.” Without trust, there are no alliances, no togetherness, no progress.

Philippe Étienne was back in autumnal Washington after just a few days and has since been working again on what diplomats are best trained for – building trust.

Sources

Billon-Gallan, A., Kundnani, H. (2021): The UK must cooperate with France in the Indo-Pacific. A Chatham House expert comment. https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/09/uk-must-cooperate-france-indo-pacific (Retrieved 24.9.2021)

Brien, J. (2021): “Stablecoin without stability”: Tether and Bitfinex pay $18.5 million fine. URL: https://t3n.de/news/stablecoin-tether-bitfinex-strafe-1358197/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=news (Retrieved: 9/30/2021).

Corbet, S. (2021): France recalls ambassadors to U.S., Australia over submarine deal. URL: https://www.pressherald.com/2021/09/17/france-recalls-ambassadors-to-u-s-australia-over-submarine-deal/ (Retrieved 9/25/2021).

Ferguson N. (2019): The New Cold War? It’s With China. And It Has Already Begun. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/02/opinion/china-cold-war.html (Retrieved: 9/30/2021).

Graetz, M., Briffault, O. (2016): A “Barbarous Relic”: The French, Gold , and the Demise of Bretton Woods. URL: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3545&context=faculty_scholarship p. 17 (Retrieved 9/25/2021).

Osterloh, M., Weibel, A. (2006): Investing trust. Processes of trust development in organizations, Gabler: Wiesbaden.

Steil, B. (2020): The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the new world, p. 377.

Stolze, D. (1966): Does de Gaulle defeat the dollar? In ZEIT No. 36/1966. URL: (https://www.zeit.de/1966/36/besiegt-de-gaulle-den-dollar/komplettansicht (Retrieved: 9/26/2021)

The Guardian Editorial (2021): The Guardian view on Biden’s UN speech: cooperation not competition URL: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/22/the-guardian-view-on-bidens-un-speech-cooperation-not-competition(Retrieved: 9/29/2021)

Unal, B., Brown, K., Lewis, P., Jie, Y. (2021): Is the AUKUS alliance meaningful or merely a provocation – A Chatham House expert comment. URL: https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/09/aukus-alliance-meaningful-or-merely-provocation (Retrieved: 9/24/2021).

Time Online (2021): France sees relationship in NATO strained. URL: https://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2021-09/u-boot-deal-frankreich-australien-usa-streit-nato-jean-yves-le-drian?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fmeine.zeit.de%2F (Retrieved: 9/25/2021)

gi-Geldinstitute Expert Talk: How banks keep track of IT vulnerabilities

An article by Stefanie Walter, Editor | 01.03.2022 – translated with DeepL.com – Original in German available HERE

Expert Panel: Christian Meusel, Berliner Volksbank – Gerrit von der Hardt, Targobank – Thorsten Demski, Volksbank Bielefeld-Gütersloh – Andreas Meyer, Union IT Services DZ Bank Group – Jochen Werne, Prosegur – Marion Gratenberg, Targobank

The rapidly advancing technological transformation in the banking sector also brings problems. Instead of leading to increased security, labour savings and customer friendliness, different applications can also bring performance problems and even failures.

This must be recognised and averted in good time. Application performance management, performance engineering, software intelligence, overservability or process mining are the new buzzwords here. A holistic overview of all applications is helpful in resolving weaknesses and freeing up capacities for innovations in the business. In the gi-Geldinstitute roundtable discussion, this topic will be examined by experts.

Meusel: As a bank, we must first and foremost provide services for our clients. They are our main drivers. We in the operational organisation are therefore currently investing intensively in usability and direct availability in particular.

Demski: We want to avoid media discontinuities and streamline and improve process transitions in individual departments. The work on process improvement has accelerated a bit due to the pandemic. But it is a fundamental issue that we are dealing with in the context of digitalisation. Our last project focused on the speed of the credit processes. Our goal is not only to bring about decisions quickly, but also to ensure that they are as error-free as possible.

Gratenberg: We are concerned with making processes faster, but also more efficient from the customer’s point of view. In the last two years, we have invested a lot of time and analysis in the automation and optimisation of existing customer processes. An agile squad was also founded for this purpose. In the squad, we analyse where there is further potential to optimise and automate processes.

Werne: The goal of our process automation is to be as customer-friendly as possible. In Germany, we provide about 50 per cent of the total cash logistics. We thus guarantee the cash supply of the population and secure the liquidity cycle of companies, credit institutions and municipalities. In our cooperation with the banks, we want to drive the transformation. In our group, we are driving the optimisation of the IT outsourcing processes of the entire cash management and projects such as crypto custody. With Prosegur Crypto, we have launched a solution for the custody and management of digital assets that works automatically without an internet connection to achieve maximum protection against cyber attacks.

Meyer: Union Investment has two good reasons to optimise processes today – increasing process cost efficiency and regulatory law. As part of regulatory audits, we are required as one of the leading German asset managers to produce a business process map as part of the written order. I like the result: by using modern process intelligence tools, we recognise process weaknesses that need to be optimised. At the same time, we produce process models required by banking supervisory law. The auditing company PricewaterhouseCoopers confirmed an availability of 99 percent (2021) for the 170 applications used in the investment process. As part of the Genossenschaftliche FinanzGruppe (Cooperative Financial Network), we are the expert for the asset management of 4.8 million private and institutional investors with more than 400 billion euros in assets under management. We thus provide the IT required for this to more than 1,100 internal Union users with high availability.

Diener: In my role at Atruvia, the digitalisation partner of the Genossenschaftliche FinanzGruppe, I am responsible for measuring and analysing performance data for around 820 affiliated Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken. Basically, you have to distinguish between two topics in process optimisation: the business management part and the technical part.

When I think back to the early days of my working life in the early 80s, you would enter a short code into the old IBM terminals to support your work and be happy to receive an answer milliseconds later. Over the decades, many things have changed massively here. Business and technical performance moved closer together. IT has become a central core of everyday work and an essential part of overall process optimisation. In addition to dealing with speed, response times or simply checking whether systems are available, more emphasis is now placed on user experience and user behaviour. How is the customer, what are they doing, where are they having problems getting on in the application?

Von der Hardt: Challenges arise above all with very long process routes via different interfaces with channel breaks. Then you have to assemble information from the most diverse systems, databases or process areas. Because it is difficult to optimise something with a sixty percent view without knowing what the one hundred percent end-to-end customer view looks like. The goal is not to think in small puzzle pieces, but to have the entire customer journey in mind.

Werne: In the pandemic, our process management faces the additional challenge that, for example, retailers or bank branches that we supply with cash close here today and reopen somewhere else tomorrow. Against the backdrop of our current modernisation programme, we are also moving everything to the cloud. Since we operate globally, coordination between the different countries and standardisation play an additional role.

Von der Hardt: Challenges arise especially with very long process paths via different interfaces with channel breaks. Then you have to bring together information from the most diverse systems, databases or process areas. Because it is difficult to optimise something with a sixty percent view without knowing what the one hundred percent end-to-end customer view looks like. The goal is not to think in small puzzle pieces, but to have the entire customer journey in mind.

Werne: In the pandemic, our process management faces the additional challenge that, for example, retailers or bank branches that we supply with cash close here today and reopen somewhere else tomorrow. Against the backdrop of our current modernisation programme, we are also moving everything to the cloud. Since we operate globally, coordination between the different countries and standardisation play an additional role.

Meusel: The back office is an extreme driver of efficiency potential. With consistent optimisations and consolidations, we have been able to significantly reduce the resources tied up in recent years, not only through Atruvia’s solutions, but also through the broad use of technical innovations from other partners in the area of automation. Nevertheless, we still see topics with great potential, for example in the passive market succession, keyword probate, garnishment processing and other payment transaction services. As is well known, the active back office is currently experiencing high growth in the lending business. At the same time, the margins are melting away. We must therefore continue to look very intensively at how the balancing act of resource optimisation and business growth can be made possible, for example by means of process management. Here, of course, we use the analysis possibilities of Atruvia at our process times and try to achieve the necessary benchmarks through continuous process development.

Demski: We have also started in the back office. In the new year, we will take another look at customer service in the process analysis. This is where we can make the most profit. The procedure is first of all a precise recording of the processes and their interfaces. Based on this, we then evaluate which optimisation and/or automation steps make sense. Examples of automation for us are the processing of estates and processes related to online banking.

Von der Hardt: Targobank belongs to the cooperative Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale Group from France. We are a retail and commercial bank with a focus on financing. Our process optimisation relates to these core processes. With Targo Dienstleistung we have a high-performance customer centre in Duisburg, which emerged from an industrialisation initiative at the end of the 1990s. Targobank has more than 20 years of expertise in digitalisation and process automation. It benefits from a large IT service provider and sees itself well equipped for the future in the highly competitive financial services market.

Gratenberg: In existing customer management, for example, we have automated large parts of the account closure process. This has been working very well for us for over a year now.

Werne: With regard to cash, the banking world has been in a transformation process for quite some time. Various credit institutions are already completely outsourcing their cash management for process optimisation and cost reasons. With smart machines, which Prosegur installs at its customers’ premises, cash can be disposed of directly and credited on the same day. The smart infrastructure, including dynamic monitoring and forecasting, optimises cash logistics and reduces costs.

Meyer: We already very successfully implemented a group-wide digitalisation initiative in the period from 2007 to 2010. Together with the central institutions of the DZ

Bank Group, more than 18 custodian banks and almost 90 securities trading houses, we were able to achieve a dark processing rate of 95 percent for transaction management and accounting across all countries and locations – both areas where the factors of mass and standard processing matched. Challenging in this context was the unification of message standards in the networks for financial transactions such as SWIFT and FIX and the first use of machine learning-based applications for the processing of still paper-based bookings. Today, the focus is on examining the use of AI in the context of feasibility and profitability considerations and thus realising further efficiency potential.

Diener: Processes are organised very differently at banks. We see our task in providing tools with which our customers can map, optimise and monitor the processes. It is no longer enough to look at individual use cases, from the click to the information expected by the customer on the screen. Business processes are viewed as a whole. The question is, what can be automated? Of course, this always takes into account the regulatory framework. A lot has happened in recent years in terms of technical performance. New technologies such as virtualisation, containerisation, self-healing systems – systems that manage themselves – have taken hold. The processing of a request in the data centre has become more complex and dynamic. It is important to make these new possibilities tangible for the customer and to support him in process optimisation.

Von der Hardt: There are cross-departmental and cross-bank teams/squads both in operational process management and in process optimisation initiatives. Especially in the case of RPA automation, departments and IT work together across the board.

Demski: We now have a fixed, very broad-based team. Among them are colleagues from organisational development who have always been involved in process management. We recruited the RPA team from this group and supplemented it with colleagues from IT and technology. They are then joined by experts from the specialist departments of the processes concerned. Together, they take a close look at the process side, analyse what can be automated and then enter into the development. The procedure is rather iterative in the sense of agility. A first version of an automated process does not necessarily have to cover 100 per cent of all cases. The best way for the developers to determine the greatest benefit is to work together with the departments.

Meusel: It’s always about giving a voice to as many people as possible who are ultimately users of process flows and results. It is important for us to find the right degree of participation so that we don’t get lost in too broad a grassroots democratic process in the further development. It is clearly about quality, about the return of investment, how much time I have to invest to improve the processes and what the actual effect is. For example, we have defined clear guard rails with the automation team for RPA and OCR solutions. In addition, there is always a comparison with the strategic goals. Often we have to fulfil various parameters with scarce human resources. In addition to involving the right people, we want to make the whole process as transparent as possible in order to make decisions understandable. We work very collaboratively, instead of putting every evaluation on the table and saying this is how we do it now.

Meyer: We have always carried out major changes as part of a project portfolio in cooperation between IT and the business department. We always look at the expenditure plus follow-up costs/benefits over five years. Based on this, we have a ranking and allocate resources to the projects accordingly. We don’t tackle every sub-process that could be automated because it simply doesn’t pay off.

Meusel: We always have evaluation options for our essential applications. What is challenging, however, is the networking and visualisation of the individual systems and analyses. The right degree of considered systems and subsystems plays an important role here. There are certainly promising offers on the market here. Since process mining is an important field for us, we are already in contact with service providers. But our discussions so far have also shown that good advice is expensive.

Werne: Despite several analysis tools that we use, it is sometimes not so easy to manage performance engineering in connection with different systems so that they are scalable and comparable. We haven’t yet found the egg-laughing lizard, where you just click and then know exactly what brings what performance. I doubt that it will ever exist in the level of detail that the theory implies. Do we have an overall view? The answer is, of course, yes. It’s not just banks that need to have it, but all companies with critical infrastructures. And not just because the regulator expects it. With new processes being introduced almost daily, the biggest challenge is to integrate them perfectly in order to continue to perform as usual.

Meyer: The use of such tools with regard to the IT infrastructure is carried out by our IT providers. At Union Investment itself, we successfully use such tools to analyse business processes. We can now load the data required for the analysis from the underlying applications into a process intelligence tool and systematically identify throughput times and routes, quantity structures, manual processing steps and their process effort. Because today almost every processing step leaves a digital footprint in the databases – and the tool generates the entire process model almost independently.

Diener: We have initiated many things in recent years: On the one hand, from a pure tool perspective, but also organisationally. System and application monitoring were to be merged, the entire monitoring process was to be put on a new footing. In particular, we invested in a comprehensive solution from Dynatrace. Their software intelligence platform uses a proprietary form of artificial intelligence to clearly visualise and monitor applications, microservices, container orchestration platforms and IT infrastructures, and offers automated problem detection. Analyses under a highly dynamic platform, such as Openshift, can only be performed in an automated way.

We want one hundred per cent visibility across all 50,000 systems we currently have in use in order to detect faults in advance. With the dynamics of communication between the technologies, it is no longer possible to say exactly which components are used for an individual communication. That’s why it’s so important to have this monitored via AI and to have it signal us when there are deviations from the norm that we need to take action or use automatisms from the outset to heal it accordingly.

Von der Hardt: Our process team has to identify very precisely where the weak points are in the overall process. We don’t yet use any special analysis tools from process mining for this. Personally, I think we first need a general streamlining of some processes. We are so busy changing processes that we no longer have time to optimise them significantly. We are constantly complicating them with new regulatory requirements.

Gratenberg: We can say that we have significantly fewer complaints and improved customer ratings with processes that are very standardised and automated. There are different degrees of automation. Partly, employees are involved in the processes if they are very complex. After reading out customer letters, for example, very different types of processing can become necessary, some of which still require human intervention. In addition to reducing the workload and making it error-free, there are of course still challenges with automation that are just a little different than before. If systems fail, a robot cannot work. An employee can still use a workaround. But there are always solutions. The processing by the robot could be postponed, depending on the urgency. It may also be possible to use a replacement robot, with the help of another licence.

How can performance engineering help to increase safety?

Diener: When customers report faults, we have to identify very quickly whether it is an isolated incident or a large-scale problem. Furthermore, in the past it was often difficult to recognise whether a system was the cause of a malfunction or was only suffering from a malfunction of a different origin. However, the central goal is to detect malfunctions or weaknesses preventively. In 2018, we had over 60 monitoring tools. With the Dynatrace platform, we now have a holistic performance data warehouse as a central component of our monitoring strategy. The number of tools has been reduced through consolidation. When a malfunction is reported, we can thus quickly determine which groups of users and exact functions it affects. We are able to quickly narrow down possible causes in order to fix the problem permanently. Incidents are specifically forwarded to the person who can solve them.

Meyer: Around 500 servers are operated for us in the data centres of our IT provider Atruvia for about 170 applications. These are permanently monitored using more than 20,000 measuring points. If a fan fails somewhere and a server gets too warm, expected data transfers do not take place and the like, the responsible application managers or the Atruvia control centre are informed immediately. Our service-oriented organisation has regulated standard processes for this. In such cases, incident or problem management is immediately active. Depending on the type of fault, either at Atruvia and/or at Union IT Service.

Meusel: The smaller or more individual a bank is, the more challenging it is to have its own process engineering. We are grateful that we work closely with Atruvia on this. When it comes to regulatory requirements, innovations, availability and performance monitoring, we can handle the complexity much better together with our central service providers. Often, our internal control centre can be quickly provided with centralised information and focus on communication with customers and employees. The central lever of Performance Engineering is the reduction of own applications and their monitoring.

Demski: We largely rely on Atruvia for the IT infrastructure and thus naturally benefit directly or indirectly from their monitoring systems. At the same time, we also operate our own monitoring for critical parameters of the decentralised or self-operated systems. In addition to the short-term disruptions already mentioned, the measured values are of course also indications of the utilisation and performance of systems and possible problems, for example, the runtimes for data backups or loading processes in the nightly maintenance windows provide information.

Do you have a concrete example from practice for vulnerability management?

Von der Hardt: Sometimes we first hear from the customer that we have a problem. If there is one, the customer looks for a way. Then you realise how many contact channels you have, some of which were not intended for this purpose. IT problems can usually be found and solved quickly. It becomes more difficult with failures of other companies. External business failures during the Corona period or the insolvency of a travel provider are examples here, where many customers with personal and financial concerns contact you via several channels and payment processes have to be checked at short notice. Then speed and good networking of the information channels within the company as well as to other third-party service providers is crucial. We still have homework to do here. We have to ensure the flow of information around the customer in such a way that we can give him satisfactory feedback at short notice.

Meyer: One example was the critical vulnerability called Log4Shell in the widely used Java logging library Log4j, which became known at the beginning of December. Through this vulnerability, attackers were able to execute arbitrary code. Together with our IT provider, we deployed crisis teams, used vulnerability scanning tools immediately and effectively, and where necessary, applied the appropriate security patches within a very short time.