Regulatory compliance problems? Promontory, my dear Watson

IBM's cognitive computing can now take jobs away from compliance officers. Yay!

Watson Power7 cluster. Pic: IBM
IBM Watson

Never mind cancer research or climate change: IBM is finally bringing its Watson AI technology to bear on one of the real challenges still facing human civilisation – regulatory compliance.

Big Blue has announced plans to snarf up Promontory Financial Group, a risk management and regulatory compliance consultancy, and combine the firm’s expertise with Watson’s cognitive capabilities in order to address the growing burden of regulation and risk management requirements.

Promontory has about 600 workers in 19 offices across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, and these are set to form the stout-hearted core of a new Watson Financial Services portfolio within IBM's Industry Platforms business.

If all goes well, the transaction is expected to close before the end of 2016, but financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

According to IBM, more than 20,000 new regulatory requirements were created last year alone, and the complete catalogue of regulations is projected to exceed 300 million pages by 2020.

It isn’t clear whether this figure applies solely to the USA, or whether Big Blue is factoring in such things as the extra regulatory requirements likely to be generated by the slow-motion car crash that Brexit is likely to become.

Whatever the figure, the burgeoning volume of red tape is rapidly outstripping the capacity of humans to keep up with it all, IBM claims, and this is where Watson comes into the picture.

Ploughing through and digesting all the paperwork is a job “ideally suited for Watson’s cognitive capabilities”, the firm said, and will allow financial institutions to absorb the regulatory changes, understand their obligations, and close gaps in systems and practices to address compliance requirements more quickly and efficiently.

“What Watson is doing to transform oncology by working with the world’s leading oncologists, we will now do for regulation, risk and compliance,” IBM senior vice president of Industry Platforms said Bridget van Kralingen said in a statement.

“This initial offering of Watson Financial Services is emblematic of the transformative cloud-based solutions that IBM Industry Platforms will bring to clients.”

However, spare a thought for those employees that are about to become a part of Big Blue’s latest enterprise. IBM said that Promontory’s professionals will train Watson, which will then learn more by continuously ingesting regulatory information as it is created and through interaction in real-world applications. What happens to staffers once Watson’s training is complete is not touched on. ®

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