FDIC, State finding novel approaches to bring new technology to users

Sylvia Burns is the FDIC chief information officer, and Keith Jones, the State Department’s CIO, highlighted individual efforts to drive innovation to their i...

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is taking the next step to tackle its big data problem by prototyping four tools from industry.

The State Department is pushing software development tools out to its mission areas.

Both agencies are using these approaches to solve long-standing technology challenges.

Sylvia Burns, FDIC chief information officer, said the rapid prototyping initiative moved into a key phase this summer.

In August, the FDIC chose four companies— Novantas, Palantir Technologies, PeerIQ and S&P Global Market Intelligence—to accelerate the adoption of modern technological tools to potentially help financial institutions draw inferences from their data, and improve data structure, portability and processing that may support more efficient back-office operations and reporting.

Sylvia Burns is the CIO at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Burns, speaking at an event sponsored by AFFIRM before the move into the final phase, said the FDIC’s strategy was much different than what it tried in the past.

“We are turning the tables around by going out to industry and basically asking them to propose solutions around issues we have,” she said. “For example, the FDIC regularly, every quarter, collects data from banks, which is used for many, many different purposes, one of which is to help our bank examiners prepare for exams. Some of it as we were entering the pandemic last year and uncertain about what the impact was going to be on the economy. Part of the thinking was, could we rethink how we get that data so we have a real time sense of what’s happening in the marketplace?”

The Rapid Phased Prototyping Competition started with 30 vendors who proposed technology concepts papers, and then FDIC chose 11 vendors to receive $50,000 to detail their initial concepts and receive agency feedback.

These four companies received $200,000 to design a small scale pilot that could turn into a production contract.

Burns said while the program still is coming together, FDIC is excited for the prospects of what it will provide.

“Some of the interesting things that we’ve seen is around the very manual processes that goes on for bank examiners, which a big piece of their work is in evaluating assets and reviewing loan files. Typically, they’re paper, and in those smaller banks there’s much less automation writ large,” she said. “Part of this initiative is can we get some sort of automation around loan files so that people are not pouring through paper? Can there be some technology that can help go through them and assist the examiner to help identify them potential problem areas? That’s an example of one of the things that we want to know what industry has and we could leverage.”

Burns said her office is working with the FDIC’s other CIO—chief innovation officer— Sultan Meghji, who started earlier this year and has a goal of connecting cutting edge technology with the financial community.

Conquering shadow IT

Like the FDIC, the State Department is driving innovation from the users’ perspective.

Keith Jones, the State Department’s CIO, said he’s creating a standard platform for DevSecOps and giving the mission areas the tools and skills to develop applications and address the “shadow IT” challenge nearly every CIO faces.

Keith Jones is the State Department’s CIO.

“One of the priorities that I’ve been talking about since I’ve started in January is customer centricity. The idea of getting everyone into this multi-cloud platform where they’re able to develop applications that benefit the post,” Jones said. “That way, you don’t have to worry about your authority to operates getting out of control, and it provides them the flexibility to address the unique requirements, because each post, each embassy are all doing something different.”

Earlier this summer State hosted an application development summit where 700 users from across the agency and the world attended to learn what Jones’ office is doing to support their needs.

“Everyone understands that if they can leverage these foundations that we’ve established, so they don’t have to go down through these rabbit holes in order to get things done,” he said. “One of the things that I’ve been doing is really focusing on what’s sitting out there on the network. Is it authorized? Or if it’s not, and certainly, times like now, especially with all that we know about our adversaries out there who will continually try and penetrate our networks, we have to make sure that we’re keeping a secure network.”

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