Hope, ambition, dedication. My eye-opening look into the Sopra Steria India Foundation

In late July and early August, my colleague, Jen Rodvold, and I, had the opportunity to visit India for the purpose of seeing first-hand what the Sopra Steria India foundation does, and as Video Content Creator for the company, capture footage of the experience for those who are not as fortunate as me to have such an amazing opportunity. I was honoured to be invited and excited to go on a trip like this. What I didn’t expect, was for it to have such an impression on myself, and to become a real advocate for a cause as incredible and impactful as the Sopra Steria India foundation.

During the course of our 8-day trip, we visited Chennai, Pune, and Delhi, seeing various schools, homes and Sopra Steria offices. This allowed me to see the students that the Sopra Steria India foundation helps, and the volunteers and CSR workers that put in the hard work to allow the scheme to be such a success.

As soon as I arrived in India, it was clear to see the cultural difference between the UK and India. The poverty was highly evident, especially when we visited scholars in their homes. These scholars often lived in one-room homes, where entire families would live and care for each other. But because of our sponsorship, we gave them a vision of a route out of this difficult life. This was made evident in particular when one scholar’s mother was present during our interview. And as we finished, she spoke about how proud she was of her daughter, and began to get emotional, due to what her daughter is going to go onto achieve thanks to her hard work and our financial support. That was on the first day of our interviews, and therefore at the very start of my experience made me realise the Sopra Steria foundation really is making a huge difference to people’s lives.

Every student I saw clearly had so much desire and motivation to achieve their ambitions. They had a target, and they knew how to get there, through their hard work and dedication. They realised that they needed financial support to achieve their dreams, and were therefore very grateful that Sopra Steria had chosen them to make their dreams come true.

Along with seeing sponsored scholars, we visited schools that Sopra Steria provide support for. Each school we visited gave us an incredibly warm welcome with their hospitality, even putting on performances for the purpose of our arrival. The generosity and care of the teachers and students showed how grateful they were because of our support. The Sopra Steria India foundation provides computers to schools throughout the country, where the children are given the opportunity to apply their creativity and learn much more necessary skills in order to succeed in the future. Along with computers, the Sopra Steria India foundation provides the basic amenity of clean drinking water through the installation of water towers. Without our help, the children wouldn’t have such a basic necessity provided for them, which is truly shocking. This is why the scheme must continue and grow.

As the volunteers vocalised (and as I saw for myself), it is a shame we cannot sponsor every child and support every school. In one school, I saw young students expressing their ambitions and future wishes, and if they did have the financial support I could see them achieving them. And although we cannot help every single child, we can certainly try our best to help as many as we can through the continued support of the Sopra Steria India foundation.

Through the course of the next few months, various videos will be created from the footage I filmed, and will be published to further explain the Sopra Steria India foundation, and clearly show how it greatly helps underprivileged communities. ­

How Sustainable Community Impact Projects are Creating Generational Impact: My Week in India

Recently my colleague, Max Barker, and I spent some time in India to visit and film the schools and educational centres Sopra Steria supports, and meet some of the students, teachers, volunteers and recipients of our scholarships.  What I saw was transformational – demonstrable positive impact.

In only 8 days, we travelled to our three main Indian centres (Chennai, Pune and Noida).  Although it was a short visit, it doesn’t take long to get a sense for the scale of the need in India.  Until this year, India had for decades held the undesirable distinction as the country with the world’s largest proportion of its population living in extreme poverty, less than $1.90 per day.[1]  And of course the population we’re talking about is huge – over 1.3 billion – an unimaginable figure for most of us, but one that you start to get a feel for in the country’s frenetic cities, where even as gleaming new buildings and signs of development appear everywhere, so do heart-wrenching scenes of hardship.

But next to the scale of the need, I saw something else: in our visits to schools, and conversations with students, teachers, principals, volunteers and my colleagues, I saw determination and dedication like I’ve never seen.  The students, ranging in age from 6 to 17, came to school joyful, curious, anticipating their day of learning and ready to work hard.  Every day we visited at least two schools, and the warm welcome from students and staff, boisterous greetings from the children, and the visible commitment to learning was always inspiring and energizing.

We were also honoured by several of the scholars we are supporting through university to be invited to their homes, where we saw that despite extraordinarily challenging circumstances, these young people are the embodiment of hope and ambition.  They told us how they planned to do well in university, get a good job, then help support their families.  One scholar, pictured below, had lost her mother and had basically raised her sister while her father worked in low-paying jobs, still managing to come top in her class and get into a good college.  The three of them lived in one windowless room in a highrise slum in Noida, the possibility of complete destitution never far off.

The hundreds of people making our schools and scholarships programme also made an indelible impression on me, from the Sopra Steria volunteers who give their time to teach classes and are met with riotous cheers from the young pupils who love them, to the retired engineer who volunteers full time at a girls’ school in Noida, teaching maths.  Our programme works because of their dedication, too.

Our programme is special for another important reason: it takes a holistic approach that yields sustainable results.  All of the recipients of the Sopra Steria scholarships were once students in the schools that we support, which means we have been working with them, supporting them, getting to know them, their families and their circumstances before they apply for a scholarship.  We select our scholars based on academic performance and potential, and financial need, all of which we have real insight into because of the depth of our relationships with them.  Unlike other programmes that simply fund scholarships without that connection to the students, the schools, the teachers and principals, ours helps to ensure that our investment is not just in an individual, but in their family, their community and their collective future.  Our scholars are committed to building a better life not just for themselves, but for as many people as they can reach by getting into gainful employment and sharing their success.  Our relatively small gift is multiplied through their dedication and generosity of spirit.

Over the coming months, we’ll be releasing several videos from our time there to introduce you to the work of the Sopra Steria India Foundation and the Sopra Steria Scholarship programme.  Keep an eye out for these so you, too, can see how these powerful programmes are making a huge difference.



[1] From the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/07/10/india-is-no-longer-home-to-the-largest-number-of-poor-people-in-the-world-nigeria-is/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.445a07c16cb1

Applying System 2 thinking to Digital Security

The best-selling book “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman suggests that humans exhibit two types of thinking – System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is our rapid, automatic, intuitive response – for example, if I showed you a picture of a cat, you’d recognise instantly what it was.  System 2 is slower and requires concentration – working out a complex calculation for instance.  And as we are generally time-poor and prefer taking the easier option, we will default to System 1 thinking given a choice.

So how does this relate to security?

Working out the costs and risks of security is complex.  Calculating the value of digital assets, evaluating the right security posture for a business, balancing cost with appropriate access levels for users, implementing effective policies – all that is undoubtedly hard.  Very much System 2 thinking.

Yet signing up employees for security awareness training is a relatively simple action – a “tick in the box” exercise if it is not supported by the ongoing measurement, tools and behaviour change that is required to make good security hygiene stick.

Purchasing a cyber insurance policy is also relatively simple, System 1 thinking.  The insurance company does the hard System 2 work of evaluating your risk profile and insurance premium and takes a large part of the risk.  The business just needs to consider whether the insurance premium and corresponding cover is sufficient to compensate for the potential costs of a breach.

A number of reports[1] predict average annual growth rates in the US cyber insurance market of c. 30% CAGR (compared to c.10% across all cyber security) and a global market size of $20bn by 2025.  So cyber insurance is growing nearly three times faster than the market for the cyber services that prevent breaches and attacks in the first place!

Cyber insurance – System 1 or System 2 thinking?

Cyber insurance has a role to play as part of an overall risk mitigation strategy and to reduce shareholder risk.  But it should be the last line of mitigation, not the first line of cyber defence.

The loss of data records has a wider impact.  Not just on the brand name of the company affected, but on the individuals whose passwords, accounts and personal data may have been compromised.

We need to continue applying System 2 thinking in order to combat the increasing volume and sophistication of cyber threats.  For example, measuring the ongoing success of security awareness programmes in creating an embedded security conscious culture and behaviours;  investing in the more complex task of commissioning cyber defence services that aim to prevent attacks happening.

Strong cyber defences – protects digital assets and helps business growth

Strong cyber defences that comply with regulations will also mitigate the risk of fines.  And they can help grow revenues.  A 2018 study by Cap Gemini [2] showed that 40% of consumers would be willing to increase their online spend by 20% or more, if their retailer gave them assurances which built trust.

Tailored insurance premiums to reflect each organisation’s real efforts to minimise cyber attacks

Cyber insurers are maturing their policies to reflect the security posture and risk profile of their clients, and the value of the assets being insured.  Organisations are receiving tailored insurance premiums that incentivise and reflect the good security practices which should be their primary focus.

It is also likely that fines for some risks (GDPR non-compliance for example) won’t be insurable as they will fall into the category of statutory penalties or criminal sanctions that can’t be recovered from insurers.  Organisations will need to invest in proper GDPR compliance programmes in order to avoid penalties.

Business level granularity is important.  A 2018 study by Ponemon[3] showed the costs of a data breach varied by geography and by industry – the average cost of a compromised record across all industries was $148, but this rose to $408 for a healthcare record. (See Figure 1 below).  And the average total cost of a data breach to an organisation in 2018 was $3.86m.


Figure 1 Per record cost by industry

The report also identified 22 organisation-level components which could increase or reduce the cost impact of a data breach.  Effective employee awareness training, a rapid incident response team, participation in threat sharing and effective use of encryption for example, can together reduce the impact of a breach by around 40%.  (See Figure 2 below)

Fig 2

Figure 2 Impact of 22 factors on the per record cost of a data breach

Advice on the right investments to provide confidence in combatting a cyber attack or data breach

Sopra Steria works with public and private sector organisations to help them evaluate their cyber risk profile.  We also assist them communicate the costs and benefits of cyber security to senior decision makers. This includes helping organisations to take actions that minimise the likelihood and impact of a breach, as well as minimise the costs of any insurance that they may take out.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss how we can help you take a System 2 approach to your cyber security strategy; and how we can help you grow your business by providing reassurance to your customers, staff and stakeholders, that their data is protected by real and considered cyber defence investments.

Watch Alex Henneberg talk about System 2 Thinking


[1] https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/cyber-insurance-markethttps://www.jltspecialty.com/our-insights/publications/cyber-decoder/cyber-insurance-market-grows-as-competition-intensifies

[2] Cybersecurity: The new source of competitive advantage for retailers

[3] Ponemon Institute: https://securityintelligence.com/ponemon-cost-of-a-data-breach-2018/

Got a great idea? Come and play in the sandbox!

It’s all change in banking!  I’ve worked in Banking IT for more than 20 years and never has the pace of change been so quick.  Now, rather than the traditional ‘Big Names’ always coming up with new ideas and technologies, new start ups and FinTech’s are seriously getting in on the game.  The rapid developments in Coding languages, IAAS (Infrastructure as a Service), the falling cost of IT and new, innovative and highly collaborative ways of working has meant that Innovators can develop new technologies using real user data to design and develop existing, highly desirable services and solution – and get them to market in record time.

A major catalyst is the European Open Banking Directive.  This encourages new, disruptive players to get involved to develop and deliver new Banking functionality which is outside of what would be considered traditional Bank servicing.

What’s more, the UK Open Banking Implementation organisation has developed an agreed set of API’s (Application Programming Interface) that TPP (Third Party Providers) can utilise to access Bank data. This means that both the Banks and FinTechs have the opportunity to exploit and develop new Applications to compare banking Product sets and aggregate Customer and Account data across the Banks.

So how should a FinTech with a great application idea (and a brilliant team) get started?

Today, Industry sandboxes offer a new way forward.  FinTech’s can now develop, test and prove ideas, producing a robust Proof of Concept using an industry sandbox.   A sandbox enables start ups with new product ideas to accelerate development and testing using test bank data so that innovative ideas can get to market quickly and cost effectively.  Many established banks are getting in on the ‘sandbox’ initiative, Danske Lloyds and Nationwide all have a Developer Portal giving access to code examples and other helpful documentation.  Leading banks including Allied Irish, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland have all invested in Sandbox technology which FinTech’s can access.  This means that FinTechs can prove API’s work with Industry approved data, using Production like Test Data always throws up Use Cases that you did not consider.

New entrants are also making it easier to get involved. Avaloq and Starling Bank actively encourage innovation with their Developer Platforms.  Both deliver access to their test data and have a wealth of documentation with a  much greater range of functionality.  Starling even let individuals test by accessing personal own account to prove instant value and engagement. Not sure where to start?  Why not take a look at GITHUB. It has code examples, collaboration projects to listen, learn and grow ideas and discussion forums covering every stage of the development lifecycle.

Or why not check out Open Bank Project Berlin?  This Project is the leading Open Source API and App store for Banks. It’s open source APIs and surrounding ecosystem of tools, together with a pro-active Fintech developer community helps banks rapidly engage with the next generation innovators safely and securely.

You know that brilliant idea you had last night? What’s stopping you?

Sopra Steria to host 2 internal hackathons in Edinburgh and Glasgow!

Sopra Steria are hosting 2 internal hackathons this week across our Edinburgh and Glasgow offices where participants will be making use of DevOps tooling to deploy and manage applications on InnerShift. InnerShift is Sopra Steria’s internal container platform based on Red Hat OpenShift and will be used to facilitate the deployment and management of containers, standalone pieces of software that include everything needed to be able to run an application – from code and runtime to system tools, libraries and settings.

Attendees will work in teams of 3-4 people and will have 3 hours to work through a list of pre-defined objectives such as deployment through source to image and the creation of CI/CD pipelines. The teams will be required to make changes to their application/InnerShift to make use of some of the rich feature sets available within the platform. The teams will be encouraged to work together and experienced Sopra Steria architects will be in attendance to support and help with any issues that may arise.

The main aim of these events is to help our employees upskill in the area of DevOps/OpenShift and facilitate knowledge transfer from more experienced employees to members of staff who may be new to the company or who may not have worked with OpenShift before. The events are open to all colleagues and our RSVPs so far range from graduates and developers to business analysts and UX consultants.

Sopra Steria are always working to roll out innovation across the organisation and we are sure that the output of these events will help to establish innovative uses of technology that we can share with both coworkers and clients alike. A blog will be published on the Sopra Steria website post-event that will discuss the content of the evenings – watch this space!

Don’t fear the RPA!

The Digital Revolution is upon us and the reality is that it will bring change we simply cannot afford to ignore.

Humankind has constantly striven to find new, better ways of living and working. The industrial revolution introduced new ways of working to a society relying on physical labour alone and the results – cheaper goods, improved transportation, safer factories, better working conditions and evolved communications – set the tone for a period of continuous improvement moving forward.  Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, the pace of change increased; developments in cars, fuels, heating, atomic power, plastics and synthetics have improved countless lives and this drive to constantly enhance and improve has continued.

Industry 4.0 concept. Man is holding tablet to control smart factory manufacturing line which is equipped with sensors and robotic arm. industrial automation line.

When the manufacturing industry adopted automation 20 years ago it was seen as truly revolutionary, bringing new, more efficient ways of working.  Doomsayers warned of jobs being lost but in fact, quality increased and competition flourished.   Outsourcing was another big change but each time the market quickly adapted, leading to a service oriented industry that has since generated millions of brand new jobs.  It’s a fact that what was once seen as truly innovative is soon seen as commonplace and ‘business as usual’.

Today, the seismic change is Digital.  It’s remarkable to consider that it’s only 10 years since the smart phone was invented  – but since then, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked in have emerged and Amazon, Uber, mobile banking and even online gaming have become daily realities of life.  The whole way we live, work and socialise is undergoing truly transformational change and the pace of that change is most definitely speeding up rather than slowing down.  The reassuring element however is that each time change comes, the new way doesn’t dominate – instead it augments and enhances the previous approach, introducing totally new ways of thinking.

So what’s the next big ‘game changer’? Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the ‘new’ hot topic of the Digital era, offering huge advantages to business and society alike.  For business leaders – RPA delivers a more efficient, streamlined and cost effective business operation; for individuals – it offers the opportunity for more interesting, fulfilling and less repetitive jobs.  RPA empowers business leaders to automate manual tasks and simple ‘rules based’ activities freeing up staff to undertake more interesting and challenging activities – a true win-win!

Curiously, despite the rise of digitally enabled and automated application processes, many organisational activities in banks and investment companies today are still manually driven.  For example, across the Credit Risk lifecycle, manual data entry and manual data processing remains surprisingly prevalent at certain stages of the decisioning process.  In addition, for many Retail and almost all wholesale credit applications, decisions are manually underwritten.  Using RPA, a virtual workforce can augment processes undertaken across the Credit Risk lifecycle to deliver increased quality, improved accuracy and greater consistency 24/7 – reducing the risk of non-compliance and delivering a more responsive customer experience.

So don’t fear the digital revolution, now is the time to jump on board and embrace it.   Click here to find out how we do it at Sopra Steria.