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Emerging Technologies: Q&A with EisnerAmper and CEO, Aponia Data Solutions

Oct 9, 2019

EISNERAMPER: Jason, can you please tell us about yourself and Aponia Data Solutions?

JULIANO: I am the Managing Director and CEO of Aponia Data Solutions, which was founded in 2014 to help enterprises turn data into a valuable, intuitive resource to mitigate many complex risks in their landscape today. Based in New York, the company draws on decades of experience implementing solutions to mid-market and enterprise clients in the financial services, health care and insurance sectors, and offers cloud solutions focused on data security, risk management and compliance.

EISNERAMPER:How does Aponia help companies?

JULIANO:To keep it really simple, we have created a cognitive integrated risk management solution with AI Chatbots. Using IBM Watson and Google, the solution is your AI compliance officer or your AI auditor and you can ask it specific questions and our system will read through the data. One of the use cases is using the solution to read through policies, based on new AICPA guidelines, in order to determine if the company is adhering to those guidelines within their contracts. That is accomplished through natural language processing via our chatbots, so it is very automated, intuitive and interactive.

We use machine learning and natural language processing via our automated chatbot to centralize risk management across the organization, which allows clients and their compliance, legal, and audit teams to easily identify and anticipate potential business risks, which are dynamically calculated to find the cost of failure and create high confidence plans for their business.

EISNERAMPER:What is a good first step to establishing a transformation program?

JULIANO:First, identify your transformation objectives, create the vision and know your markets’ directions to innovation. Secondly, identify and cleanup all your data/processes to organize for digital business innovation. Then execute the vision. For our clients, we provide them a path to (1) initial machine learning AI findings from all contract documents; (2) augmented intelligence across multiple systems and data sources; and (3) intelligently automate validation testing of data and continuous controls.

EISNERAMPER:How have you transformed your business since it started?

JULIANO:We bring powerful integrative risk management capabilities to the mid-market through cloud-based predictive analytics utilizing our predictive risk algorithms. We are powered by IBM Watson, where we use machine learning and natural language processing via our automated chat bot to centralize risk management across the organization, which allows business executives and their teams to easily identify and anticipate potential business risks, which are dynamically calculated to find the cost of failure and create plans for their business.

With the cloud, we can win or fail fast during testing and development. When creating traditional on-premise products, it could take three-to-six months to purchase and install the software and infrastructure, develop the proof of concept (POC) and then make the sale. With that model, there’s a risk that you only pick up glitches in production. Working with the cloud makes the process so much easier: in some cases, it takes just eight weeks before we have created a solution and our client has achieved a return on investment — that’s around three times faster.

EISNERAMPER: Can you talk through some business cases you have seen be successful as a result of digital transformation, maybe an Robotics Process Automation (RPA) case and an AI case?

JULIANO:In invoice processing, using AI and RPA tools, you recognize data on unstructured documents and look at both valid and fraudulent historical invoices to understand what to pay vs. what to flag for further review.

And in claims processing, you can leverage content extraction and machine learning rules to extract key facts from claims documents to evaluate the complexity of claims and automatically route complex claims for expert or specialist handling.

EISNERAMPER: What are some changes you have seen in terms of client mindset and approach when it comes to technology?

JULIANO:We now see that many of companies believe AI is key to competitive advantage. The Fortune 100 firms have extensively incorporated AI in offerings or processes. Mid-market companies are slower to innovate; however, mid-market leaders also see it as a competitive advantage in their industries.

EISNERAMPER:What are some key things to consider when trying to establish a transformation program (in terms of people, process and technology)?

JULIANO:The biggest challenge is changing the culture of your firm to embrace digital transformation. This is key, as many people are resistant to change.

EISNERAMPER: What is the best practice to implementing RPA, AI or other technologies in general?

JULIANO: First, make sure that you have good data and well-defined processes. Then identify RPA that will efficiently automate business processes where staff spend many hours of work preparing. Subsequently, use AI to create deeper business insights and predictive risk models using both unstructured and structed datasets.

EISNERAMPER:What can we do with AI and RPA today that surprises you and what can we not do yet?

JULIANO: AI is here to stay. If you are not doing it, your competitors are doing it. What you need to do before you invoke into an AI or cognitive business strategy is identify who you are as a company and where you are within your industry as well as what your materiality level is. Then it is an exercise in picking up the covers and understanding all the information you hold. That is key. It is about the data you have and, once you understand what is available, it becomes a potential use case and a competitive solution that you can provide to your customers by bringing AI to the table. AI is another tool, but in the same token, it is allowing the business user to really impact their bottom line and figure out what the competitive advantage is through predicting potential risks and reducing the cost of compliance through automation and cognitive computing, getting the right information at the right time. Recent surveys have shown that companies invested in using AI and RPA are providing more revenue-generating offerings.

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Martin West

Martin West is a Director in the firm's Risk and Compliance Services (RCS) Group serving clients in the manufacturing, insurance (life & health and property and casualty), banking, and entertainment industries.

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