PayPal CIO: IoT tech can give people better access to services

7 Apr 2023

Archie Deskus. Image: PayPal

While AI and machine learning are major trends in the tech space, Archie Deskus explains why she’s also excited about IoT and ‘next best decision’ modelling.

Archana (Archie) Deskus is executive vice-president and chief information officer (CIO) at PayPal. In this role, Deskus oversees the company’s global information technology operations and is responsible for PayPal’s employee technology and experiences, enterprise data platforms, business transformation office, and site reliability and cloud engineering teams.

Before PayPal, Deskus worked at Intel, where she served as senior vice-president and CIO. She also previously served as senior vice-president and CIO for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), where she was responsible for the company’s IT infrastructure and technology resources.

‘People are the biggest security weakness, as many issues can be attributed to bad hygiene and bad people behavior’

What are some of the biggest challenges that you’re facing in the current IT landscape?

Security is one of those areas that presents significant challenges because, as you keep upping the game with hygiene and more capabilities in your environment, the external stressors keep getting more and more sophisticated. We therefore have to remain steadfast and diligent to ensure we continually evaluate the threats from a risk perspective while prioritising and addressing any high-risk items.

Another challenge is that we’re in an economic climate where there is greater pressure on cost and operating leverage. A big part of that is understanding where your big cost drivers are and looking at opportunities to consolidate, standardise, centralise and automate. Having a very flexible and adaptable technology architecture allows us to make shifts as we see different kinds of cost and ROI scenarios play out.

And a third challenge we’re facing is people. Even though the hiring environment is better now than it was six months ago, it is still very competitive. And we’re also seeing significant change in terms of the skill shifts that are needed.

To win the talent war in the market, we must innovate how we work within the organisation. Part of this is seeking new talent from the outside. The other part is experimentation – with training and fostering new employee skillsets with our internal resources.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

If we are looking at digital transformation in a broad sense within financial services, it’s constantly evolving because the regulations vary by country. If you operate like we do in more than 200 markets, there are varying levels of regulatory and security requirements, data and privacy laws around digital currencies, and things like digital identity and KYC challenges as you try and include more people in the financial ecosystem.

I think another aspect – whether it’s in banking, financial services, or fintech – is you have a core business that’s running on a certain stack. The migration to adopt new technologies is challenging because it’s very transaction heavy and our industry has monolithic architectures that can make it hard for companies that operate at the scale that we do to do a bold one-and-done transformation.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?

I think AI/ML is going to be one of the biggest game changers. There are many different ways that AI/ML will change our world, from the way work gets done to the new insights and intelligence that will benefit our products, customers and business performance.

There will still need to be checks and balances by humans because when there is an error, the risk could be high if we let a machine make a determination and it is wrong. To finally do away with that, we’ll have to prove that the models perform at an equal or better level than humans.

Another area I am excited about is ‘next best decision’ modeling – whether it’s around fraud or better understanding a consumer’s purchase intent with a merchant. There’s so much intelligence we can harness to provide better experiences.

In addition to AI/ML, I continue to be excited about IoT in everyday life because I don’t think we’ve really reached a meaningful set of value propositions from a societal perspective.

Obviously, everybody loves the autonomous vehicle use case, but I’m actually more excited about the opportunities in the health and medical space. My dad’s a diabetic, and there are just amazing things going on with wearables and constant monitoring that make a huge difference now. And I think we’ll get to a point where the human won’t have to decide, do I need to take a pill or a shot? It will just happen based on all that monitoring.

A lot of IoT technologies are making it possible for people who never would have had access to get access. Whether it’s around financial products, healthcare or services – these technologies provide much greater reach that takes away the physical and economic constraints.

How can sustainability be addressed from an IT perspective?

In our lifetime, technology innovations have been the greatest driver of change, growth and disruption, both in our personal lives and businesses. With it has come enormous growth in data, applications, sensors, devices, etc, fueled by data centres, computing and digital assets, networks, all of which have led to unprecedented growth and an unsatiated desire for more.

Reducing our carbon footprint by optimising our data centres, lifecycle management and reuse and recycling of assets are critical to sustainability.

There is a responsibility that goes with every new trend that comes along, and we should all ask, even if there’s a value proposition to a customer or consumer, what does it do from an environmental impact?

How can we address security challenges currently facing your industry?

Trust and security of assets are key to consumers and businesses leveraging fintech solutions for wider reach and growth. The threats facing our industry are shared across our financial ecosystem and we have varying degrees of cybersecurity maturity. All partners in the ecosystem must work together and adopt a base set of security controls.

When multiple companies are dealing with the same issues, you’re able to talk about tactics and learnings, so the concept of an industry standing together and sharing becomes really important. The threat landscape is going to continue to accelerate and become even more sophisticated. To combat that, it comes down to having the right risk framework in place and ensuring you are addressing ongoing and emerging risks.

Another element that we frequently forget is that people are the biggest security weakness, as many issues can be attributed to bad hygiene and bad people behavior. It is critical people are hyper-aware of the risks and what they can do to protect themselves and the company.

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