The 13 economic aid measures announced at the end of May by President Nicos Anastasiades and Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides have won praise from nearly all the major actors in the island’s economy – the Director General of the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB), Michalis Antoniou called it “a package of measures that is capable of restarting and rescuing the economy.”
It is clear that the package will involve complex interaction between banks, government agencies and the European Investment Bank.
We asked PwC partner for banking Vassilios Vrachimis about the technology needed to support these interactions.
“It is important that these actions be implemented as quickly as possible. The economy needs them, businesses need them to get started again,” Vrachimis noted.
“But the package will generate a huge number of applications from businesses, and a lot of the information that needs to be provided by applicants is not accepted by the banks in an electronic way. We need technology platforms to manage all this rapidly.”
Vrachimis points out that the government has shown its ability, through the novel coronavirus crisis, to get needed technology support up and running very rapidly – this has largely been the work of Deputy Minister for Research, Innovation & Digital Policy Kyriacos Kokkinos.
“What we need now is something similar to what the UK government has implemented with its British Business Bank.” This is a platform that connects small businesses with financial resources – it administers the Covid Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
“What is remarkable about this platform is that it gathers data on applicants from both public and private sources. So when an applicant must provide social security data, the platform sources it directly from government sources. If the applicant must provide financial data, it can be accessed directly from private sources like banks or insurers.”
There are even smart functions in the platform (using AI) that can evaluate criteria for eligibility, he adds. “All of this make it possible to handle very large amounts of applications quickly and efficiently.”
For Vrachimis, this is an opportunity for Cyprus to bring all this information together in ways that can enable easy access. “This is what we need in Cyprus. Some of this can be put in place in a matter of weeks.”
“Imagine you are applying for a loan. If you have a link, you can draw that information from the tax office so you can get it. If you need to show how many employees you have, a link to social security provides it. If you need financial information, you can link to your bank to provide it. This is perfectly possible, and we need to make this kind of application more transparent, more rapid and at once to reduce the work for both applicants and the banks.”
Vrachimis explains that this kind of technology is already at work in Cyprus. “Take the example of the Ariadni Government Gateway; the government interacted with the banks who can now share credentials with the government platform. Are you a customer of Astrobank’s sKash, Bank of Cyprus or Hellenic Bank?
“Then with your permission, the Ariadni platform can access your credentials on the online banking service and verify your information.”
Vrachimis is optimistic that with good cooperation between the public and private sectors, the measures in the economic aid package can be up and running quickly.