Interviews and Reviews

Anjali Raveendranath Develops Scalable New Technologies to Solve Business Problems and Improve Financial Services Operational and Compliance Processes 

Financial Services Operational and Compliance Processes 

Anjali Raveendranath is a Lead Developer specializing in Java/J2EE and Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture. She is a recognized expert in designing process automation tools that leverage Pragmatic Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) features, focusing over the last decade on developing rules engines, web applications, and cloud-native applications that capture decision logic as business rules across different modules. In her 20-year career, Anjali has developed scalable IT solutions that drive business growth and enhance the customer experience for U.S. Fortune 500 companies in the Finance, Retail, Healthcare, Insurance, and Automotive sectors. 

Anjali is currently the Senior Application Designer for a leading American residential mortgage lender and servicer, where she recently developed an innovative financial business rules engine product to improve loan servicing processes, compliance, and risk management. In this interview with TechBullion, she discusses how new technologies are transforming the financial services industry, and how she is applying AI/ML tools to solving business and operational problems. 

Let’s start by learning about your background. How did you get into the IT field, and what led you to develop your expertise in Java, MVC architecture, and process automation? 

My journey into the IT realm began with an early fascination for technology and a keen interest in problem-solving. As I embarked on my college education, I naturally gravitated towards computer science courses, immersing myself in programming languages and software development concepts. It was there that I first encountered Java, a robust and versatile programming language renowned for its adaptability and extensive application scope. Diving deeper into my studies, I found myself drawn to the intricacies of software architecture and design patterns. This exploration led me to discover the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture, offering a structured methodology for organizing software components to foster modularity, reusability, and maintainability. Over the years, I have refined my expertise in Java, MVC architecture, and process automation through practical experience, continuous learning, and engagement in diverse projects spanning various industries.

Your career has spanned two decades during which technology has evolved dramatically. How do you keep up with innovation? What inspires you in IT now? 

In an ever-evolving technological landscape, staying abreast of innovation is paramount to remain relevant and effective in the IT field. I maintain my knowledge and skills through a multi-faceted approach that combines continuous learning, industry engagement, and hands-on experience. I prioritize continuous learning by regularly exploring new technologies, tools, and methodologies through online courses, workshops, and conferences. Additionally, I actively engage with the broader IT community by participating in forums, discussion groups, and professional networks. 

What inspires me now is IT’s limitless potential for innovation, and the transformative impact technology can have on society. From advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to the proliferation of cloud computing and data analytics, the possibilities are truly endless. Witnessing how these technologies empower businesses, improve people’s lives, and drive positive change fuels my passion for IT and motivates me to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

You’ve said that you enjoy the challenges associated with problem-solving. Tell us about some of the IT solutions you’ve developed to drive growth and user experiences, and the outcomes the companies achieved as a result. 

Over the years I have played a leading role in building new websites and products for major global companies in diverse industries.  One notable project was the deployment of an online Layaway tool on the Sears/Kmart website. Kmart’s longstanding Layaway program, a fixture of the company for over four decades, once positioned Kmart as the sole national discount retailer offering this service, but it was discontinued in the 1980s. Layaway is a purchasing arrangement that enables  consumers to initiate ownership of an item by making an initial deposit, with the store retaining the item until the buyer completes payment through subsequent installments. For consumers, Layaway is a highly valued offering, and our project deployment received tremendous news coverage for Sears/Kmart. Bringing back Layaway had a positive impact on all the company’s stakeholders

Another critical project is developing the Servicing systems environment for PennyMac, a leading national home mortgage lender and services in the U.S., which played a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic. This project has been transformative, empowering the company to achieve substantial automation and efficiencies within its CARES Act forbearance programs. (The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, is a multi-trillion dollar economic stimulus bill enacted by the U.S. Congress in March 2020.) The new security service edge (SSE) platform that we developed incorporates an advanced Rules Engine system for data validation, executing complex financial rules to deliver decisive outcomes. Transactions undergo processing based on these outcomes, ensuring a smooth and efficient workflow. By integrating the Red Hat Decision Manager framework with Drools flow, the application’s robust functionality is significantly enhanced. These rules encompass decision-making, calculations, validations, and other aspects of business logic, aiming to separate business logic from application code. This approach provides a more adaptable and maintainable solution, thereby boosting the efficiency and accuracy of the loan servicing process.

Given the recent acceleration of AI and ML, do these new tools change the way you approach and design solutions to business problems? 

Absolutely, the recent acceleration of AI and Machine Learning ML has fundamentally transformed the way I approach and design solutions to business problems. These advanced tools offer unprecedented capabilities for data analysis, pattern recognition, and decision-making, opening up new possibilities for innovation across industries.

One significant change in my approach is the integration of AI and ML algorithms into solution design from the outset. Rather than treating AI and ML as add-on features, I now consider them as integral components of the solution architecture. This involves identifying opportunities where AI and ML can add value, such as automating repetitive tasks, predicting outcomes based on data patterns, or personalizing user experiences.

Another aspect is the emphasis on data quality and accessibility. AI and ML algorithms rely heavily on high-quality, labeled data to produce accurate results. Therefore, designing solutions that ensure data integrity, consistency, and accessibility is paramount. 

Overall, the emergence of AI and ML has revolutionized the way I approach solution design, offering unprecedented opportunities for innovation, automation, and data-driven decision-making. 

You have vast experience in developing IT applications for leading companies in different industries, and have worked in financial services for the last six years. What is unique about building solutions for financial services processes?

Developing solutions for financial services processes poses distinct challenges due to the industry’s specific regulatory requirements, security standards, and complex transactional nature. Financial institutions operate in a highly regulated environment governed by strict compliance standards, making it crucial to ensure compliance to avoid legal repercussions and maintain trust with customers and stakeholders. 

Given the sensitivity and confidentiality of financial data, security and data privacy are top priorities in solution development. Implementing robust encryption, access controls, and authentication mechanisms is essential to safeguarding sensitive information from unauthorized access, breaches, and cyber threats. Additionally, financial institutions often rely on legacy systems and infrastructure, which can present challenges when integrating new solutions. Ensuring data consistency, interoperability, and minimal disruption to ongoing operations is critical in financial services solution development. The project I led involved transitioning from a legacy system to a new product, leveraging new technology and incorporating AI and ML concepts to enhance the loan servicing environment.

How are AI and ML revolutionizing business processes in the finance industry? Where do you foresee the greatest changes by 2030?

AI and ML make business processes more efficient by automating routine tasks, enhancing decision-making, improving customer experiences, and mitigating risks. By leveraging predictive analytics, fraud detection algorithms, personalized recommendations, and advanced risk management techniques, financial institutions can streamline operations, optimize investments, and comply with regulatory requirements more effectively. 

By 2030, the greatest changes may include even more advanced automation, hyper-personalization of customer experiences, enhanced risk management capabilities, integration of quantum computing, and a greater focus on ethical and responsible AI development to address emerging challenges and opportunities in the evolving financial landscape.

You have been pioneering applications that leverage embedded ML in rules engines to improve financial processes, and recently used this methodology to develop an automated solution for the banking lockbox that reduces processing time and associated costs. How do you see these kinds of solutions changing the way financial institutions operate? 

ML algorithms can automate decision-making processes within financial institutions by analyzing data and applying predefined rules. This reduces the need for manual intervention, leading to faster processing times and lower operational costs. These solutions can optimize operational processes, such as loan approval or claims processing, by automating repetitive tasks and improving efficiency. This leads to reduced processing times and lower costs for financial institutions, which may in turn be passed along to consumers.

Are you involved in mentoring or training young engineering professionals? What is the most important advice you give about building a career in IT today? 

Yes, I’m actively involved in mentoring and training young engineering professionals as part of our college mentorship program. I believe in the importance of passing on knowledge and experience to the next generation of IT professionals to help them navigate their careers successfully. When mentoring, one of the most important pieces of advice I give about building a career in IT today is to prioritize continuous learning and adaptability.

Another piece of advice I emphasize is the importance of building a strong foundation in fundamental concepts. Technologies may come and go, but a solid understanding of core principles such as data structures, algorithms, and software design patterns provides a timeless framework for problem-solving and innovation.

Lastly, I encourage aspiring IT professionals to cultivate soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and adaptability. In an increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary work environment, these skills are just as important as technical expertise in driving success and making meaningful contributions to projects and teams.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The automation of finance using ML and AI technologies is poised to revolutionize the industry, streamlining processes, enhancing decision-making, and improving customer experiences. As we continue to leverage predictive analytics, automated risk management, and personalized financial services, the future of finance holds immense potential for innovation and efficiency. Embracing these advancements will not only drive operational excellence, but also pave the way for a more inclusive and accessible financial ecosystem.

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