Ex-Wall Street banker hopes to spearhead “reverse innovation” in India

My career began as an investment banker on Wall Street, specializing in mergers and acquisitions later on fintech became a natural progression, Jaya said

Akashdeep Arul
New Update
Ex-Wall Street banker hopes to spearhead “reverse innovation” in India

Payments and alternative finance segments constituted more than 90% of fintech investment back in 2015. Now, there has been a major shift towards a more equitable distribution of investment across sectors since.


Implementation of new business models are now driven by technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Invest India reported.

In an exclusive interview with Jaya Vaidhyanathan, CEO, BCT Digital, CIOL unearths her journey from the banking sector to fintech.

“Music runs in my family as the descendants of Shri Panchu Bhagavathar (Iyer), the originator of the Thyagaraja Aradhana. I have been trained in Carnatic music since the age of five. Besides music, my interests growing up were inclined towards reading, elocution, participating in school plays and so on,” Jaya said.


I recollect actively participating in several interschool and national competitions. Of course, being a female student at the time posed several challenges – getting teachers to volunteer to take us to intercity competitions, obtaining permissions and approvals from parents, logistics and travel-related challenges, she added.

Why did you choose this industry?

In retrospect, most of my roles have revolved around the fintech spectrum. I started off as a graduate in Computer Science & Engineering from India’s prestigious Madras University, and I also hold an MBA in Finance and Strategy from Cornell University, USA.


My career began as an investment banker on Wall Street, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Then followed my role in the BFSI industry at HCL and Accenture. I later headed technology for Standard Chartered Bank. Fintech was a natural progression, combining my banking and technology expertise acquired and honed over a couple of decades.

Can you talk about your journey in this industry?

With the experience I had gained in the finance sector, I was looking to venture into the entrepreneurial space. I wanted to combine my expertise in technology with my experience in the financial segment – and fintech was a clear choice. At the time, the NPA crisis in India was at its peak at 7.79% compared to 4.63% the previous year. The trust in the Indian banking system was truly shaken.


I conducted a market survey of all the major banks to understand their ability to manage their NPAs and credit risk. We were the first to publish a report on the state of our banking system.

A parallel market study indicated that the market was inundated by operations and risk management products, while credit risk remained decidedly underserved. In fact, no point-solutions were available to plug the gaping hole in the expanse of time spent during the customer journey – from on-boarding and disbursal of credit to the collection of monthly EMIs – during which risks accumulated. This served as a strong motivator for me to enter the risk tech space, to be precise.

Upon joining Bahwan CyberTek, where I currently serve as the CEO of BCT Digital, I started the fintech risk management product portfolio, which is today known as rt360.


Why do you think that there is a need for your company to exist in today’s market?

We operate in the regulatory compliance universe where there are adjacencies in technology product and services offerings that are not fulfilled by global players. The regulatory landscape keeps changing and this offers huge growth opportunities for India and global markets.

The rt360 product suite has been recognized by many foreign regulators as their product of choice, because it already offers compliance needs of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the European Banking Authority (EBA), the Central Bank in the Middle East, and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).


Can you describe your products elaborately?

The rt360 product suite addresses risks related to credit risk, capital allocation, pricing risk, liquidity risk, model risk, and operational risk. Our products and solutions include,

rt360 - Early Warning System (EWS)


A web-based credit monitoring product underpinned by a powerful predictive analytics engine that collates borrowers’ credit-related information from multiple sources, such as core banking system, rating system, online media, internet and more.

The product enables portfolio managers, credit and risk analysts to track large volumes of corporate and retail portfolios for early warning indicators of stress.

rt360 - Real-Time Early Warning System

An AI-based innovative upgrade to the current EWS product suite, the real-time EWS has the potential to detect and prevent suspicious or fraudulent transactions, effectively paving the way to a transition from detective to preventive credit risk monitoring. Real-time EWS works on three core principles – integration with source systems, real-time scanning of transactions, and issuing reverse feedback.

rt360 - Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC)

The rt360 Governance, Risk & Compliance solution is part of BCT Digital’s award-winning risk management suite of products. The solution is designed by enterprise risk management practitioners using a business-first approach. rt360 GRC suite of products covers a wide array of GRC requirements such as Enterprise Risk Management, Incident Management, Business Continuity Management, Compliance, and Audit Management.

rt360 - Model Risk Management (MRM)

Manages, monitors, and tracks models throughout their life cycle in a bank. It helps identify risks associated with a model and ensures governance and compliance with global regulations and policies.

rt360 - Expected Credit Loss (ECL)

A business-driven technology solution that enables banks to compute Expected Credit Loss as per regulatory guidelines while addressing requirements, such as PIT PD and macro-economic factors. It is an integral part of the IND AS 109 product suite built for Indian regulations and the specific nuances of Indian financial institutions.

rt360 - Enterprise Risk Management (ERM)

Helps banks, identify and control risks arising out of banking operations. It has been designed by leading banking practitioners with capabilities to support the required risk modeling, analytical and reporting needs. ERM is fully compliant with the Pillar I, II, III, and stress testing requirements of Basel-II and Basel-III guidelines.

What type of tech and algorithms do you use?

At BCT Digital, we have focused on weaving in the latest disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Predictive Analytics, Big Data, Micro Services, Mobility, streaming technologies and Open Banking through APIs (Application Programming Interface).

We built products combining AI, blockchain, and machine learning to identify stressed accounts early on and improve recovery and profitability. We have used the power of technology to extract and combine data from a variety of sources and make meaningful inferences through the application of a combination of rule-based techniques as well as AI/ML based techniques

What is BCT’s business model?

BCT Digital has served as both the OEM and the implementation partner for its customers, serving clients distributed majorly across near-shore or offshore, as compared to on-site for on-premise products. We had to comply to on-premise solutions due to the fact that when we built rt360, most public sector banks preferred it.

However, over the last three years, we have been working on a cloud model, with a minor percentage on-site and majority of it mostly from offshore. This is being implemented in anticipation of global demand with micro services architecture.

What are your views on the world of finance during the pandemic and can you give me your insights on the future?

Much like healthcare, banking was one of the critical industries that had to keep operations up and running and disruption-free during the pandemic. As a sector, banking is still dependent on face-to-face meetings and transactions, and heavily reliant on manual effort, especially in India. For example, handwritten signatures continue to be mandatory for many transactions.

In more ways than one, the pandemic was a strong push to regulators to digitalize banking operations. Innovations to enable remote banking, like video KYC, secure online meetings and so on, paved way to a new era in banking.

However, they also brought along new, previously unseen risks, especially in the realm of cybersecurity. GRC practitioners began to see cybersecurity as an important component of overall GRC/ Enterprise Risk Management framework. This outlook will continue into the future, as we move to a new world order dominated by newer risks and uncertainties.

This once-in-a-century-event has also thrown all past data-based calculations out of the window. It has made financial institutions re-examine the default probability of borrowers, by including data points collated from a wider range of sources. As the volume of data grows, so will the risks.

Credit Risk as well as Model Risk Management will need revaluation and grounds-up transformation that leverage disruptive innovations, so banks can tune up to the fast-changing business environment of the future.

How do you plan on changing this industry?

To be fair, in many ways, the industry is already undergoing a systemic change. But the extent of this change, its long-term impact and ripple effects remain to be seen.

To the industry, I have two main asks,

Be open to innovation

Banking is becoming more and more commoditised. Easy comparisons of financial policies and packages are available to the public today thanks to digital aggregators. Hence, to remain competitive, banks need to engage closely with customers and deliver highly niche & customized offerings based on demographics, socio-economic profiles, and so on. Strong customer-focus, enabled by digital, can be the winning formula that the industry desperately needs.

Do not consider risk management as a cost center

With concepts like Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) gaining traction among investors, and with the latest BASEL norms highlighting the need for banks to set aside money for operational risks, risk management is today a business enabler and not just a support function. It has come a long way since its original calling as a regulatory mandate.

What is missing in the Indian financial landscape and where does India stand among other economies?

Data privacy remains a significant point of concern in India. The extent of focus on this segment has been inadequate as of now. The Personal Data Protection Bill has been a work-in-progress for quite some time, and prompt passing of this bill could bring welcome change in the fintech arena, particularly for players that dabble with customer information and sensitive financial data.

However, India is making impressive progress in the fintech sector – and the pace and quantum of growth even rivals some of its developed counterparts. In comparison to some of the other countries that continue to use handwritten vaccination passes, India has well developed QR code scannable, digital vaccination certificates available via WhatsApp. This is indeed something for us to be proud of.

In today’s world, there is a huge need to safeguard data, what steps have you taken to secure your company?

I agree that as a fintech leader, the need to safeguard the privacy and security of data is paramount and ought to take precedence over almost everything else. Our products are built “by bankers, for bankers”, which means we place due emphasis on this often overlooked and understated requirement.

We take a zero-trust approach to security to ensure there are no lapses on this front – both in our internal IT landscape, as well as our product architectures and frameworks. The following technologies and frameworks have been highly effective in upholding the sanctity of our business-critical and sensitive customer/ user information

  • Loosely coupled architectures with modules interconnected with secured APIs. A service calls an API that exposes another service using protocols such as HTTPS or TLS.
  • Three-way audits enabled in the UI, API gateway and microservices
  • Prudent access and content-based access control (CBAC), role-based access control (RBAC), policy-based access control (PBAC) to ensure valuable data remains fully secure against wrong access
  • Firewall as first layer of defence & real-time monitoring. Audit and logs to gauge system information

What are the steps taken with respect to ESG?

At BCT, I chair the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee and also serve as the chairperson of the Women’s Advancement, Transformation, Empowerment, and Recognition (WATER) Committee. Our CSR initiatives use technology and science for human betterment and ground-level interventions, thereby improving health & wellness.

WATER is a uniquely designed platform to ensure gender equality and women empowerment at workplace. It focuses on taking a deeper dive into women's economic empowerment by imparting tools, techniques, learning and mentorship initiatives for them at workplace through programs.

Apart from the above, I also serve on the board of Mastermind Foundation, an NGO that focuses on mental healthcare for women. I have also participated in DIWWAAS, an organization that hopes to change the way healthcare is understood and served in rural India. One of their initiatives, ‘Sahodharis’, in which I partook, was lauded by the Public Health Foundation of India.

My association with the NGO Karwaan Foundation as a Board Director has also been long standing. It is a non-profit organization that was set up 2013 to bring changes in the lives of underprivileged children, their families and the community as a whole.