IHS Markit Develops NLP Solution for Financial Professionals in 6 Weeks on AWS


IHS Markit provides next-generation information, analytics, and software solutions to businesses across multiple industries. Customers of its Financial Services Solutions segment include syndicated loan and private equity salespeople who often struggle with the day-to-day tedium of administrative tasks. IHS Markit wanted to accelerate its rate of innovation by using the power of the cloud to improve the experience of its loan sales customers. As a result, the company decided to migrate from its legacy operating systems to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“It became very clear that migrating from our legacy environment to the cloud would be advantageous,” says Andrew Eisen, senior vice president and head of Financial Services Solutions at IHS Markit. “We found that the cloud innovation and consistency of services that AWS delivers in a secure and scalable way provide us with an opportunity to improve our business model.”

IHS Markit senior leadership and product managers participated in a “Working Backwards” workshop hosted by the AWS Digital Innovation Team. At this workshop, the IHS Markit team started with the customer problem and brainstormed a natural language processing (NLP) software solution to alleviate the note-taking burden of its syndicated loan and private equity sales customers. This solution, SmartNotes, is now integrated into its Debtdomain product, a syndicated loan management system.

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The AWS tools were exactly what we needed to achieve our desired outcome with SmartNotes"

Joseph Salerno
Vice President and Global Head of Debtdomain, IHS Markit

Applying Digital Innovation to Develop SmartNotes

IHS Markit connects data across multiple variables to present its customers with a richer, more highly integrated view of their world so that they can improve their business models. Its global team includes more than 5,000 analysts, data scientists, financial experts, and industry specialists.

In 2015 IHS Markit began to experiment with different workloads on AWS. “We started on AWS with $10,000 and an idea,” says Eisen. “That’s now evolved into an 8-year organizational transformation as we adopt a cloud-native approach to how we build technology.” Throughout its migration, IHS Markit has used AWS Support, which provides a mix of tools and technology, people, and programs designed to proactively help customers optimize performance, lower costs, and innovate faster.

In the Digital Innovation workshop, IHS Markit learned about the “working backwards” methodology, which encourages business owners and product teams to ideate customer products by brainstorming user needs first and developing solutions based on particular issues. “The ‘working backwards’ approach turned out to be really productive and surprisingly successful in a short time,” says Joseph Salerno, vice president and global head of Debtdomain. “The AWS tools were exactly what we needed to achieve our desired outcome with SmartNotes.”

IHS Markit’s Financial Services Solutions segment delivers software solutions, such as Debtdomain, that drive efficiency, manage risk, and streamline day-to-day operations for financial firms. “Debtdomain enables sales professionals in the syndicated loan industry to capture all sorts of data about their meetings and conversations with clients,” says Salerno. “It’s a tedious process to type up this information after the conversation. Because AWS has several NLP methods available, we seized upon the idea of having the sales professionals speak their call notes into Debtdomain.”

SmartNotes automatically extracts, transcribes, and analyzes customer conversations for financial sales professionals. It benefits loan salespeople in several ways. It frees up deal teams from having to log their call notes by hand, enabling salespeople to dictate notes by speech or keyboard. Furthermore, SmartNotes anticipates next steps based on customer conversations, prompting salespeople to meet internal sales compliance requirements and focus their time on making deals rather than performing administrative tasks.

Building a Minimum Viable Product in 6 Weeks on AWS

After the AWS Digital Innovation Program workshop, IHS Markit product managers engaged in an AWS solution workshop hosted by AWS Professional Services, a global team of experts who help customers realize desired business outcomes on AWS. “The workshop kicked off with an ideation session that focused on how we could deliver a big idea solution that would be meaningful to our clients. Through this activity, we brainstormed a logical extension to our Debtdomain product, which became SmartNotes,” says Salerno.

During the session, the AWS Professional Services team and the IHS Markit product team architected an AWS solution for SmartNotes using Amazon Comprehend, a natural language processing service that uses machine learning to find insights and relationships in text, and Amazon Textract, a fully managed machine learning service that automatically extracts printed text, handwriting, and other data from scanned documents. The natural language processing and machine learning capabilities will enable Debtdomain to extract the intent and context of a message so that its transcription services are accurate and useful to the loan salespeople who will use them.

“SmartNotes is able to transcribe the spoken word and then identify key elements of the text, associate them with entities that are part of our Debtdomain system, and evaluate the sentiment of the call notes so that it can recommend next steps to customers,” says Salerno. “Our customers are able to do things now that they haven’t done before.” IHS Markit also used Amazon Transcribe, a service that makes it simple for developers to add speech-to-text capabilities to their applications, to implement the SmartNotes solution in Debtdomain.

Turning to AWS Professional Services, the IHS Markit product team developed a minimum viable product—or a product with enough features to attract early customers and validate a product idea early in the development cycle—for Debtdomain in just 6 weeks. IHS Markit plans to integrate SmartNotes into its existing iLEVEL portfolio monitoring software and Prism virtual data room solutions for loan service providers, enabling simpler note-taking and alleviating the burden of tedious administrative tasks. “Building a minimum viable product in 6 weeks proved that we could deliver value to our clients much more quickly than we had previously thought possible,” says Salerno.

Driving Further Innovation for the Financial Services Industry

The idea for SmartNotes came out of the AWS Digital Innovation workshop and as a result has opened up new possibilities for IHS Markit to improve not only its financial services products but also its intelligence solutions across its business segments.

This experience enabled IHS Markit to become more agile, to incorporate new thinking and ideas quickly, and to innovate faster on AWS. “This use case definitely solidified our plans to embrace serverless architecture on a go-forward basis,” says Salerno. “It confirmed that we could actualize the goals of our larger migration project.”

About IHS Markit

IHS Markit provides critical information, analytics, and solutions to major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide, including financial services.

Benefits of AWS

  • Developed a minimum viable product in 6 weeks
  • Alleviates the burden of note-taking tasks
  • Analyzes call sentiment to provide personalized recommendations

AWS Services Used

Amazon Comprehend

Amazon Comprehend is a natural-language processing (NLP) service that uses machine learning to uncover information in unstructured data.

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Amazon Textract

Amazon Textract is a machine learning service that automatically extracts text, handwriting and data from scanned documents that goes beyond simple optical character recognition (OCR) to identify, understand, and extract data from forms and tables.

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AWS Support

AWS Support provides a mix of tools and technology, people, and programs designed to proactively help you optimize performance, lower costs, and innovate faster.

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AWS Professional Services

Adopting the AWS Cloud can provide you with sustainable business advantages. Supplementing your team with specialized skills and experience can help you achieve those results.

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