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HSBC turns to Google Cloud for analytics and machine learning

HSBC is using Google's public cloud to apply data analytics and machine learning tools to its vast data sets, targeting a range of applications from anti-money laundering to Monte Carlo simulations.

The pilot project was announced by HSBC CIO Darryl West at the Google Cloud Next conference today. It is part of a wider move to the cloud that has also seen the multinational bank partner with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

The deal is a significant win for Google, which has faced criticism in its bid to take on the established cloud providers due to a lack of enterprise reference customers - outside of large tech firms such as SnapChat, Evernote, Niantic and Spotify. However, 150-year-old HSBC, one of the world's largest lenders with 27 million customers and US$2.4 trillion in assets, certainly falls under this category.

Although the project is in its early stages - the bank has been working with Google for six months and is not yet production ready - West said that it will help the bank become a "simpler, better and faster organisation" and respond more quickly to customer demands.

West explained that the move to the cloud is being driven by a need to make sense of growing volumes of data. In 2014 this amounted to 56 petabytes and has since doubled to more than 100 petabytes.

"What is happening is our customers are adopting digital channels more aggressively," he told attendees. "We are collecting much more data about how our customers are interacting with us."

"Embedded in this data are massive insights," he said. "What we need to do as a bank is work with partners to enable us to understand what is happening with this data and draw out the insights so we can run a better business."

From legacy infrastructure to the public cloud

West said that the bank's route to the cloud is similar to many large enterprises. Like most lenders, HSBC has relied on legacy infrastructure such as mainframes, which, while reliable, do not have the database structures needed for machine learning and advanced analytics.

Three years ago the bank began to adopt open source analytics platform Hadoop to gain better insights into its data. West described this as a "tough road" to take.