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August 2, 2023updated 04 Aug 2023 9:48am

Capita pens Microsoft AI deal in wake of CEO departure

More automated options are on the way for Capita customers, many of which were affected by a recent cyberattack on the company.

By Matthew Gooding

Outsourcing giant Capita has agreed a deal with Microsoft to increase the range of AI services it offers to its clients. The announcement comes days after it was announced CEO Jon Lewis would be leaving the company at the end of the year, having steered the business through its response to a damaging cyberattack at the hands of Russian hackers.

Capita has signed a new AI deal with Microsoft as it comes to terms with the fallout from a recent cyberattack. (Photo by rafapress/Shutterstock)

Capita revealed on Monday that Lewis would be stepping down at the end of the year. He will be replaced by Adolfo Hernandez, the vice-president of telecommunications at Amazon’s public cloud platform, AWS.

The company is one of the biggest suppliers of IT services to the UK government and local authorities, holding contracts worth £6.5bn across outsourced IT services and other areas.

Capita’s new AI deal with Microsoft

Under what it describes as an “expanded partnership” with Microsoft, Capita will work “on creating better outcomes for clients and their customers by combining Microsoft’s cloud and AI services with Capita’s operational customer and delivery know-how”. This includes “the use of generative AI to support agents in summarising disparate customer information at a significantly faster pace”, a company statement said.

IT services providers around the world have been rushing to incorporate generative AI into their products after the success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT sparked widespread interest in the technology. Many believe AI is ready to have a transformative effect on enterprise, but other companies have been reticent to adopt the technology over data security concerns.

Kathy Quashie, chief growth officer at Capita, said: “The capability and functionality of AI technology is dramatically gathering pace, especially in the area of generative AI. Every new day brings about a new development that businesses need to decide whether to embrace, and if so how.

“Imagine if we could let AI responsibly take care of all the admin after a complex call and reduce the time it takes from one hour to one minute? That would free up more time for call centre agents to help more people on the phone and invest even more time in delivering exceptional customer service.”

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Quashie added that she believes the new partnership demonstrates that the technology “will be central” to Capita’s growth strategy.

Capita’s staff will gain access to additional Microsoft 365 applications as part of the partnership.

New Capita CEO has work to do following damaging cyberattack

Capita is looking for some positive news having seen its share price slide since March’s cyberattack by the Black Basta ransomware group. The attack left councils up and down the country without access to vital services for several days.

Having initially denied any data had been stolen, Capita later admitted some customer information may have been accessed. This could have included information on 470,000 clients of the UK’s largest pension fund, the University Superannuation Scheme.

The company expects the breach to cost it up to £20m, It is facing the prospect of several class action lawsuits, while data watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Officer is investigating more than 90 potential data breaches stemming from the attack. Capita could be hit with a hefty fine from the regulator following the incident.

On Monday it was announced CEO Lewis would be leaving his post at the end of the year. Capita’s board was at pains to point out he is not departing as a result of the attack, with company chairman David Lowden saying: “I want to pay particular tribute to his leadership in recent months, during which he decided to delay his possible retirement from Capita due to the cyber incident we experienced in March.”

Hernandez is a telecoms veteran, with a 30-year behind him at companies including SDL and Alcatel-Lucent, as well as AWS.

Read more: Thales boosts cybersecurity credentials with $3.6bn Imperva acquisition

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