The growth of rental proptech: hybridisation and data risk

By Thomas Wainwright

What’s the issue?

UK homeownership rates peaked in 2003 at 70.9%, before falling to 63.9% in 20181. A combination of precarious work, stagnant pay and increasing property prices have seen more households find themselves within the private rental sector (PRS). In contrast to other countries, the UK’s rental market is fragmented, consisting of many small scale landlords and a smaller, but increasing proportion of institutional landlords. For example, MHCLG’s last private landlord survey in 2018 revealed that 45% of private landlords in England own just one property, with 38% owning between 2-4 properties2. While the PRS remains an important part of UK accommodation provision, it has faced criticism, focussing on ‘rogue’ landlords, unprofessional management and high costs, partly resulting in the Tenant Fees Act (2019), which banned tenant fees3 and inadvertently boosted demand for rental proptech – to which we will return later. Further calls have been made for mandatory landlord registration to combat issues concerning low quality accommodation4 and while demand for PRS accommodation continues, so will calls for change. One set of actors responding to these calls are the entrepreneurs behind rental proptech platforms who are seeking to disrupt and re-shape the PRS for renters, landlords and letting agents.

What’s going on?

Property technology, or proptech, refers broadly to a diverse range of new entrepreneurial start-ups that focus on the increased use of data, interconnectivity, automation, and technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), algorithms and blockchain, to solve a variety of issues related to property management. As a sub-sector, rental proptech focusses exclusively on – unsurprisingly – the rental sector.

Rental proptech has grown rapidly since the 2008 GFC. The start-ups are diverse, but generally seek to digitally mediate the relationship between landlords, tenants, letting agents and other suppliers, capturing fees and access to new sources of data for marketing, analysis, and to calculate risk. Rental proptech seeks to make the market easier to navigate for tenants. For example, making it easier to remotely book and undertake viewings, or to manage the check-in and out of property through apps, rather than a series of paper forms. Some platforms provide added transparency too, seeking to bar ‘rogue’ landlords and to reward outstanding landlords with greater market visibility and ratings. Landlords are able to access a broader market of renters through online-only letting agents, for example, cutting costs and enabling them to self-service administrative work through automated technology. For letting agents, the technology has also removed much of the administrative back office work. For some, this has been a lifesaver, following the Tenant Fees Act and the loss of application fees, as it enabled high-street agents to adopt rental proptech and to automate their processes, cutting costs.

The UK’s proptech market is arguably world-leading, given the scale of its creativity and innovation, with access to venture capital funds providing considerable potential for growth. In mediating relationships between letting agents and tenants, for example, rental proptech platforms have the opportunity to charge fees and profit from both types of client in this multi-sided market, while cross-selling other products and earning commissions. While tenancy durations vary across different markets within the UK, estimates suggest households stay at a property on average between 18 months5 and 4.1 years6. Towards the shorter end of tenancies, this mobility or churn creates more regular revenue earning opportunities, when compared to property sales, for example.

Given the size of the PRS and its fragmentation, there are opportunities to structure and organise the market through these platforms. In recognising the potential of rental proptech, considerable flows of investment are moving into the sector fuelling its growth, with specialist investment from Pi Labs, Round Hill Ventures and A/O Proptech, for example, with many deals detailed on Unissu.

Digital disruption in the PRS

Rental proptech start-ups are diverse. For example, they include apps that seek to compete with and directly challenge high-street letting agents (Howsy), digital management for letting agents (AskPorter), provide regulatory and compliance support for landlords (Kamma), tenant bill splitting (The Bunch), digital referencing and passporting (Goodlord) and managing the departure of tenants and return of their deposits (The Depositary).

In curating multi-sided markets, rental proptech promises solutions to all parties. Lower costs for landlords, which can mitigate pressures from tax changes regarding SDLT and mortgage interest tax relief. Rental proptech has enabled letting agents to reduce their administrative workload, enabling them to focus their efforts and time on negotiating tenancies and finding new business. For small and medium-sized agencies who simply do not have the capacity to develop their own in-house tech solutions, refocussing their business and outsourcing routine time-consuming tasks provides a considerable benefit.

Renters are able to benefit from a series of improvements, focussed mainly on convenience, For example, through automated check-in and out processes on their phone including deposit reclaim, setting-up and splitting utility bills, and reassurance on some platforms that landlords have been more thoroughly vetted. While rental proptech has not made renting directly cheaper for tenants, following the Tenant Fee Act, in using proptech to reduce costs, this has, in some cases, mitigated the need for agents to increase management fees for landlords, which in turn would be passed into tenants in the form of higher rents.

Sector maturity, hybridisation and consolidation

Rental proptech businesses initially could be seen as pure disruptors to the PRS, seeking to act as direct competitors to high-street estate agents. However, as highlighted above, they are increasingly partnering with established high-street agents, seeing the latter become hybridised – not proptech agencies, but increasingly heavier uses of data-driven tech. Routine and unprofitable functions are being unbundled from agency business models, replaced with rental proptech as it enters the mainstream.

The market is also beginning to consolidate. While rental proptech began with businesses focussing on one problem or difficulty in the PRS, as identified or experienced by the venture teams, they have begun to diversify their product offering. First, to develop additional revenues, for example, through AI driven tenant management or digital referencing, but also as the rental proptech sector focusses on convenience and ease of use. Using several different products from several different firms each with a particular focus is not convenient to clients. As such, rental proptech start-up product portfolios have begun to increasingly overlap, leading to greater competition.

This has seen the development of mergers and acquisitions in the sector. For example, Goodlord acquired Vouch in 2020 to gain tenant referencing capabilities and Acasa in 2021 to gain its tenant bill splitting applications7. Partnerships will no doubt become more important, but the result in the foreseeable future may well be a smaller number of larger and more comprehensive rental proptech firms seeking to cover all parts of the rental value chain. As they provide more comprehensive solutions to high-street agents, the latter may be hollowed out further to focus exclusively on relationship management as hybridisation becomes the norm. While Rightmove and Zoopla may be the property search engines of the sector, new competitors may well come to dominate the market, but in servicing a digital PRS and facilitating the moves of renters.

Emerging digital risks

Rental proptech is underpinned by the novel use of new technologies. However, this raises a series of new risks and issues that could impact on businesses, tenants and the wider market. These risks should be considered, and where necessary, mitigated. As start-ups expand for survival, they focus on client acquisition and revenue growth and it is unsurprising that data risks are not fully considered. From the research, some key risks are apparent – their mitigations are examined in more detail in the accompanying ‘think piece’ [here].

Rental proptech is drawing on ever more detailed personal data through APIs, particularly through open banking. Some of the ways in which this data could be used poses ethical questions, particularly if it could lead to discrimination against particular groups of renters, even if this is unintentional. Not only does this pose ethical risks against tenants, but also reputational and revenue risks that can affect specific businesses, and the broader sector. Just because data is available for use, does not necessarily mean it should be used without thorough justification and an assessment of its potential impacts.

This can also extend to data that renters may self-input. Using apps, tenants can be encouraged to provide more data than perhaps they would provide on paper forms, as the processes is much easier. However, tenants may not fully understand how the data will be used, and may not be comfortable with its function if they knew. More transparency is needed over why data is required, as while consent may be given, it may not necessarily be fully informed.

There are also emerging issues of data equity. For example, some types of data sources may be used in algorithms, which is not available for all renters. For instance, some local authorities provide data on noise complaints in tenant referencing, but not all. This creates a data asymmetry in that some tenants, using a nation-wide rental proptech platform, may be penalised, while others are not, based on the availability/absence of data, rather than actual activity.

Moving from data and turning to the analytical technologies, AI is known for replicating racism, sexism and ableism, based on biases within the data from which they learn8. While this reflects discrimination and bias within society, decisions made using flawed AI can reinforce, replicate and expand discrimination. Similarly, the design of algorithms can encode and replicate unintended results that reinforce discrimination. This creates substantial ethical issues that translate into business risk. While the discrimination may be unintentional, flawed technology can be problematic if left unchecked.

Finally, rental proptech platforms often appear to focus on a particular target market, often of young, urban, professional and mobile renters. While this issue is not technological in itself, products are designed around the needs of these particular renters, which may exclude other types of renter, or may accommodate their needs less effectively. As rental proptech continues to expand and be adopted by more high-street agents, it may be at the detriment of different renter demographics. As such, further work needs to be undertaken to understand how rental proptech affects, is used and adopted by different renter types.

What next – new opportunities?

So far, rental proptech start-ups are focussing on working with smaller landlords and letting agents within the UK’s PRS ecosystem. It’s likely that this trend will continue, with the technology becoming more mainstream amongst high-street agents. Potential opportunities may emerge through coordinated M&A activity to create more full-service rental proptech groups. This could be driven by venture capital funding, or by larger national agencies seeking to develop their own tech platforms and move further into the digital space.

Rental proptech activity is currently limited in the institutional build-to-rent (BTR) sector. However, the BTR arms of pension funds and vertically integrated developers are growing. In addition to housing associations, these landlords could prove to be a new market. The operations of institutional investors are driven by interest around yield. To date, there appears to have been limited interest in rental proptech by institutional BTR sector as is not seen as being able to add sufficient value to the rental experience, or in cutting operational costs, to increase yields. It may be that rental proptech is introduced to these landlords through managing agents and facilities managers, rather than by the landlords themselves.

In the US, proptech has been used to streamline the valuation, surveying, acquisition and management of single family home rentals, to be bundled directly into private equity-backed investment portfolios. Proptech is used to manage asset maintenance, but to also outsource management work from agents and landlords onto tenants using technology, to reduce costs further. While these models and practices have not yet emerged in the UK, existing rental proptech technologies may be deployed for new uses.

As highlighted earlier, while the propositions of rental proptech have the potential to disrupt and enhance the PRS, driving convenience, efficiency and profitability, risks surrounding the use of data at the centre of these technologies remain. These risks need to be considered carefully by the sector and some suggestions and mitigations are outlined in the associated think piece.

Further information

Methodology: The data collected to underpin this research project consisted of expert interviews with 30 prominent actors within the UK’s rental proptech and real estate sector. This was supported through secondary resources and publically available materials.

Resources: RED think piece – What could a Tenant Data Charter look like in the rental proptech sector?

Funding: British Academy – Tackling the UK’s International Challenges

Acknowledgements: Comments from reviewers are much appreciated in clarifying and augmenting the key points raised in earlier drafts

Dr Thomas Wainwright is Reader in Strategy and Entrepreneurship. Tom completed his first degree at the University of Leicester and holds an MSc from the University of Nottingham. He completed his ESRC funded PhD in 2009 (University of Nottingham) where he investigated the development of new strategies and innovations in the financial services sector. Tom then worked at the University of Nottingham on projects that examined wholesale-retail bank linkages and wealth management. In 2010, he began a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Small Business Research Centre at Kingston University, where he worked on consultancy projects for Barclays Bank and other stakeholders, such as Eurofound. Tom joined the University of Southampton in 2012 and became Senior Lecturer in 2014, before becoming Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Innovation and Enterprise.

Footnotes

[1] https://www.brookings.edu/essay/uk-rental-housing-markets/

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/775002/EPLS_main_report.pdf

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/tenant-fees-act

[4] https://www.landlordtoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2020/10/mandatory-landlord-register-is-latest-goal-for-generation-rent-activists

[5] https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/estate-and-letting-agent-discussions/2016/5/how-long-does-the-average-tenancy-last

[6] https://www.lettingagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2019/1/tenants-stay-an-average-4-1-years-says-governments-own-figures

[7] https://www.altfi.com/article/8407_rising-proptech-star-goodlord-makes-second-acquisition-with-acasa

[8] https://www.brookings.edu/research/detecting-and-mitigating-bias-in-natural-language-processing/#:~:text=Unsupervised%20artificial%20intelligence%20(AI)%20models,racism%2C%20sexism%2C%20and%20ableism.&text=Billions%20of%20people%20using%20the,exposed%20to%20biased%20word%20embeddings

China’s Social Credit Systems: Myth, Reality, and Discourse

There is a great deal of controversy and myth surrounding the infamous social credit system (SCS) in China. Commentators in the West often portray the SCS as an omnipresent surveillance system imposed by the Chinese government on its citizens, feeding on their personal data for the purpose of authoritarian control. This Orwellian image of the SCS may reflect the zeitgeist of the age of surveillance capitalism, but how close is it to reality? At this research seminar organised by the Digital Organisation and Society (DOS) Research Centre at Royal Holloway, two prominent scholars of the SCS – Prof. Genia Kostka (Freie Universität Berlin) and Dr. Chenchen Zhang (Queen’s University Belfast) – will each present their research on the SCS to provide a more nuanced picture of the reality.

Time: 11-12:30pm, Tuesday 24th May
Livestreaming link: Please contact DOSdirectors@rhul.ac.uk if you want to join this event.

Agenda

Welcome & Introduction: Dr Philip Wu, Royal Holloway

Talk 1 – Accepting but Not Engaging with It: Digital Participation in Local Government-Run Social Credit Systems in China
Prof Genia Kostka, Freie Universität Berlin

Abstract

China’s central and municipal governments have consistently facilitated the development of social credit systems (SCSs) over the past decade. While research has highlighted the Chinese public’s high approval of and support for SCSs, their engagement with these digital projects has not been fully explored. This talk examines Chinese citizens’ digital participation in local government-run SCSs. Based on 64 semi-structured interviews, our most recent research findings suggests that, despite perceiving SCSs as accepting and positive, most interviewees do not actively engage with local government-run SCSs. Multiple factors can explain the gap between high acceptance and low participation, including a lack of awareness regarding local SCSs, a perception that registering and maintaining a decent credit score requires major effort, various concerns over SCSs (e.g., information privacy and safety, as well as algorithm accuracy and fairness), clarity of rules and guidelines, potential risks, unappealing benefits offered by SCSs, and the voluntariness of participating in local SCSs. Our research adds to the existing literature on digital governance in authoritarian contexts by explaining why Chinese citizens do not necessarily engage with state-promoted digital projects.

Research paper by Haili Li and Genia Kostka can be downloaded here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4066462

Bio

Prof Genia Kostka is a Professor of Chinese Politics at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her research focuses on digital transformation, environmental politics, and political economy with a regional focus on China. Her most recent research project explores how digital technologies are integrated into local decision-making and governance structures in China (ERC Starting Grant 2020-2025).

Talk 2 – Social credit as a governing technique, as imaginary, and as meme
Dr Chenchen Zhang, Queen’s University Belfast

Abstract

This talk is interested in shifting focus from what China’s social credit system is or does to how it is talked about in academic and public discourse in China and elsewhere. It is concerned with what the discourse, imaginations, and memes of social credit could tell us about the politics of knowledge production and everyday international relations. After briefly introducing the institutional and ideational framework of the (actually existing) social credit system in China, I will review some of the recent controversies regarding the system in Chinese public discourse. This is followed by a consideration of the imaginations and myths of “Chinese social credit” produced by journalists, social theorists, political elites, and ordinary internet users located in the geopolitical space known as “the West”. Instead of “debunking the myth”, I seek to examine the functions of these persistent myths and the employment of social credit as a rhetorical figure in shaping Western images of China and images of technology. Of particular interest to this task is the development of a meme culture of social credit in transnational online communities. While the memeification of social credit exemplifies the networked and participatory nature of global digital culture, it is also conditioned by and reproducing traditional geopolitical boundaries and framings despite new patterns of decentralized global exchange.

Bio

Dr Chenchen Zhang is a lecturer in politics and international relations at Queen’s University Belfast. Her research interests include discourse/identity, governmentality, popular geopolitics, and social media in both European and Chinese contexts. Her work has appeared in journals such as European Journal of International Relations, Citizenship Studies, Geopolitics, and European Journal of Social Theory.

Crafting IT jobs through the Flexibility of Contracting: Opportunities for Female IT Professionals

By Niki Panteli

In a recently published study (Panteli and Urquhart, 2022),  we explore the job crafting experiences of women who left permanent employment for contracting positions in Information Technology (IT),  a sector widely considered male-dominated with limited career opportunities for women.  This qualitative study is based on interviews with 24 female IT contractors. Findings show that through the flexibility and autonomy that comes with contracting, numerous crafting practices are adopted by female IT contractors enabling them to gain empowerment in a male-dominated environment.  The study contributes in depth understanding of job crafting theory by showing a reflexive relationship between role and resource crafting for women in alternative forms of employment,  especially those with a high degree of autonomy.  By engaging directly with the experiences of these women IT contractors, we provide unique insights into what might drive women into IT contracting, and why they often stay with this option owing to the freedom and autonomy offered.  

The Infographic below captures the key findings of the study. Further Information can be found in:
Panteli N. and Urquhart C. (2022), Job Crafting among Female Contractors in a Male dominated Environment, New Technology, Work and Employment, 37, 1, 102-123, http://doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12210

Niki Panteli (PhD) is a Professor of Digital Business at the School of Business and Management, Department of Digital Innovation and Management & co-Director of DOS (Digital Organisations and Society) Research Centre at Royal Holloway, University of London. She can be contacted by email: niki.panteli@rhul.ac.uk

LITEM-SMART-BIS & DOS Joint Research Seminar: Digital Transformation

The DOS Research Centre is delighted to announce the virtual joint research event by LITEM, SMART-BIS, University Paris Saclay and DOS, Royal Holloway University of London on the theme – Digital Transformation. This event will consist of 4 insightful presentations covering various aspects of digital transformation, from understanding organisational digital transformation to exploring the impact on trust and effect of AI adoption by the public sector. Join us to engage in this exciting event and be inspired!

Agenda

Welcome: Dr. Anuragini Shirish, LITEM & Prof. Niki Panteli, DOS

Session Facilitators: Jan Weber, Phd/RHUL & Anaya Kumar, Phd/LITEM

Time: 1-3pm, Wednesday 30th March
Livestreaming link: Please contact DOSdirectors@rhul.ac.uk if you want to join this event.

Dr Najmeh Hafezieh (DOS)
Title: Adopting a ‘Search’ Perspective in Exploration of How Organisations Transform Digitally

Abstract

As new forms of digital technologies continue to proliferate, Information Systems (IS) scholars argue that we are witnessing a paradigmatic shift in the nature of technologies and their potential in profoundly changing organisations and ways of working. Such technological shifts have also given rise to consumerisation of IT and thus creating more endowed consumers with changing expectations and practices. The black-boxed nature of digital platforms and their algorithms have imposed challenges for scholars to understand these changes. In this paper, we draw on the notion of ‘search’ and its use in the organisation and management literature to propose a new analytical approach in studying digital transformations. Unlike the existing use of search in enhancing organisational performance or introducing new products, we use search as an approach that organisations renew their offerings, processes and practices in redefining their value proposition. Through different reconfigurations of material enactments, search becomes the underlying logic of organising and the centralised control shifts to a de-centralised autonomy, which facilitates the ongoing adaptations of practices as organisations transform digitally.

Bio

Najmeh hafezieh is a Lecturer in Digital Innovation and Analytics at Royal Holloway University of London. Najmeh holds a PhD in Management from the University of Edinburgh and her main research interests are related to the dynamics of organisational digital transformation, changing nature of work, and digital innovation. Her current research is focused on the digitalisation of professions and occupations, the dynamics of AI agents and knowledge workers pairing, and the role of Gartner Hype Cycles in productisation of expectations in digital economy. Najmeh has presented and published her work in top Information Systems (IS) and Management conferences and currently is collaborating with colleagues in the UK, Australia, and Ireland.

Prof Mak Lycett (DOS)
Title: Digital Innovation in the Music Industry

Abstract

The music industry is a prime example of digital disruption and transformation at work. The transition of physical product (e.g., CDs, DVDs, vinyl) to digital streaming is the most visible and researched aspect of disruption to-date, but this is only the tip of the iceberg: Digital has impacted the supply/production network at every stage – from how and where music is produced, through how it is distributed to changes in the way it is consumed. There are three particular outcomes of digital transformation to-date that exist is some tension however. First, and most obviously, there have been significant changes in the way that we consume music. Second, there has been significant industry restructuring as traditional players (e.g., record companies, publishing houses) have responded to market changes and defended their position in doing so. Third, the production pipeline has become increasingly ‘democratised’ as technology and techniques that were once the preserve of specialists have increasingly become available to the mainstream. Arguably, these changes have not benefited music creators as intended as the fruits of democratisation have been hampered by conservatism in industry restructuring which – limiting the return from streaming and placing more ‘business’ responsibility on music creators. Digital disruption of the industry continues at pace however, with digital platforms continuing to proliferate, (newer) technologies such as AI and blockchain making inroads and new business models emerging. In this context, the purpose of this talk is to examine the challenges of disruption/transformation, its future directions and the opportunities for (collaborative) research in an exciting and vibrant domain.

Bio

Mark Lycett is Professor of Digital Innovation at Royal Holloway, University of London. His current research examines how novel technologies and work practices enable the creation and adoption of new business, technological and service delivery models alongside the new forms of value that may result from that. Mark has worked across many domains, from financial services to transportation, but his current (project) work is centred on the creative industries, applying his research interests in the context of immersive technology (e.g., mixed reality).

Aside from project work, he has a particular personal interest in the music industry, which is a prime example of the (disruptive) impact of digital technology. Mark has published his work in a number of leading journals and conferences and is engaged in ongoing research with a number of organisations. Prior to returning to education, he spent a number of years in industry, primarily in project management and consulting.

Prof Saïd Assar and Doctoral Student Taoufik El Oualidi (LITEM – SMART-BIS)
Title: Exploring explainability effect on trust and adoption in AI endeavors Abstract: Companies’ investment in new AI systems has seen recently a strong and constant progression. However, except for the GAFAM, the use of AI is still marginal at this stage, and seems to spark cautiousness and apprehension. A potential reason for this hesitation may be linked to a lack of trust. The goal of this research project is to explore the effects of explainability on trust in new AI-based digital systems and, ultimately, on usage and adoption. More precisely, in the perspective of an industrialized use of AI, we would like to study the role of explainability for stakeholders in the decision-making process as well as in value creation.

Bio

Saïd Assar is a professor in MIS. His research interests are related to IT usage and IS design in general, with a specific focus on Enterprise Architecture, Blockchain in Supply Chain, AI and trust. He is on the editorial board for many academic journals e.g. EMISA, SIM, IJEIS.

Taoufik El Oualidi is a PhD student at IMTBS/Paris Saclay University. His research subject is related to AI usage and the potential impact of explainability. He is an IT manager at La Poste Groupe, where AI techniques are being deployed.

Doctoral Student-Aurelie Roland (LITEM)
Title : The challenges of AI adoption by the public sector in France

Abstract

Many challenges push on the public sector to provide ever better services and better protection to citizens, with increasingly scarce resources. At the same time, the deployment of digital innovations in all types of organizations is accelerating. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) large-scale deployment, seems longer and more complicated than expected. Our research project aims to understand enablers and inhibitors to the diffusion of AI in the public services, thanks to several case studies in the French public sector and innovation management research.

Bio

Aurélie Simard is a Ph.D. student in management sciences at the Laboratoire d’innovation, de technologies, d’économie et de Gestion (LITEM), Doctoral School of Human and Social Sciences (SHS) of the University of Paris Saclay. She works under a research contract sponsored by (CIFRE) La Javaness, a start-up that designs and deploys AI software. She is currently being supervised by Prof. Cedric Gossart, co-director of LITEM.

Overlit: Digital architectures of visibility

The DOS Research Centre is delighted to invite you to a public seminar given by our CBS partner, Prof. Mikkel Flyverbom. The event is organised by the DOS cluster of Digital Inequality, Ethics and Cyberactivism.

Speaker: Prof. Mikkel Flyverbom at Copenhagen Business School
Time: 2-4pm, Wednesday 2nd March
Venue: Shilling Lecture Theatre
Livestreaming link: Please contact DOSdirectors@rhul.ac.uk if you want to join this event.

Overlit: Digital architectures of visibility
(forthcoming in special section of Organization Theory, along with essays by Michael Power and Shoshana Zuboff)

Abstract

Despite the ubiquity of digital technologies, data-driven approaches and algorithms, organization theory so far only engages with these developments in limited ways. A deeper engagement with the organizational ramifications of a digital, datafied world is urgently needed and must start from mappings of the phenomenon and the development of better theoretical vocabularies that can guide future research. Complementing the essays by Zuboff and Power in this exchange, my essay suggests a research agenda based on how digital technologies, data and algorithms impact and shape our lives in and around organizations by making us visible in novel ways. I unpack the technological and operational underpinnings of this phenomenon in two steps. The first is a broad conceptualization of the overall shape of what I term ‘digital architectures’. The second is a more granular theorization of how data-driven, algorithmic approaches make the ‘management of visibilities’ a central concern for humans, organizations and societies, as well as some reflections on possible responses to these developments. Taken together, these discussions highlight how digital ubiquity calls for novel theoretical perspectives and research avenues for organization theory to explore.

What is Theory and What is For?

The Digital Organisation and Society (DOS) Research Centre is delighted to welcome Professor Carol Saunders, Ph.D., for its upcoming distinguished speaker event.

Format: Virtual via Zoom. Please contact DOSdirectors@rhul.ac.uk if you want to join this event.

25 February 2022 13:00-15:00 GMT


Carol Saunders is an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria and Professor Emerita at the University of Central Florida. Carol has received the LEO award in the Information Systems (IS) discipline and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organization Communication and Information Systems (OCIS) Division of the Academy of Management. She also is an Association for Information Systems (AIS) Fellow and a Schoeller Senior Fellow. She served on a number of editorial boards, including a three-year term as Editor-in-Chief of MIS Quarterly. She was the General Conference Chair of ICIS 1999, Program Co-chair of AMCIS 2015, and AIS Vice President of Publications from 2016-2019. She helped found the OCIS (now Communication, Digital Technology and Organization) division of the Academy of Management and served as its program chair and division chair. She was the Distinguished Fulbright Scholar at the Wirtschafts Universitaet – Wien (WU) in Austria and earlier held a Professional Fulbright with the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute. She has held research chairs in Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Netherlands. Her research is published in top-ranked Management, IS, Computer Science and Communication journals.

DOS Cybersecurity, Design and Human Behaviour Cluster Event

Dr. Nisreen Ameen and Dr. Elizabeth Quaglia are pleased to invite you to the next DOS cluster event with our Keynote Speakers, Professor Michelle Carter, and Dr. Maryam Mehrnezhaded.

Format: Virtual via Zoom. Please contact DOSdirectors@rhul.ac.uk if you want to join this event.

18 February 2022 16:00 GMT


Professor Michelle Carter

Ethical Issues in the Age of Big Data’ will summarise how technological changes allowing data to be captured, transmitted, stored, and analysed at unprecedented levels have created opportunities and ethical concerns – raising questions in several areas to promote dialogue in the information systems discipline about using big data analytics responsibly.

Dr Maryam Mehrnezhad

‘Caring for Intimate Data in Fertility Technologies’ explores the privacy risks that can originate from the mismanagement and misuse of intimate data in fertility technologies, evaluating the privacy of top ‘fertility apps’ through their privacy notices and tracking practices using the GDPR framework and argue how the current practices would put users at serious risks.

Leading Remote & Hybrid Work

We are delighted to announce that the Digital Organisation and Society (DOS) research cluster on ‘Digital Work and Organisation’ is hosting an Industry-Academia virtual event on Tuesday 8th February 2022, 9:00 to 10:30am on ‘Leading Remote and Hybrid Work’.

Format: Virtual via Zoom (link below). Please contact DOSdirectors@rhul.ac.uk if you want to join this event.

8 February 2022 09:00 – 10:30 GMT (UK time)

In this event researchers in the area of remote and hybrid work will be presenting their most recent work on the topic whilst a panel of industry experts will be sharing their own experiences in this area and providing a commentary on the direction of research.

Agenda

TimeTopic
09:00amWelcome from Prof Niki Panteli
09:10-9:50amScholarly Panel (Facilitated by Dr Irene Yu)
09:10amDr Petros Chamakiotis (ESCP, Madrid) – 10 mins presentation + 10 mins Q&A
09:30amDr Blooma John (University of Canberra, Australia) – 10 mins presentation + 10 mins Q&A
09:50am9:50 am: Industry Panel (Facilitated by Prof Niki Panteli)
10:10amAudience Q&A – Discussion (20  minutes)

Following research presentations, the industry panellists will be asked to share their own views on remote/hybrid work, challenges faces and how to resolve them.


Abstracts & Panellists Biographies:

Scholarly Academic Panel

Dr Petros ChamakiotisTime to reimagine virtual team leadership post Covid-19

Abstract

The dramatic surge of interest in FinTech over the past few years has highlighted the need for a better Although virtual teams have been around for over two decades, the recent pandemic has given rise to new types of virtual teams which, despite their similarities with earlier virtual teams pre-pandemic, have significant differences. This means that leadership may be different too in this context. Consequently, drawing on recent research, the objectives of this presentation are to explore: (a) how these newly emerged virtual teams differ for previous ones; (b) what we can take away from existing literature on leadership in virtual teams pre-pandemic that may still be relevant; and (c) what is left to be studied to promote academic knowledge and provide further guidance for practitioners. 

Bio

Dr Petros Chamakiotis is an Associate Professor of Management at ESCP Business School in Madrid, Spain, where he is also the Scientific Director of the MSc in Digital Project Management & Consulting. He is also affiliated with the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre in the UK. Petros is interested in the management of technology-mediated forms of work (e.g., hybrid working, virtual teams, digital platforms), and he publishes his work mainly in IS and management journals, as well as in practitioner outlets. Between 2018 and 2021, he served as the Chair of the IFIP Working Group 9.5 on ‘Our Digital Lives’ and he currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Information Systems Journal.


Dr Blooma John (University of Canberra)Leading the Digital Workplace Transformation during a pandemic

Abstract

Digital workplace transformation has been through a huge acceleration due to the enforced remote work caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, knowledge-based organisations had to swiftly use digital technologies to transform their workplaces from the traditional office environment to Work from Home (WFH) or hybrid workplace model. In the hybrid workplace model, some employees return to their workplace and others continue to work from home, though variations exist within this model. In this context, leadership has been identified as critical in the success of the workplace transformation in the post Covid-19 context. Today, as we move towards the new hybrid work environment, there is a need to understand the emerging and successful workplace leadership practices to keep both employees and clients engaged with business activities. The study presented here draws on empirical data collected from Microsoft ANZ corporation to explore how leaders in the organisation develop engagement with employees and clients when a hybrid workplace model is in operation.

Project Partners: Prof Niki Panteli and Microsoft ANZ

Bio

Dr Blooma John is an Assistant Professor of Information Systems at University of Canberra, Australia. She serves as the president of Association for Information Systems Special Interest Group in Education. She won the RMIT award for excellence in learning and teaching in 2015 and commendation for outstanding contribution to student learning in 2021. Her research interests are in social informatics, digital transformation, design science research and educational technologies. She has published her work in various IS journals and conferences. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Communications of the Association for Information Systems Journal.


Industry Panel:

Ms Pip Arthur – Modern work business group leader, Microsoft ANZ

Dr Penny Pullan – Making Projects Work Ltd

Dr Penny Pullan is a renowned expert in Virtual and Hybrid Leadership. She’s the author of the bestseller and CEO Today Top 5 book for lockdown: ‘Virtual Leadership: Practical Strategies for Success with Remote or Hybrid Work and Teams’. Penny works with leaders and teams who are grappling with the challenges of our remote and hybrid world, to enhance their collaboration and effectiveness. Over the last twenty years, Penny has built and rolled out her Virtual Leadership model, facilitation tools and techniques, with companies such as Robert Half, AstraZeneca and the UK Government. Her virtual experience began when she worked for Mars Incorporated, running a global programme despite the flight bans after 9/11. Penny’s other books include ‘Making Workshops Work: Creative collaboration for our time’ and she is the co-author of ‘Managing Successful Programmes’.

Royal Holloway – Taipei Tech Research Seminar

DOS Research Centre is delighted to support a joint research seminar with National Taipei University of Technology (Taipei Tech).

19 January 2022 10:00 – 12:00 GMT (18:00 – 20:00 Taipei time)

Speakers

  • Dr. Abdul Kader Al Jandali (Royal Holloway)
  • Dr. Mu-En Wu (Taipei Tech)
  • Dr. Wesley Yuen & Prof. Yu-Lun Liu (Royal Holloway & Taipei Tech)
  • Dr. Wei-Lun Chang (Taipei Tech)
  • Organized by Prof Hari Harindranath (Royal Holloway) & Prof Jung-Fa Tsai (Taipei Tech)

Agenda

Time Topic Speaker
09:55 (17:55)  Seminar OpeningProf Jung-Fa Tsai & Dr Nisreen Ameen (DOS Co-Director)
10:00 (18:00)  FinTech Innovations: A Review of the Recent Developments and Prospects Q & ADr. Abdulkader Aljandali
10:30 (18:30)  A Quantitative Model for Option Sell-Side Trading with Stop-Loss Mechanism by Using Random Forest Q & ADr. Mu-En Wu
11:00 (19:00)  The taxonomic fit and thematic fit of brand extension and tourist’s inspiration: The moderation effects of brand familiarity and implicit beliefs Q & ADr. Wesley Yuen & Dr. Yu-Lun Liu
11:30 (19:30)  Exploring Service Journey by AI Chatbots for Customer Experience Q & ADr. Wei-Lun Chang
12:00 (20:00)  Closing RemarksNisreen & Jung-Fa

Further details

Dr Abdul Kader Al Jandali
Position: Senior Lecturer in Financial Management
Topic: FinTech Innovations: A Review of the Recent Developments and Prospects

Research Areas:

  • Fintech and Financial inclusion
  • ESG investing
  • Sustainable Finance

Abstract

The dramatic surge of interest in FinTech over the past few years has highlighted the need for a better understanding of the value of technological innovations. In line with this reasoning FinTech has emerged as a mechanism that enables banking and nonbanking institutions to cut their costs, to enhance the quality of their services and to create a much more resilient and diverse financial environment. This FinTech development, which is supported by Artificial intelligence (Ai) and automation allows FinTech adopters to enter different segments of the financial services industry. However,despite the broad application of FinTech, little academic research has explored the development of this new wave of technological innovations. Therefore, our study aims to fill this gap in the literature and examines the recent developments in selected Fintech technologies including peer-to-peer financing, digital-only banks, machine learning and Ai, Blockchain, Robo-advice, InsurTech and RegTech. The paper also reviews the FinTech ecosystem including the impact of FinTech business models and their related, regulatory and non-regulatory, challenges.

Bio

Dr Aljandali is a Senior Lecturer in Financial Management and Financial Technologies at Royal Holloway University of London. Authority in Quantitative Research with published output in Financial Modelling, Foreign exchange Forecasting, Economic Modelling and Multivariate Methods. Current research includes studies on the role FinTech as a key driver for financial inclusion with a focus on emerging markets. Data Analytics passionate with knowledge of Python, Tenserflow, GitHub, Colab, Google Hub and AWS. Specialist knowledge and expertise in SPSS, SAS and EViews computer packages.


Dr. Mu-En Wu
Position: Associate Professor, Department of Information and Finance Management, National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan
Topic: A Quantitative Model for Option Sell-Side Trading with Stop-Loss Mechanism by Using Random Forest

Research Areas:

  • Money management
  • Financial data analysis
  • Information theory
  • Cryptography

Abstract

Option trading is increasingly being used for hedging and speculation; however, inherent risk, makes money management an important issue in controlling profits and losses. In this study, we sought to quantify the risk associated with options by constructing a sell-side trading strategy with a mechanism aimed at predicting the win-rate via statistical analysis and the random forest algorithm. AUC-ROC curves verified the effectiveness of our random forest predictive model with a greater than 75 percent likelihood of correctly identifying a trade. In experiments, our random forest predictive model outperformed the statistical predictive model, thereby demonstrating the effectiveness of our trading strategy with stop-loss mechanism in controlling risk in options trading.

Bio

Mu-En Wu is an Associate Professor at Department of Information and Finance Management at National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan. Dr. Wu received his Ph.D. degree with major in computer science from National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, in 2009. After that, he joined Institute of Information Science, Academia Sinica at Taipei City, Taiwan as a postdoctoral fellow during 2009~2014. During February 2014 to July 2017, he served as an assistant professor of Department of Mathematics at Soochow University. He has a wide variety of research interests covering cryptography, information theory, prediction market, money management, and financial data analysis. He has published more than 100 research papers in referred journals and international conferences.


Dr. Wesley Yuen & Dr. Yu-Lun Liu
Position: Wesley Yuen: Lecturer in Marketing, Department of Marketing, Royal Holloway, University of London; Yu-Lun Liu: Assistant Professor of Marketing, Department of Business Management, National Taipei University of Technology
Topic: The taxonomic fit and thematic fit of brand extension and tourist’s inspiration: The moderation effects of brand familiarity and implicit beliefs

Research Areas:

  • Brand extension
  • Consumer inspiration
  • Tourism Marketing

Abstract

The significant growth in the number of overseas travelers has encouraged many multinational brands to enter and seek to dominate the international tourist market. Brand extension (BE) has been used to introduce new product lines to an existing and/or new market. Previous research suggests that the success of BE is determined by the similarity between the parent brand and the expended product line(s) (i.e. fit). Such BE fit can be created taxonomically or thematically. While marketers are engaging in utilizing BE fit strategies to improve the adoption and purchase intentions of tourists/consumers towards BE product(s), there have also been many unsuccessful BE examples. The research finds initial evidence that tourists’ adoption of the BE product is determined by discovering their inspirations about the level of BE fit. That is, the BE fit needs to be able to appropriately trigger the tourists’ interest in the BE product lines in order to encourage their willingness to purchase/adopt the brand-extended product/service. Furthermore, this effect of BE fit on tourist (consumer) inspiration is moderated by an individual’s level of familiarity with the parent brand and their implicit beliefs. The findings suggest marketing literature and practitioners a new phenomenon and antecedent of BE on inspiration.

Bio

Yu-Lun Liu is an Assistant Professor of marketing at National Taipei University of Technology. He holds a PhD in Business and Management, and an MBA in Commerce Automation and Management. Yu-Lun obtained years of work experience in an IT company as a software engineer. He has a particular interest in information systems and technology management. He also has interest in online consumer psychology and consumer behavior.

Wesley Yuen is a lecturer in Marketing at Royal Holloway, University of London. Wesley obtained his fully-funded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) PhD in Marketing at the Alliance Manchester Business School. His main research areas are brand management, tourism marketing and consumer psychology (mainly in personality, cognition and emotion). Wesley has published in internationally-recognized journals, such as Journal of Business Research, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Resources, Conservation & Recycling and Journal of Marketing Communications.


Dr. Wei-Lun Chang
Position: Associate Professor, Department of Business Management, National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan
Topic: Exploring Service Journey by AI Chatbots for Customer Experience

Research Areas:

  • Data/Text Mining
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Digital Technology and Application
  • Service Science

Abstract

The emergence of digital age brings AI robots (chatbots) for intelligent interaction and conversation. The functions of AI chatbots cover utilitarian to entertainment that may change physical or online shopping behavior. The COVID-19 pandemic fosters the usage of chatbots. However, the impact of AI chatbots as medium on customer experience and journey still lacks and needs further investigation. This research uses design science to create a customer service journey with three stages (recognition, consideration, and decision) to integrate chatbots to evaluate demands and behavior. The designed AI chatbot contains rule-based and case-based systems. The conversations will be analyzed by sentiment analysis to support information and emotional responses. We also investigate how to furnish appropriate service and guide customers from recognition to decision via interactive chatbot. We also aim to provide clues to help companies implement AI chatbots to create best interactive experience. The outcomes showed customer service journey not only enhance current services but explore unfulfilled customer needs. The results also revealed the direction of conversational intelligent chatbots and optimization of customer service journey.

Bio

Wei-Lun Chang, is an Associate Professor of the Department of Business Management in the National Taipei University of Technology. He completed his PhD at the Department of Management Information Systems at National Chengchi University. His research areas include social media, sentiment and technology in education. He has been published in international journals with various topics, such as Communications of the ACM, Journal of Information Science, Information Systems Frontiers, Internet Research, European Journal of Operational Research, Transportation Research Part E, Journal of Organizational and End User Computing, and Electronic Commerce Research and Applications.

Cybersecurity, Design And Human Behaviour

We are pleased to invite you to the virtual event hosted by the DOS research cluster on Cyber Security, Design and Human Behaviour.

14 January 2022 10:00 – 11:00 GMT

In this event, we aim to provide information on the available funding opportunities for interdisciplinary research around (but not limited to) the following themes:

  • Understanding security needs in a context
  • Security and consumption of wearable technologies
  • Security, privacy, ethics and emotions
  • Security narratives and visualisation

Agenda

10:00 – Welcome from Nisreen and Liz

10:10 – A talk by Marcela Acuna Rivera on interdisciplinary funding possibilities in the research areas relevant to the cluster

10:30 – Q&A and Discussion In the discussion part, we encourage you to share, if possible, your experience with interdisciplinary funding (successes, hurdles, advice..).