June 25, 2017
If you’ve ever used any VOIP service, like Skype, you’ve inevitably had calls where one (or more) of the participant’s voices is digitized, choppy, and leaves you longing for a good, old-fashioned, analog phone call. This happened a few days ago and one of my colleagues remarked, Sometimes it feels like we’re living in a parallel universe. We’re talking about machine learning, blockchain, and automation but we still have issues with a simple phone call. (No offense, Skype – I know it’s not easy!) The balancing act for FinTech to solve today’s problems while keeping an eye on tomorrow is an ongoing struggle for the industry. I’ll challenge you this Sunday to reflect on what’s the best balance for you and your business; meanwhile, I’m off to write a check for a bill I have to pay.
"The new system lets those employees pursue more productive work...
Many times, solving today’s problem is more about a change in culture than the limits of technology. Goldman’s conventional wisdom has long been that investment banking was too reliant on human-to-human interactions. Turns out that isn’t the case. What’s striking about the ‘automation of IPOs’ at Goldman Sachs is not the fact that it’s possible but rather the impact it has on the whole organization. It’s reducing overworked analysts' 18-hour workdays, empowering other business units to examine their own process, and lets those employees pursue more productive work. According to the firm, headcount isn't impacted and now employees spend more time on the more nuanced, complex tasks like marketing strategy and talking to clients – which, you’d have to imagine, is better for business. This exposes the upside of automation, like robotic process automation. It’s a story I hope we see more of across financial services. The question then becomes why do this (effectively, what changes culture)? Well, ranking the lowest it’s been in five years (sixth) definitely helps a company be introspective.
"Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency, a government-issued digital ID available to anyone in the world.
The idea offering anyone in the world e-Residency and a digital identity in a country seems farfetched (and dubious in motivation) but the truth is far more interesting. I imagine many of you may be surprised to find out, like I was, that this program has been around for almost three years! The program offers anyone the ability for e-residents to create and administer companies in the country from anywhere – including access to the EU banking system. This is all made possible by the internet and blockchain. More importantly, Estonia’s e-Residency is made possible by reimagining citizenship, governance, and the nation-state in the 21st century. The results? Estonia has 450 startups with ambitions to make it 1000 by 2020. The idea is fascinating and certainly makes the mind wonder about how the world is changing. More importantly, Estonia should serve as an inspiration to startups, community, and regional banks, and other trying to compete with large, established companies (regulators or governments). And if your local community isn't supportive, maybe you can move to Estonia – digitally, of course.
"Regulators will need to be ‘nimble, experimental and cooperative’ and countries will need new rules and standards to ensure the integrity of data, algorithms, and platforms.
Regulators and international financial organizations like the IMF find themselves in a strange predicament. The avalanche of technology is making global financial services regulation a dizzying task. Imagining the impact of machine learning, blockchain, alternative data, non-bank startups, and a connected world on today and tomorrow’s problems cannot be easy. Rightly so, understanding digital currencies is critical to understanding the drastic shift in international markets particularly as countries like Singapore are exploring central-bank issued digital currencies. At the same time, there is a parallel universe creating with cryptocurrencies – like Bitcoin and Ethereum – which aren’t governed by any central authority other than the network themselves. The future of financial services is so excited but it is promising to be a bit messy as the old world finance and truly decentralized cryptocurrencies continue to collide.
See you next week!