New Paths

In 1987, after a visit to the MIT Media Lab, Stewart Brand famously observed, “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”

Brand’s research and resulting book examined amongst other of the Lab’s projects, personalized newspapers, life-sized holograms and telephones that chat with callers, even then all part of the multidisciplinary, multimedia worldwide communications revolution.

That was thirty years ago, and while I am among the first to feel that personalised service from highly competent living people is hard to beat, there is no doubt that for us and for every one of our colleagues and clients it’s imperative to stay abreast with the times and not to neglect the fast and indispensable developments in IT.

How to do it is often more of a challenge, but here are some suggestions from Paul T Cottey:

1. Pay attention to what companies in industries with more (or a different) IT spend than in your industry are doing.
2. Look at what comes out of big trade shows and conferences from the booths at the edges of the floor.
3. Listen to people who are passionate about ANY technology.
4. Read trade publications and sites that have little to do with your industry at the present time.
5. Watch what people with more money than they know what to do with are doing with their money.
6. Read science fiction.

Blogger Kelli Smith also has valid suggestions. In just 10 minutes a day, one can listen to a few podcasts – while driving to work, taking a jog or doing the dishes. Sites that feature tech news headlines and industry analysis include Tech News Today (iTunes; Website), Tech Weekly (iTunes; Website), GeekSpeak (iTunes; Website), Tech Talker’s Quick and Dirty Tips (iTunes; Website), TechStuff (iTunes; Website), Clockwise (iTunes; Website) and Spark from CBC Radio (iTunes; Website).

A recent article by David Horton, was hugely interesting too. Focusing on the exponential upsurge in artificial intelligence and IT in his predicted Five Top Banking Trends for 2017, it’s information that I will share just in point form here, but strongly encourage anyone involved in the financial world to take the time to delve into.

1. The Year of the Chatbot
Chatbots are essentially software programs pretending to be people that you can interact with through text or voice. In the context of conversational commerce, chatbots are becoming the bridge between consumers and businesses and appear to be a good answer for financial institutions to manage millions of one-to-one conversations with their customers. Banks and insurers are looking at chatbots as the opportunity to combine intimacy and automation to help them deliver a more personal customer experience.

2. Artificial Intelligence & Advanced Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has reached a critical tipping point and will be at the heart of a convergence of technologies like Data Science, Internet of Things (IoT), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Natural Language Programming (NLP) and Blockchain that will drive structural change in the way financial services operate. Developing systems that learn, adapt and respond autonomously rather than simply execute predefined instructions will be the battleground for technology vendors throughout 2017, and indeed over the next few years.

3. Challenger Banks, Organizational Power shifts and Market Cannibalization.
As banks get nearer and nearer to the critical point of millennial banking ‘compliance’ (widely considered the year 2020) the survival stakes for traditional incumbents is getting higher. For many financial institutions, the decision to execute large scale digital transformation programs has come late, and for those with complex, legacy technology, people and processes the challenge seems insurmountable. Expect significant discussion in 2017 on how financial institutions will create the ‘workplace of the future’.

4. The Open API Bank
As the Banking Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) industry moves towards an environment that is fast and agile, runs in the cloud, and where customer acquisition is expected to be lightning fast, many firms will begin to launch their own app marketplaces through Open API programs in 2017. Over the next 12 to 36 months digital banking API platforms will be launched by the majority of banks and will include a broad range of capabilities — including financial management, payments, marketing, loyalty, analytics and customer communication management.

5. More Blockchain
2017 will continue to be a year of blockchain experimentation, and whilst we are likely to see the rise and fall of some blockchain consortiums, one trend that will remain is the appetite for banks to work together and leverage blockchain accelerators to run proof of concepts or controlled pilot programs. The biggest challenge facing the industry today is the scarcity of blockchain talent, not only from an application development perspective, but also from a domain expertise angle in which business use cases are validated and earmarked for blockchain transformation.