January 30, 2018
In January, I was delighted to have the opportunity to moderate a panel session on emerging technologies for the Wall St. Technology Association. Nemertes does quite a lot of work with the WSTA, which is a networking and educational consortium serving (as you might expect) financial services firms.
But this session was special, because the focus was on emerging technologies--an area near and dear to my heart. We had an A-list of thought leader participants, including three technology providers and three end-user financial companies.The technology providers were (in alphabetical order by company):
- Keith Steward, AWS Artificial Intelligence Specialist, Amazon Web Services
- Barry Feirstein, Consulting Solution Manager, Magenic
- Alessandro Petroni, Global Director, Application Platforms, Head of Financial Services (FSI) Strategy, Red Hat, Inc.
And the end-user financial companies were:
- Colin Wynd, VP & Head Common Services, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
- Swamy Kocherlakota, CIO S&P Global
- Sunayna Tuteja, Director of Emerging Technologies, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, TD Ameritrade
(Seventh panelist Rami Musallam, Co-founder, President & Chief Executive Officer, CaféX Communications unfortunately came down with the flu and wasn't able to participate).
We discussed a lot of technologies: We spent time on analytics and machine learning, and how these technologies will affect financial firms in the coming years. Amazon's Keith Steward dug into the emerging concept of GANS (Generative Adversarial Networks), which is an exciting new sub-component of AI. GAN is a synthetic, rather than analytic, approach to AI. With GAN technology, the AI user states the problem parameters, and the technology comes up with the solution. We also discussed automation and robotics, and how those apply to financial services firms. Red Hat's Alessandro Petroni brought up material science innovations applied to computing; we talked about the impact of 3-D memory, and how that will upend Moore’s Law and revolutionize data processing and real time analytics, as well as potentially IoT.
And I shared some insights from my favorite book on emerging technology, Soonish. If you haven't heard of it, Soonish is a book by husband-and-wife scientist (and professional cartooning) team Kelly and Zach Weinersmith that delivers on its promise to cover "Ten emerging technologies that'll improve and/or ruin everything".
But the most interesting outcome of the session was our discussion around how to track, follow, and take advantage of these new technologies within your own organization--an area that our end-user financial panelists were particularly passionate about.
Our thought leaders provided a great list of actionable takeaways that included things like:
When assessing emerging technologies:
- Create an anchor statement, something that ensures that you focus on technologies that will meet a specific business need. For instance, TD Ameritrade's Sunayna Tuteja says her company focuses on technologies for expanding customer experience.
- Pick your event horizon wisely. Make sure you're looking at technologies that aren't so fully "emerged" (such as virtualization and containers) that they no longer serve as a competitive differentiator, but also make sure that they will be implementable within your planning horizon.
To determine which technologies are most promising:
- Look at how technologies are changing peoples' habits. One panelist pointed out that a decade or so ago, people would turn to their laptops to settle bar arguments. Then they moved to looking things up on their phones. Now they simply ask Siri (or Alexa). That's a clear indicator that HMI (Human-Machine Interfaces) are about to emerge.
- Listen to your kids. Many times, these changes in habits manifest first in the younger generation.
- Use yourself as a "tuning fork". Many of us who work in technology have had the experience of "just knowing" when a particular technology would be game-changing. In my case, I was using the Internet to transfer data from particle physics experiments in the late 1980s when I first realized the Internet would become a thing. Think back over the similar experiences in your career--then stay alert for technologies that make you feel the same way.
When pitching new technologies to your organization:
- Be prepared to hustle. You'll need to put together a sales pitch. Even though the possibilities of a new technology might be evident to you, it may take some convincing to "paint the picture", even to those who might benefit the most. Don't worry if they don't get it the first time or two; keep pitching.
- In your pitch, make sure to include the risk of not investing in the new technology. What happens if the competition leverages it ahead of you?
- That said, though, make sure that although you're thinking big, you're starting small. With many of the firms Nemertes works with, we put in place an "innovation funnel". Many ideas get a small amount of funding at early stages, then get increasingly more as the technology pans out. It only takes one smash hit to be a game-changer for the company!
When deploying emerging technology:
- Leverage the power of open-source. Many panelists stressed how open-source technology is changing how they do deployments.
- Rethink your success metrics. New technologies often require new metrics; pick the results that you track wisely
Overall, the session was incredibly successful. And it was just the first one in 2018, with many more to come. In particular, our NYC-area cybersecurity friends in the financial services space should make sure to attend the WSTA's March 22 seminar on next-generation cybersecurity (I'll be presenting the keynote).
Comments are turned off, but I'd love to hear from you! Follow me on twitter at @johnatilljohnso or contact me here.