Following our first Q&A with David Wood, Chair of the London Futurists, we caught up with him again – live at TSAM Europe 2016 – to discuss how future technology will impact upon the asset management industry…
How are you finding TSAM Europe?
It’s my pleasure to be at TSAM. It’s been an eye-opener for me; it’s been fascinating to see the different speakers talking about the issues that they’re perceiving and experiencing in their different areas of asset management. I’ve had lots of fascinating chats with people in between the sessions as well.
How do you think future technology will find its way into the Asset Management industry?
Future technology is primed to cause all sorts of disruption. The software is becoming more capable, we’re able to automate more things, not just routine tasks, but ones which involve various amounts of understanding, creativity, empathy, intuition and pattern matching. All of that, in principal, is available to be deployed into new roles, so as a result, many peoples’ tasks will be changed. It’s going to be cheaper and more cost effective and enable higher quality output for managers to use software and do tasks, rather than humans to do these tasks. That’s a big disruption.
What will technology do to the teams of the future? And how do you define ‘the future’?
The future used to be something that would happen to your grandchildren or on Star Trek in the 23rd Century, but now changes are happening much more rapidly. More and more people are involved in creating new technology all the time, more people who are trained in the skills of being an entrepreneur, more people who have got design skills, system integration skills. And so the pace of change has accelerated. And there’s probably going to be more change in the next 10 years than the last 20. As a result, we’re going to have to adapt many aspects of our working life. It’s not going to be a case of doing better than automation and software; that’s a losing task. The key competitive advantage is going to be which companies can work with human intelligence alongside software intelligence; it’s called hybrid intelligence. How can we divide up the tasks so the automatic parts can be as comprehensive and widespread as possible and then dovetail in at the right moment to the parts where humans can add some unique sparkle and perspective? That unique sparkle and perspective is going to be changing, and so the recipe for the best cooperation in 2 years time won’t be the best recipe in 10 years time. And the only way companies can thrive in this is by being agile. Being stuck in your ways is not going to cut it anymore. Companies need to be able to throw away the successes of the past to be relevant to the challenges of the near future.
What will the next smartphone look like?
Smartphones have become people’s primary interface to the online world. It used to be the online world was something you got from a fixed terminal and you could occasionally get glimpses of it from the small screen of a smartphone. The applications have got better, with bigger screens, and so most people feel more comfortable doing emails and lots of other aspects through smartphones. This is not a fixed thing, there’s a better interface ahead, it’s an interface that’s going to be in your field of vision all the time. It’s going to be called smart glasses and it’s going to be a combination of what we see from the actual reality, augmented with what we put on top of it. Today, an important mantra for people delivering services is “think mobile first”. Don’t think about delivering something for a big screen then squashing it down to mobile as a second rated experience. That’s fine for now, but in 5 to 10 years, the new design mantra is going to be “think glasses first”, as many people will be wearing glasses. I know that strikes people as a surprise because we look at the first generation of smart glasses that are heavy and unattractive, but they’re going to become more fashionable and effective, and will become more a part of everyday life and, as a result, services will need to be delivered to these devices.
What regulatory complications might arise from wearable technology within finance?
One of the hazards of wearable technology, is that there are cameras that are filming and recording all of the time. Once we become used to people having glasses, we’ll lose track of the fact we’ll be recorded much more often. The pervasiveness of drones, as they become cheaper will mean we’ll become recorded more against our knowledge and will.
What are your top 3 takeaways from TSAM Europe?
There is a lot of disruption ready to happen. There are many people thinking about the problems of the present day and the problems of incremental business. I haven’t seen it enough where people focus on the more disruptive possibilities of doing things radically cheaper with different technology. It may be because they’re not quite sure when this radically improved technology will be available but I believe there will be new companies coming in, doing to the finance industry what Uber is doing to the taxi industry. Uber’s less than 8 years old and it’s already the most important transport company in the world, even though it owns no taxis of its own. Another example is AirBnB, the most important accommodation company on its own without owning any hotels of its own. The established companies may complain, but it may well be good enough for clients.