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Banks are changing dramatically amid an avalanche of regulatory change and widespread debt reduction. They will be safer and, sadly for users of bank services, costlier as a result. Yet all of this may soon seem somewhat irrelevant, because technology could transform the way banking works far more profoundly.
Banking is very ‘digitizable’. Cash is the only part of the industry that is inherently physical and that is a tiny part of what a bank does. The rest is really about transferring and modifying property rights and information of various sorts, all of which can be digitized.
Banks are next in line
Of course banks have invested huge sums in technology – automating processes and enabling customers to bank online – but we haven’t yet seen the fundamental transformation of business models that have taken place in other sectors, such as music.
It will happen, and when it does it will have a huge impact.
Some of the consequences are clear from other industries. Intermediaries disappear or get marginalized unless they discover new ways of adding value.
Look at what has happened to recorded music companies or bookshops. Banks are the primary intermediaries of the financial world, so their margins will fall unless they reinvent what they offer their customers and how they work.
Winners take it all
In the digital analytics world, things work differently. Scale and network effects drive competitive advantage. Winners tend to take all, as Google and eBay demonstrate. Discrete products get turned into bundled services. Customers of Spotify, a music service, do not buy recordings of individual songs – they buy a subscription to a cloud-based archive.
Perhaps surprisingly, the transparency of the Internet doesn’t always lead to the disaggregation of bundles and the disappearance of cross-subsidies. Things get pulled apart and put together in different ways. Monetisation, costs and customer value can be even more often disconnected than in the physical world.
New business models will emerge, as we have already seen: Lending Club’s peer-to-peer model is changing personal lending. Some will thrive, many will fail.
Banking will get cheaper
Above all, customers will benefit enormously. Greater transparency will mean better prices for customers. Digital analytics delivery will mean never having to go to a branch. More information and more flexible service configurations will put the customer in control.
Why is it happening so slowly compared to other industries? Part of the answer lies in the banks themselves. Contrary to what many believe, banks are extremely risk-averse. They don’t like failing, and it’s almost impossible to innovate unless you are prepared to fail. In a context where trust is so important, and where there’s increasingly little tolerance for any kind of failure, that’s extremely difficult.
...it’s almost impossible to innovate unless you are prepared to fail."
But regulation is an even more powerful impediment – and not only because ‘financial innovation‘ is a four-letter word in banking supervision circles. Technology-driven innovation that leads to big winners and big losers, that replaces established products with flexible service bundles, that overturns established business models and blurs the boundaries of banking, and that sometimes fails to deliver quite what was intended, doesn’t fit well with today’s regulatory zeitgeist.
Real innovation needs to happen
To be fair to the regulators, it’s not like banks are straining at the leash. Mostly they’re investing in technology to meet ever-increasing regulatory demands, or to reduce costs. There’s relatively little investment in real innovation that offers major changes in customer experience; and the prevailing ‘zero tolerance’ environment is toxic to new ideas.
Moreover cyber-security and privacy issues are becoming ever more acute. The more finance becomes digital analytics, the more important it is to prevent intrusion, disruption and digital analytics theft.
Yet, despite such challenges, and whether they like it or not, banks and their regulators are going to have to embrace technology-driven innovation. Otherwise it will simply happen by stealth, driven by players outside the industry. We have already seen examples such as M-Pesa, the mobile payments solution pioneered in Kenya, the ubiquitous Paypal, or most recently, Bitcoin – the online currency.
We should be making banks better
Given the scale of customer benefits, and the scope to seize competitive advantage, there are huge prizes for those who can innovate successfully. Too much of the debate about banking is about not repeating the mistakes of the past. We risk missing the opportunity to make banks much better in the future.
We’re stepping up the pace of innovation at the bank I run: generating more ideas, implementing them more swiftly, being quicker to discard the ones that don’t work. By making everything digital analytics, exploiting the power of Big Data and the ubiquity of mobile communications, we see huge opportunities to enhance the value to our customers, to increase efficiency and to manage our risks more effectively.
The upsides are huge, and the downsides are stark. That’s why accelerating technology-driven innovation is a top priority.
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With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.
Visit our News & Blogs portal or check out our recent posts below.
Over the last four decades, we’ve feared change. Technophobia. Cyberspace. Smart devices. AI, Robotics and Automation. Each of these transformative shifts have changed our lives in one way or another. But there is a new, unexpected and desperately needed change already in play; putting the human back in our lives. Human Resources. Human-centric customer service. Humans in cooperation and collaboration with smart technology. Both in B2B and B2C businesses, putting the human back in focus is imperative to success. Consider Netflix. How it began, how it’s evolved, and how its efforts are seemingly leading the way for next gen personalization. Think: If you like this, then you may like (insert service or product here). Amazon does much the same. Putting the Human Element Back in CX When you call customer service with a concern or problem. What happens? Either there’s no phone number at all and you’re forced to send an email which you hope gets read by a person. Or if you do call, you push buttons trying to figure out which branch of the tree will get you to the correct person. Chatbots have been one answer but they really only alleviate acknowledgement. We’ve all called a customer service number and spoken to two or more people about our issue. Bill Paterson, EVP of Salesforce, suggests a four-point, human-centric customer service engagement strategy, to help solve the problem. In addition, his article takes a deeper dive into putting the human back in customer service. At the heart of the matter is putting Emotional Intelligence, care, and empathy back into the equation. Technology may be how people reach out, but it’s a human they want to speak to and connect with. When the two are paired, there’s a much better chance of success. And repeat customers. Pairing Machine Learning with a Human-Centric Touch While strategies and metrics still have a big role to play, there are other ways to measure customer success. Data gathered from your customers will only get you so far, but the human element, the human connection, supported by technology, is the next shift in Digital Transformation. Machine Learning models can help predict what customers will want or need, but meaningful customer relationships are just as vital. It’s this pairing which can generate great service and scalability of today’s modern business. Though there is a strong underpinning of engineering components in building models, only a portion involves code. Much of the effort goes into the pipeline and workflow systems and infrastructure. It’s at this systems level, Data Scientists can focus on design and implementation of production. This strategy ensures that before building good models, a good foundation must be laid. One portion of this workflow has been called the ‘art of Machine Learning’. The ‘Art’ of Machine Learning Data Scientists and Machine Learning Engineers have any number of ways to solve a problem. Dealing with such vast amounts of Data within a model is not unlike determining how to scale for a website which needs to handle large fluctuations in web traffic. The nuances of technology within the realm of human experience is an artform. Though in the future, most engineering challenges will be automated and open-source will be a go-to framework. As tools improve and ETL processes improve, ML Engineers and Data Scientists will get the opportunity to focus more on models and less on systems. But beyond the artform of experimentation and intuition is the growing trend for soft skills in tandem with technical skills. Those who can lead a technical team, who can communicate to non-technical professionals, and still have the Emotional Intelligence to navigate the human psyche. It’s these individuals who will be ready for the next step in leading businesses into the next generation of customer service. Ready to take the next step in your career? Take a look at our current vacancies or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more. For our West Coast team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to email@example.com. For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
20. February 2020
This week I was fortunate enough to head down to the Watermark Conference for Women alongside our SVP, Stephanie Brooks. As we enter 2020 and women continue to shatter glass ceilings, Harnham firmly believe in a proactive approach towards placing more women in Data & Tech roles. Diversity and inclusion are integral to our story and core beliefs and we strive to continually re-evaluate how we create measurable change in the marketplace and redefine the metrics of successful and excellent recruitment. For us, attending the conference was a chance to meet and learn from some of those women who are leading the way. Every talk inspired me in some way but there were a couple I really connected with, and I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on how they impact the work we do at Harnham. WHAT IS WATER? One talk that struck a chord with me was Seth Godin’s breakfast keynote, inspired by a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace in which he famously tells a story of two fish out at sea. The story goes: “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’”. Godin’s speech was meditated on how attitudes and beliefs are the indicators of future success. In his speech, Godin echoed Wallace’s sentiment that “freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in a myriad of ways every day.” Recruitment is an industry where it is easy to swim along without questioning what water or recruitment really is. To question what is water - what is recruitment - requires thoughtful analysis, careful consideration, and of course, “attention, awareness, and discipline”. As the global leaders of Data & Analytics recruitment, we remind ourselves daily that we are responsible for making meaningful change. Water is, to us, what we make of it. For Seth, his water is marketing. For Harnham, our water is recruitment and we stand by Wallace’s challenge to stay conscious and alive in our jobs. Day in and day out Harnham will continue to make the case for agency recruitment to be diverse and inclusive, as this is in the best economic interest of our clients. THE ECONOMY OF DIVERSITY One of the most insightful and compelling moments of the day was a conversation between Pat Mitcheel and Indra Nooyi, the former chair and CEO of PepsiCo. Having directed the company’s global strategy for more than a decade, Nooyi is uniquely poised to discuss the importance and power of having women in every capacity within an organization. During the conversation, she highlighted the statistics that measure the success companies achieve when women have equal representation at all levels. Currently, gender parity exists in entry-level positions but is absent in the 2nd and 3rd tiers of the workforce. While Nooyi highlighted that having a diverse and inclusive workplace should be an integral part of every company’s corporate social responsibility, she argued that this also leads to unprecedented economic growth. This aligns closely with our view of Diversity at Harnham, something which we examined in more detail in our Diversity Report. For Nooyi, in making the case for the economics of diversity, she used the work of care economists to show how implementing policies that affected the unique interests of women are proven to not only keep women in the workforce and draw them back to work after children but are also shown to increase the economic output of countries. Institutional change at the corporate level and policies focused on those who have care-giving responsibilities have been shown to positively influence economic growth and increase the happiness and productivity of workers. BREAKING OUT As a woman working in a fast-paced and competitive environment, I also took a number of insights from the various break-out sessions held throughout the day. Here are a few highlights: Women Breaking Barriers: Michelle P. King, Andrea McBride John, Pat Mitchell, Samantha Rapoport Find a mentor, be a mentor. Find a sponsor, be a sponsor. Find a sister, be a sister.Take up space and own it Share your successes with the women and men around you Building a Network of Relationships, Not Just Contacts: Laura Okmin Focus on asking people who they are, not what they do Reach out when you don’t need anything, maintain relationships The Myth of the Nice Girl Nice people build trust, trust is the foundation of all business relationships You don’t have to choose between kindness and strength If you want to break glass ceilings, we may have an opportunity for you. Take a look at our latest roles or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more. For our West Coast Team, call (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to email@example.com. For our Mid-West and East Coast Team, call (212) 796 - 6070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
14. February 2020
One of the things I like to most is to meet our candidates face-to-face. Because most them are local, it’s simple. We call them in and the traditional interview process begins. But, sometimes, the best person for the job or the clients themselves aren’t local. Enter Zoom or Skype or any such communication method where you can see the person you’re talking to. While it’s a step in the right direction, it’s not the complete step. Why? Because you can’t pick up on those subtle clues you might miss, if the meeting isn’t in person. Going The Extra Mile for the Right Placement One of my colleagues recently shared a story with me. She’d been working with a candidate via Zoom for a placement in another State. Though the candidate and the client were both in the area, she wasn’t. The communication with the prospective candidate felt right, but she just wasn’t sure. To ensure she was making the right placement, she traveled to meet them. She wanted to meet the candidate to get a better understanding of him before she was able to successfully place him. Fortunately, it wasn't on the other side of the country, but, it was definitely something that needed to happen. In today’s hyper-digitized world, it's important to remember that the ability to meet in person is an advantage. From the Client’s Side From an office perspective on the client’s side, an in-person meeting offers further advantages. The client can see how the candidate will interact in the actual environment of their business. A birds’ eye view of how the candidate handles themselves in the cultural atmosphere of the business, if you will. In sharpening their focus, the client can also see how a candidate’s appearance, point of view, and communication side affect their performance at the interview and beyond. We make these snap judgements without realizing it, but they’re important. And you can’t really get a good idea of the person over the phone or via email as it can occasionally be difficult to read a candidate’s intentions. At Harnham, we have tried to spearhead the interaction point of view for our own relationships. One of the most unique aspects of our business our dedication to the people we place and our clients we serve. So, navigating data-driven trends with our face-to-face culture finds a distinctive focus as we enter the Age of Data 2.0. A Shift Toward Pipeline Experience With U.S. office locations in both New York and San Francisco, we have a variety of clients from startups to Fortune 500. So, to say one thing is definite in one place or another is a stretch. But, there is a trend, here in New York for professionals with pipeline experience or Machine Learning model development. On the flip side, a growing trend in the San Francisco market has most of their clientele looking for a Machine Learning Engineer profile within the pipeline development lifecycle. So, while we’re (New York) a little bit behind, it’s a trend I’m seeing on both sides of the spectrum within the last six months or so. Though it’s not exactly the unicorn employee, clients seek, there is shift toward higher level oversight. Someone who will be responsible for the entire pipeline. Demand remains high for a field still facing a data shortage. Though the U.S. still lags behind the U.K. and Europe, it’s catching up. As businesses focus on their data strategies in the new year, below are a few things to consider before you hire or accept. Top 3 Questions to Ask Before You Hire From the client’s side determine and the role you want to fill. Ask yourselves the following: What’s the objective of the role you’d like to fill? What is the goal?What contribution do you want from the person in that role?What is your timeline to have that person on board? What happens if you can’t fill the role within your timeline? Top 3 Questions for Mid-to-Senior Level Candidates Did you list the business impact of your list of accomplishments? Can you communicate as easily with your Data team as you do with the Executives? Clients are looking for a mix of technical understanding and the ability to communicate to technical and non-technical audiences. Are your projects keeping you engaged creatively? When was the last time you were given a new initiative, new project, or new client to partner with? If not, then it may be time to search or perhaps consider a contractor role for a fresh perspective. If you’re interested in AI, Big Data or Digital and Web Analytics, we may have a role for you. Check out our current opportunities or contact one of our expert consultants to learn more. For our Mid-West and East Coast Team, call (212) 796 - 6070 or send an email to email@example.com. For our West Coast Team, call (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
13. February 2020
Jacob Glanville features in the new Netflix series ‘Pandemic’, discussing the pioneering progress that he and his team at Distributed Bio have been making in the world of bioengineered medicine. This week we sat down with Jacob Glanville, CEO of Distributed Bio, field leaders in advanced computational immunoengineering of biomedicines. Featuring in the new Netflix series ‘Pandemic’, a look into the teams that are fighting to prevent a global outbreak of disease, Glanville is a highly renowned expert with an incredible track record. With a PhD from Stanford, and having spent four years as a Principal Scientist at Pfizer, he left to found Distributed Bio. With Sarah Ives, Director of Influenza Centivax at Distributed Bio, the team is developing a new class of universal, utilizing pioneering computational technologies. “We use high throughput computational docking to try to help characterize how many unique epitopes might exist on the surface of a viral coat protein or a pathogen protein. Then, we also use computational methods to identify distinct elements of those diverse members of viral cost proteins from lots of different evolved versions of the same pathogen. And that's the centerpiece of how our vaccine technology works. We co-administer a bunch of really different variants all at a low dose so that only the shared sites are essentially at a high enough dose to be responded to.” This technique allows for Distributed Bio to create vaccines for almost any virus, at a fast pace, and in a safe environment. For example, with the recent outbreak of the SARS-derivative Coronavirus, Glanville is working in collaboration with US military and World Health Organization’s program allows the creation of ‘pseudo-virion’ versions of the disease that can be examined without posing a significant risk: “They take chicken pox, and flow over the outside of the chicken pox, the cost protein of a more serious virus, like the Coronavirus. So it behaves like a Coronavirus and it looks like one on the outside. Like the crunchy M&M shell is, is Coronavirus, but it's got the soft gooey M&M chocolate of, of chickenpox. It's not that dangerous. We are setting up a relationship with [the military] where we could use our antibody discovery library in conjunction with their pseudo-virion particles. We could rapidly discover antibodies against, SARS for instance, without the risk of bringing SARS into our lab.” Their work, however, is not just limited to fighting viral diseases. One of Distributed Bio’s leading projects focuses on creating a universal antivenom to snake bites. With between 80,000 and 130,000 people killed each year by snake bites, the majority of whom live in third-world countries, the need for an easy access and affordable antivenom is high. “There's around 550 snakes in the world and each one has 20 to 70 proteins. It seems like a huge number of proteins you'd have to target to hit all snakes. But, for me analyzing them, they all collapse down to like 10 different clusters and homologous groups that all snakes share.” Having discovered that a universal approach was both possible and realistic, how did they develop the antibodies needed? “Our team [led by Tim Friede, Director of Herpetology at Distributed Bio, Sawsan Youssef, Chief Science Officer, and Raymond Newland, Principal Scientist.] found a man who spent 17 years injecting himself with snake venom from all over the world, because he loves snakes, and we took his blood. We’ve been using lab methods plus computational methods to help identify a series of antibodies that can hit like a bunch of shared determinants.” But, with a team that comprises of roles varying from Data Engineers and Data Scientists to Bioinformatics specialists, the ability to work together is essential. How does Glanville look to create a collaborative environment? “I actually try to cross-train people as much as possible. My feeling is, that the extent to which you can actually cross-train people, the less likely you are to encounter a series of like assumption errors. I think what happens is often down to miscommunication between people who are making errors in the cracks where they have both misunderstood what the other person needed and what the previous person was giving them. If people are able to take their colleagues’ expertise into question when they’re working, you've reduced some of that risk.” Having grown up in Guatemala, Glanville is all too aware of the need for easily-available and effective vaccines, particularly as the Western world grows more wary of injections, largely due to the amount of misinformation that is currently circulating. But he understands that these concerns are often down to trust: “It's hard to communicate an epidemiological recommendation to a global population and not make it one sentence. And so, the loudest sentence becomes ‘get no shots’. I'm hoping that a more effective shot makes the story go away. The problem currently with a flu shot is that it still only works half the time. And so people complain about it. I’m hoping that better vaccines and more reasonable communication will cause calmer minds to prevail.” As for any immediate concerns about the impact of the Coronavirus, he once again turns to the issues of accessibility: “Right now I worry more about Ebola. It's a larger outbreak problem and it's in an area that is poorly served. I think China is pretty good at locking down medical problems.” If you’re looking to build out your team with the industry’s best, get in touch with some of our expert consultants: For our West Coast Team, call (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to email@example.com. For our Mid-West and East Coast Teams, call (212) 796 - 6070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re on the hunt for your next opportunity and want to join an innovative, world-leading company, we may have a role for you. You can find our latest jobs here. Pandemic is streaming on Netflix now. You can watch the trailer below.
30. January 2020