We chat to Bob Blower (Finance Technology Innovator and Entrepreneur) about technology, biggest changes in the last 5 years, what he couldn't do without and his wishes for solving problems with new technology.
Bob Blower has a professional profile that is as long as it is varied, including working for the MOD; working for some of the largest financial institutions in the world and heading up some of the biggest technology transformation projects in the financial services markets.
Bob was responsible for the first electronic systems built by UK Gov Securities and developing the operating rules used by the Bank of England. Now living in South Africa, Bob is an advisor to a Chinese financial organisation, advising on a $2.2 billion finance package for green projects. Bob also provides financing for SME’s and later this year Bob will be launch his company that digitises gold. We asked Bob four questions about the impact of technology developments on his professional life.
What has been the biggest change in technology in the last 5 years?
The two biggest trends I’ve seen are the move away from local data processing to global data processing. That and the advent of cloud computing. Global data processing means that data can be maintained across multiple locations, which allows people to see so much more than they could previously. The advent of “big data” means we can analyse data and spot trends. For example, if we want to look at a company operating in 60 different countries, we can take a single view of that one client across a full week in real time across all market segments, instead of having to look at each country or area of the business separately.
This approach allows banks to be more “customer centric” and gives them a much greater awareness of the costs to meaning and service a particular client and how valuable that client is. In turn those costs can be managed more effectively, for the benefit of the bank and their customer.
What issue can tech now solve that it couldn’t when you started out?
Well, as I started out with the MOD there was already some sophisticated technology in place around encryption that the rest of the world is only just catching up with!
I think one of the most visible changes is in the way we can process information. Everything used to be on hand written forms and hand written ledgers, so to process anything could take weeks. Now buying and selling securities can be done digitally, using algorithms to manage portfolios, allowing banks to be much more responsive and dramatically increasing the speed of transactions.
The downside is that from a qualitative perspective, perhaps we know less about the customer. The days when the bank manager knew all their customers by name and knew their kid’s names and what they did for a living, have gone. The industry now treat customers as an algorithm to managed. Perhaps this is why we’re now seeing a move back to customer centricity – but using technology to make this happen.
What do you wish you could solve with new technology?
My goal in technology is to be able to make transactions as close to free as possible. This would be great for businesses who at present have to build in the 8-10% transaction fees they experience into their profit margins. If I want to move an asset, whether to china, the US or my next door neighbour, it should have a minimal cost. Banks create value through how they manage transactions, but they charge for this which is a tax on the economy. If we can reduce that 8-10% for charges, it will make companies more profitable, which can only be good for the economy. By moving to digitisation of assets, moving assets would simply be a transfer of ownership.
What is the most useful bit of tech that you regularly use in your business?
Using well designed workflow systems around the technology are the most useful way to harness the power of technology within a business. A well-designed workflow acts as a force multiplier, reducing the need for people, for example, from 30 to 4 – this in turn reduces both costs and risk. It’s not just about the technology, it’s the combination of processes and understanding the interface between man and machine to simplify processes. For example, a bank will have millions pf payments set up, a person or group of people wouldn’t be able to remember them all, but a workflow set up to highlight when a payment Is missing and alert the relevant person to follow that up ensures a human can take the appropriate action. This brings together man and machine through a well thought out workflow.
We’ll be catching up with Bob at our event later in the year where we’ll bring together leaders in technology and marketing from some of the most well-known names in retail and finance to share ideas and experience.
Invite only Talking Tech events
Attendees will learn from one another industry experts (by invite only) on topics around using technology to drive business performance, over lunch in a beautiful setting, hosted by Answer Digital.