Making sense of the future of finance

By The Asian Banker

Emmanuel Daniel, chairman of The Asian Banker, in his welcome speech at The Future of Finance Summit 2017, challenges the role of traditional financial institutions in defining the future of finance, how in tracking this evolution The Asian Banker Summit has had to be reconstituted into the new format Summit and how, as the first to do so, it will be the forum where the conversations to shape the future of the industry will take place.

Here is the transcript of the video.

For the last 20 years, The Asian Banker had been running a conference called The Asian Banker Summit. It is a conference that we started here in Singapore in the year 2000 as a one-format, one-track conference that eventually became the largest annual conference for commercial banking in the Asia Pacific region, incorporating all of the diverse countries, cultures, peoples, and institutions across the region that we come from.

The Asian Banker Summit was predicated along the lines of the businesses and the operations of a traditional institution, so the components of The Asian Banker Summit were transaction banking, risk, technology and operations, and leadership. But the industry has changed dramatically, and the time has come for us to move with the industry. What you are about to experience in the next two days is your own future. It will be like looking into the mirror and looking at yourself 20 years from now, what you will be looking like and what the industry should be looking like going forward.

The Future of Finance Summit is predicated on a number of very interesting new-format conferences. The conference that will be common to all of us, regardless of the disciplines that we come from, is Leadership in the Digital Economy. The brief that the program managers were given in putting this conference together was: Have no respect for bankers. Don’t even bother inviting them to speak because they have nothing new to say. Bring in the disrupters. Bring in the people who are actually transforming our industries today, and let’s look at ourselves from the outside looking in. Bring in Uber. Bring in Google. Bring in Facebook. Bring in Grab. Bring in the people who are actually becoming a part of our everyday lives, and then, start looking at ourselves and start asking ourselves what we should be looking like.

And in the areas that used to be the departments that you come from – risk management, technology, retail banking, and corporate banking – let’s change all of that. Let’s now talk about Frictionless. When we designed this programme called Frictionless, and we sent it back to all of you in the banks that you come from, you had no clue what we were talking about. The questions we were asked were: Is Frictionless retail or corporate? Is Frictionless about technology or process? Is Frictionless about me or the guy in the other department? Well, Frictionless is about all of us, and when we start looking at the industry from the outside looking in, Frictionless is about solving everyday problems at the supply-chain level, at the payments level, at the process level, and at the customer satisfaction level.

We are introducing a conference called Markets Disrupted, as in, “Yes, we know that we need to create the infrastructures for the markets going forward, but we have no clue what markets should look like in the networked world.”

We’re introducing a conference called Peer-2-Peer, and what that means is that, one day, you as an intermediation business infrastructure will no longer be required because people will be paying money to each other with no banks or no institution in the middle. People will be lending money to each other without an institution in the middle. People will be investing in each other without needing a balance sheet in the middle. And do you know something? That future is already here. Those players are already in business. The proof of concept is already underway. If you’re laughing at them, if you’re belittling them, if you don’t think that they’re going to make a difference to the world that you are part of, you do that at your own expense.

Cybersecurity is a particularly difficult program to put together because we all come from a traditional world where, right through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, we were defined by IT companies that had products to sell. So, today, the world is becoming increasingly networked. It’s not just about people talking with each other but machines talking to each other, and not just machines talking to each other but machines learning from each other so that we need to keep redefining what the value of the individual should be.

And if you think cybersecurity is a trick in a box, if you think that it’s just an app that you need to download in order to solve all your problems, or a door that you can close, or dual-factor authentication, you’ve not even begun to understand what cybersecurity is. Cybersecurity is our daily life, where the very data that we make available to our friends and family is the data that can be used against us. So, it requires us to think about how we view everyday life in a new way.

All of these conferences have been very difficult to put together, partly because you, as institutions, haven’t actually started making that journey, and the people who sponsor our activities haven’t quite understood how that conversation should be. It’s for this reason that I’m so grateful for the partners we have, partners like TCS, who actually understand that they have to go with the flow and that we have to define what our industry should look like together through a conversation.

The last conference that we have introduced as part of the Summit going forward is FutureWealth. FutureWealth is not about you. It’s about your customer. Why we’re able and why it’s necessary to make these changes and to redefine the industry despite where you are is because we have become digital. We hear this word every day, in our working life in the organisations that we are part of, but we haven’t internalised it. Digital means that you are no longer a part of a department, but you’re part of a process to solve problems that your customers face and that you face in delivering financial services to the world out there.

Of all the conferences, I’d say that the FutureWealth conference is the little seed that we’ve planted, which will grow in the years ahead and will make this conference truly transformational.

For 20 years, whenever we had The Asian Banker Summit, the only people we had in this room were bankers. Going forward, we’ve now started adding people from the insurance industry, from the asset management industry, and from the securities industry. We’ve also started adding in the pretenders and the challengers who are defining the industry as we go forward.

But there’s one component that finally proves to us that what we’re doing is right, and that is the customer. Because of that, tomorrow, for a full day, we’ve invited two local personalities, Joe Augustin and Noor Quek. Many of us have known Joe Augustin for years as a famous radio personality who asks all the hard questions, who does not need to know anything about financial services, and then starts to tell us back again what it sounds like to him. Noor Quek, one of Singapore’s pioneering wealth managers, a private banker, now has stepped outside the industry and is looking back in. She knows all the evils that the industry is about and how the industry needs to reintegrate with the rest of the world.

Tomorrow, in the FutureWealth conference, we will talk about Bitcoin, we will talk about robo-advisors, we will talk about passive and active funds, but we will talk about them from the customers’ view looking back in. And do you know what? From the customers’ view looking back in, there is no place to hide. There is no opportunity to define the industry to our best interest. There is no excuse for designing products so that, whatever question the customer has, the answer is about us. I would highly recommend that you invite your friends, people who you thought would never be interested in finance, to attend that conference tomorrow. None of the banks are paying us for that conference at the moment. We are doing it at our own expense, but we truly believe that, over time, a finance conference should be about the users of finance.

There is one word that I want to ban in this summit for the next 20 years. I probably only need to ban it for just two years because after two years, you’re going to be introducing another word, and I’ll probably have to ban that, too. All of us remember the word “dot-com.” Did it change anything about what you understand about where you are today? The problem with this word is that all of us pretend that we understand. All of us pretend that we know what the other person is talking about. All of us pretend that it means something important. It makes us more important when we say that we are in this business. It makes it easier to raise funds. It makes it easy for us to tell our parents and our family that leaving a job in the bank is okay.

Because of that, in this summit, we’re going to have this thing called the “fine box.” Now, let me clarify something very, very important. This summit is about technology. It is about financial technology, and if it’s financial technology, it should be called “fine tech,” if we stop to bother about the language for one second. It’s about everything that this word could and should mean, but we want you to stop, and not use that word, and mean exactly what it should mean. Do you follow what I’m trying to get to here?

So, all of you as delegates to this summit, all of you as speakers to the summit, all of you as panelists to the summit, you are hereby deputised to be marshals to collect the F-word “fine” whenever you hear it. You are allowed to come from the back of the room carrying this little bottle with a green lid, and there are eight of these bottles in all of the different rooms and at the registration counter, and then open it and ask the person who said the word to pay the fine. Those of you who are saying to yourselves that you are going to use that word anyway, you can prepay. US dollars are accepted as well, and there are banks here that provide exchange services, for those of you who need to make the change.

With these starting words, I want to welcome all of you to the summit. I want you to use the app extensively. We have done away with programme handbooks and stuff. Please download the app onto your iPhone. Everything that we want to do, from asking questions to the panellists – the moderators have been told to look into the app to look at questions being asked – to posting photographs to organising meetings with each other and so on, everything is now done in the app, and we encourage you to get onto the app to interact with each other and so on.

In the next two days, at the opening keynotes, we will be travelling through some of the transformations taking place. Today, we have Barney Frank, the congressman whose work in putting together the defining legislation in the US, which interestingly, despite the change in the leadership in the country, has not been dismantled. Actually, what we’re discovering from the Dodd-Frank Act are the elements about it that will survive into the future. So, we’ve introduced him, and we’ll be welcoming him to tell us a little bit about how the US legislation process will evolve to incorporate some of these changes taking place. Let me tell you that the Dodd-Frank Act has amazing elements in it that will survive the process going forward.

We’ve specifically invited challengers, people like Tang Ning, who has created one of the world’s largest peer-to-peer lending platforms but then, now, is transforming that into a wealth management player with the data that he’s put together.

We’ve invited global players in this realm to come and talk to us today and tomorrow – Ron Suber – to tell us about the transformations taking place and how that’s morphing and morphing and morphing into a new dimension, a new dynamic that you, in traditional institutions, need to be mindful of.

This summit is being held in Singapore, and when you look at the way in which the world is organised, we are all in the corner of the universe. The biggest transformations, one might argue, are taking place in the US and in China. I travelled to both these places to see some of these transformations, and I’m very, very happy to tell you that the conversation to make sense of the difference in the dynamics between these two universes will be taking place here at The Future of Finance Summit in Singapore. You are the world’s beneficiary of the transformation and of the differences in the transformations that are taking place in these two huge dimensions. We have the keynote speakers today and tomorrow who will draw it out for us.

Categories: Financial Technology, Innovation, Retail Banking, Technology & Operations
Keywords: The FoF Summit 2017
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