I feel like a fraud writing about DE&I, fearing groans of “what could he know”? Perhaps that’s why we don’t hear enough from people ‘like me’ on the topic. And let’s face it, any groaners would be right. I’ve never myself experienced deficits of respect, safety or equity just because of who I am, how I look, or who I love. As I write this, I realise I’ve likely benefited, directly or not, by others being held back; leaving the field on which I play, a little less crowded maybe? It’s not a nice thought. Aware, but not aware enough, I hadn’t approached DE&I consciously enough until certain events this last decade brought endemic discrimination to life for me. Of course, these events weren’t new, they just added up for me for the first time. By simply asking questions I hadn’t before, I was soon confronted by the experiences of loved ones and those in my charge. Cat-called, followed, marginalised, belittled, passed over. Stories shared were confronting enough, but what really surprised me was the casual nature with which such behaviour was dismissed as normal. Worse still, I found myself questioning… “Really? Surely not, could you have misread that”? And so the problem compounds. You don’t need to be among the marginalised to appreciate that barriers to equal access and treatment are wrong. If you’ve ever felt that subtle relief that this doesn’t affect you, you’ve answered the question of whether you should care already. Those of us in positions of leadership have an obligation to do right by our people and by our business. Speaking and acting on DE&I is key to both. Beyond the moral obligation, diversity in team and leadership has been shown over and over to improve results. I work in tech sales; a largely male-dominated space, although it really shouldn’t be. Despite any ‘machismo’ reputation to the contrary, sales requires curiosity, listening, empathy, solving problems and having great attention to detail. I happen to have observed that the women I have worked with often best their male counterparts in these areas and despite a male majority, women have led the pack in individual sales performance and leadership. Bigger brains and datasets agree; in 2019, a BCG study found that “Sales organisations that don’t actively promote women into positions of leadership run the risk of underperforming.” If, like me, you’re male, pale and tasked with growing the top line, removing barriers for others is key to your success. In recent years, my action toward gender equity in particular has been more conscious. Balanced representation has been hard to achieve, but committing to tip the scale away from a male-dominated norm has never backfired. The sales leaders I work alongside today are 50% female. We experience less groupthink and a broader range of ideas, skills and collaboration. Given the hyper-growth our business is experiencing - and this may sound familiar to Fintech readers, this ratio may be hard to maintain in the short term as we race for talent in a field that is largely male, but commitment to diversity will remain. This formula works. Action is more important than words in so many regards, but in this connected world, words can travel a lot further. White men are too quiet on this topic. For all the groups, forums and movements on DE&I, the voices are almost entirely of those who are under-represented and fighting for a seat at the table. Women advocating for women, LGBTQ communities, black and Asian forums demanding access. These efforts will drive real change and are a major learning resource for people like me opening their mind to what others are experiencing. Throughout history, the oppressed have had to challenge the established to affect change. It’s been slow and bloody, but it’s happened. Wouldn’t it be better for the established to advocate change, to welcome it, to heed the data, to improve their businesses and to contribute to the betterment of society today, rather than clinging on to a status quo that will see naysayers displaced over time? I haven’t known where to add my voice, or whether it would always be appreciated, but it’s obvious that overcoming my own discomfort is essential if I want to contribute. The more I engage, the more I learn, the more I realise the fear of getting it wrong is insignificant compared to the value of participating and being an ally. Having asked my female peers to proof my words, a theme emerged. “So what’s the call to action here?” Gulp. Ask more questions and learn what others have experienced. What comes back may surprise and motivate you.Don’t dismiss something as untrue just because you don’t experience it yourself.Engage in forums where white men aren’t present enough. Company diversity councils, Women’s groups on LinkedIn. Ironically, these groups which advocate for diversity and representation often do so without the presence and support of enough white men. Change needs to happen together.Build networks of future colleagues ahead of positions needing to be filled. When we hire reactively and need to fill roles fast, picking from a candidate pool that represents the status quo leaves little room to affect change. And speak up. I can’t profess to have gotten this right yet. But if we wait until we’ve ‘got it right’ to speak up on DE&I, we’ll leave those who deserve our support without it for too long.Article from The Financial Technologist, Issue 1 2022 'The Most Influential FinTech Firms of 2022'. Read the full magazine here.
It's here!The Financial Technologist returns for one of the most anticipated editions in its history as we unveil The Ultimate Fintech Workplace Award 2020! It goes without saying that the entrants this year had their work cut out and kudos to everyone that applied for some outstanding entries. Click the link to find out who won, as well as articles from entrants, interviews with some of the leading minds in the industry, D&I updates from across the sector, and The Harrington Starr Group Market Commentary, among other incredible features.In what has been a tumultuous year, the green shoots of recovery are starting to bloom and this magazine showcases some of the outstanding work going on to help not only the economy recover, but humanity as well. A huge thank you to all involved and to you, for doing your part. To find out how you can feature in future editions, contact one of our consultants today by calling the number at the bottom of the page, according to where you are in the world.
We had a great discussion this week on the Tech Sales Influencers virtual round table. The topic of discussion was “Who is responsible for leads right now, marketing or sales? Should the sales execs be responsible for building their own pipeline?”Here is the challenge; the world that is still in semi lockdown, those responsible for purchasing tech are spread across the globe from the same organisation, and fewer people are able to buy than before!! Social media platforms are noisier than ever! How do you get your message to the right people at the right time? And what platform should you be using to do it?The discussion was great and, in most part, we agreed that the sales and marketing teams need to work more closely together than ever before. This partnership will be crucial to elevate your business and your voice above your competition. The challenge is to really understand in what form to put your content out to the marketplace, should it be videos or is everyone doing that now? Should it be webinars or has that been over worked during lockdown? It is difficult to know categorically as we have had little time to dip our toe in the water of this new way of selling. We have been pushed in at the deep end and we need to learn how to swim, fast.Those who take time to learn how to swim in this new era of selling I’m sure will see great results through the backend of this year and I’m almost certain will see large gains through 2021. Those who chose to only stay afloat and wait for the business world to return to the past could get left behind.The real question is what content is going to grab your customer’s attention?Is now the time we need to understand our potential customer needs more than ever before?Do we really need to get under the hood of our buyers’ persona and build targeted content towards this?Through speaking to over 100 senior sales leaders I think one of the biggest concerns is the lack of patience commonly seen in salespeople. If I do something now, I want to see results tomorrow or the next day, at least this week.That will not be the case with social selling. I have come to learn it takes much more time to see a return on investment and needs consistent care and attention. We need to understand what new wins look like from content marketing and how to measure success from these channels. And it’s imperative that there is and understanding between sales and marketing regarding who is responsible for what and when. I’m a big believer now that personal brand is as important as your company brand if you want to stand out and this will take time to build.It was a great discussion which didn’t lead to definitive solutions to the problem but raised more questions we need to find the answers to in order to move us forward as an industry.
Most who know me will tell you that two of my big obsessions in life are recruitment and Liverpool Football Club. This week, both have been thrown together as I reflect on 30 years of near misses and memories of glory days. Thursday was a special night, celebrating with my 13 year old son who, like me, is a devoted red. I was exactly his age the last time Liverpool won the league. To share this moment with him was something I will never forget. For 30 years though, the club has walked through the storm. Previous owners had pushed the business to the edge. The invincibility and rich history had been eroded. Arch-rivals had caught up and, apart from in Europe, overtaken us. Decades of near misses and maybe next year. We had become a joke. Enter FSG in October 2010 just months after we had launched Harrington Starr. More American owners. Suspicions were high of John W. Henry, Tom Werner and the Fenway Sports Group as they made early promises taking over a near broken club for £300m with heavy losses to write off. They made 4 key promises: they would attract the best players, turn losses into wins, compete for trophies and create a culture of winning. They had proven this with their ownership of the Boston Red Sox where incredible leadership had restored that team to former glories. Few though in 2010 that this could possibly happen at Liverpool. To cut a long story short, this week Liverpool stand as the European, World, Super Cup and Premier League Champions. It is truly extraordinary story that involves an exceptional team, bought together with a budget well below their peers, one of the lowest net transfer spends in the last 5 years (including no signings last year) and against far wealthier competitors. Revenue burst through the £500m mark and every area of the club is thriving. Whilst not David and Goliath levels, this is definitely a story of competing with a hand tied behind your back. The players are incredible but, to me, it is the work behind the scenes and a decade of incredible recruitment decisions, improved over time and never 100% perfect, that have transformed my beloved club from also rans into the best in the World. Here are the nine world class recruitment secrets behind this extraordinary story: Get the right man for the top job FSG Chief Mike Gordon’s master stroke was the decision in October 2015 to hire Jurgen Norbert Klopp as the Manager. Gordon was quoted as saying “He’s a polymathematical guy. I spent the first 30 years as an investor speaking to some of the best CEOs in the world and Jurgen is right up there with them. If he wasn’t managing a football club, he could be managing a Fortune 500 company.” Klopp is an exceptional leader. The best man manager in the world, someone capable of getting more out of people and inspiring those around him. There is a whole book to write on this. The data analysis of his performance above expectation at Dortmund, his previous club, and an interview with Gordon in New York made him clearly the perfect fit. His magnetic, inspirational leadership meant the best talent has lined up to follow him. This has realised the first of the 4 point promise from FSG: attract the best players. As any good investor or VC will tell you, the right management is key to a successful investment. Get the decisions right at the top of the organisation and success follows. Wait for the right people Liverpool’s recruitment has been characterised by patience and getting the right people in the right positions. Targets have been drawn up and the right people hired. When the club identified Virgil Van Dijk as the right centre back, there was tremendous pressure to sign an alternative such as Jonny Evans when negotiations initially went South. They waited and got their man a window later. The rest is history. With question marks around the goalkeepers in Loris Karius and Simon Mingolet, again the club waited until they could get the best in the world rather than Jordan Pickford as people again clamoured for. They waited a year for Naby Keita and every recruitment decision has been carefully planned and executed by the brilliant Sporting Director Michael Edwards. Gone are the panic buys the club have learned from (see Mario Balotelli) and in have come carefully selected prime targets. This has been a journey of patience and lessons learned. Off the pitch, the club waited for 2 years to find the perfect sports psychologist when they appointed Lee Richardson. Klopp didn’t want any person in that role, he wanted the perfect person. How many times have you rushed a process to get a bum on a seat? Liverpool have spent time identifying and then ensuring they do all they can to secure the best players and staff. Part one of the FSG master plan in 2010. Hire on Character When the majority of the players at Liverpool were signed, they were not immediately heralded as natural superstars. Good players certainly, but none were the Galacticos that many were clamouring for. Liverpool have been careful to hire on character. Good, hard working players with the personality, work rate and professionalism needed to thrive. This is nowhere better exemplified than in their Captain and Vice Captain, Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Two of the best professionals in the Premier League. This season, Henderson looks set to become the player of the year and yet, signed nine years ago, he was mocked and unfancied. In 2012 he was nearly sold to Fulham but he got his head down and refused to give up. Fast forward to today, he has captained his country, and captained Liverpool to the Champions League, Premier League, Super Cup and Club World Cup. A fierce, never say die attitude that has spread throughout the team. The perfect manifestation on the pitch of the Klopp philosophy. The team are committed, hugely likeable, drive high standards from each other and look like they have a great time doing it, seen clearly in their celebrations. They work hard for each other, have no “social loafing” and care deeply. Good people bought together with careful hiring, and brilliant scouting led by Dave Fallows, the Head of Recruitment, and Chief Scout Barry Hunter. Data Driven DecisionsBehind the incredible recruitment is a data machine that is the envy of the football world. Collected from around the globe and educated from Harvard to Cambridge, sits a data team that have been central to this movement. In Ian Graham, Tim Waskett, Will Spearman and Dafydd Steele Liverpool are gaining a “moneyball” style advantage over the competition. On the pitch, data is a central element to the playing style and has certainly contributed to the marked improvement of nearly every player in the squad. Off the pitch, it has been revolutionary in identifying talent. I’ve long been fascinated by this since first meeting Rasmus Ankersen and Blake Wooster, now founders of the brilliant 21st Club. The science of hiring is another huge subject and Liverpool are on a journey to master it, asking the important questions that have, almost exclusively in recent years, unearthed gems like Andy Robertson. It has also allowed the team to finance hires by developing young talent and selling high affording them increased transfer budgets. This data driven recruitment model has been the fulcrum of the recovery. Build the spine Most great football teams are built on a great spine. Goalkeeper, Centre Back, Midfielder and Striker. Liverpool’s recruitment journey has been hugely successful on doing this on the pitch with strength running throughout the squad. This spine, however, runs far deeper. The last decade has seen Liverpool recruit a core that runs throughout the club. Andreas Kornmayer as Head of Fitness and Conditioning was bought in and defied expectations by keeping so many players available for long periods despite the strain of the pressing game. Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijinders are the brilliant assistant managers who help bring the vision to life. Victor Matos, bought in from Porto, is seen as the ideal man for the key role of Elite Development Coach, bringing through the hugely talented crop of next gen players. There is the thrown in coach Thomas Gronnemark, the aforementioned data team, the brilliant goal keeping coach John Achterberg, quality runs throughout the “off field” squad. A huge hire to the spine was Peter Moore, the CEO, Head Hunted from the US where he had enjoyed a stellar career having left the City of Liverpool many years prior finishing after a hugely successful spell at EA. He and the quite extraordinary Michael Edwards have revolutionised Liverpool into having the best spine off the pitch in World football. A master stroke from FSG and Mike Gordon. Right People, right job On the pitch the right players are doing the right job, playing in positions that bring out the very best in them. Roberto Firmino has been heralded as one of the very best, playing in a role as if he were born to play. Previous managers had struggled to position him toying with numerous positions across midfield and attack. The number 9 shirt didn’t seem an ideal fit for someone who didn’t score heavily. Klopp found his niche and put the right person in the right job to help both him and the team. The two best full backs in the world were given license to play their natural game, generating incredible statistics in their assists and influence. Others have played utility roles, maximising their contribution to the squad. Added to that, we see the right people off the pitch. Smirks from opposition fans were raised when Liverpool employed Thomas Gronnemark as a throw in coach. His statistics and the contribution they have bought have been emphatic. The hiring of Lee Richardson has had a huge impact on the mastery culture the squad have embraced. A German big wave surfer, Sebastian Steudtner, was bought into the camp to help the team visualise that everything is possible and thinking about the next challenge straight after conquering the last. The right people are in the right jobs, a central theme of Jim Collin’s excellent book Good to Great. Star Team The concept of a star team rather than a team of stars was first illustrated to me many years ago when talking about mavericks. This Liverpool team is not the superstar collection of household stars of the Real Madrid era. This is not the spice boys, spending as much time in Loaded and FHM as they did on the back pages. This is a team of grafters, professionals and standard bearers, diverse in the background, united by their mission. There is no room for mavericks, as illustrated by the exit of Mamadou Sakho, and this has led to a wonderful professionalism personified by famous Ribena drinker James Milner. This again, points to careful recruitment. No-one bigger than the club and a culture of mastery and excellence has followed, allowing standards to be driven manically. Develop Youth The recruitment policy has not focussed on big ticket signings alone. Despite breaking transfer records for defenders and goalkeepers, the FSG plan has been to buy young, developing talent and set the structure to support their growth. They have invested in the future. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been the poster boy for academy success, but alongside that, Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones among others are pushing through. The club have invested heavily in youth and are starting to yield the fruits of the work put in by Alex Inglethorpe the Academy Director and Victor Matos, the aforementioned Elite Development Coach. The entire set up is designed to identify, develop and retain young talent. There is a clear pathway for progression that gives hope for more young talent to trust the club to guide their career. This makes signing for the club over competitors hugely attractive. There are also numerous examples of young players who have been bought cheap, developed and sold high. Dominic Solanke, Danny Ings, Jordan Ibe and Raheem Stirling all represent talent that has been developed and sold at profit leading to smart re-investment. Liverpool have built a reputation as a talent incubator and this has reaped huge rewards. Employer Brand Only a couple of years ago, Liverpool, despite being a historically big club, had become a selling club. The best in the world would not have chosen it as a preferred destination. The focus was on a second tier of talent and a sea of stars such as Torres, Suarez, Coutinho, and Sterling went on to “better things” with their ambition seemingly not able to be matched by the club. Fast forward to today and it seems that Liverpool have the best in the world clamouring to play for them. The magnetic personality of Klopp is clearly the big draw but there is so much more behind it. Tim Grover, trainer to Michael Jordan and Kobe, said recently if you want to build your brand and get noticed “start by actually accomplishing something, and your brand will build itself.” There is no question that the success in the Champions League and Premier League has been a draw but again there is more. Liverpool boast a world leading press team. Their Head of Social, Adam Hulme, has been revolutionary. The branding, story and strong adoption of the legacy the club has been exceptional winning fans all over the world and increasing the turnover of the business astronomically. In Jurgen Klopp’s first press conference he spoke of turning doubters to believers. On December 13th 2015, Liverpool drew 2-2 with West Brom at Anfield coming back late to equalise. He led the players to the Kop and took a bow as if they had qualified for a cup final. People laughed but it has symbolised the first signs of doubters becoming believers. The fans were recruited into this employer brand and have been instrumental in success. They have used the press incredibly well. In the commercial world, the role of employer brand in recruitment has become essential. Liverpool have tapped into this and created a club that the best in the world want to work for. Success has led to this but so has the messaging, the story, the leadership team, the care and compassion shown. It has been an extraordinary revolution to witness. So there we have it. Recruitment and Liverpool colliding in glorious harmony. This has been a journey from John W. Henry and Tom Werner that has taken 10 years to create. Their four point plan centred around attracting the best players. This didn’t happen in the same way that Chelsea and Man City had done before with extravagant spending. It is a recruitment masterclass and one we can all learn from. It’s a simple formula: Get recruitment right and you can attract the best players. Attract the best players and you can turn losses into wins. Turn losses into wins and you can compete for trophies. Compete for trophies and you create a culture of winning. Create a culture of winning and you can keep recruiting the best players. Great recruitment has transformed the valuation of a business from £300m to over £2bn. It has taken revenues well over £500m from near disaster ten years ago. Great recruitment has had a transformational impact on the club's business interests as it can do for your business too. Great recruitment is the vital ingredient in the success of any business. FSG have proven it’s a science and you can too.
On Monday, I had the great pleasure of hosting another in my series of great conversation with top sales leaders from the tech industry. We cover two very important topics that all sales leaders should be thinking about right now to help move their sales team and business forward: how to win new logos and how to maximise your network to open the right doors for you right now. The discussion was insightful from the off as they looked at the different ways they could get the attention of new clients and get them to take notice of them. Creating that demand for your product that the buyer did not know they needed was a challenge for many in a market where your main source of information sharing would be tradeshows and conferences. However now, when the world is confined to their homes in many cases, how do we create the demand? Social selling was discussed, getting the right content out to the right people, we had seen some great success from webinars on a large scale, but also on a small niche scale with such a captive audience. What the leaders agreed on is that now, more than ever, the sales teams had to know who held the purse string and made the decision, but also who influenced the decision maker. These individuals needed to be found, sorted, and targeted with the right information. It’s very clear the partnership with marketing would now need to be stronger than ever with relevant content created every day. A product that is fit for purpose was also spoken about, which resonated amongst everyone on the call. What were considered great products pre-Covid may not be what people need now. Should you be pivoting your offering rethinking what your tech can do, to be useful?The biggest take away I took from this was using your clients to help you open new doors. If you have done a great job and proved ROI with a customer, why wouldn’t they talk to someone else in their network to open a door for you? I think this is massive and something that is overlooked. We do get references, yes, and we provide them to potential new clients to help us get deals over the line. Have we asked a client to recommend us to someone in their network who could use the same value that they found from your product? That is a hugely strong message and one I cannot help but feel will definitely help everyone win new business and it’s right in front of us.
Last week I had the privilege to host our latest virtual round table with a number of key senior sales leaders in technology. All selling very different tech to, in most cases, different people and sectors. They were all brought together with one common goal, generating revenue. Within these round tables, we have been looking to discuss key challenges that a sales leader is facing given the circumstances we now find ourselves in. The first topic we spoke about is one that has come up repeatedly in discussions I have had with over 80 sales leaders over the six-week period since lock down began:What are the key metrics and data we should we be measuring to show the success of our business in today’s market environment? So, lets dive straight in and take look at what was discussed, but first we need to understand who we are as business and what stage of growth we are at. If you are working in a start-up to a medium sized business backed by either a VC or an Investor, profit may not have been something you looked too much at. That may change now, and you could find your investor or VC pushing towards profitability, or you may be confident that more funding is out there to cover the cost. If this is the case, then proving you can grow by 35% year-on-year is important and the sales metrics and data become even more important for a successful, truthful pipeline. Part of this will be proving you have the right lifetime clients that you can maximise your return from. I will talk more on this later, the right clients in the pipeline.So, what should we be looking at?The most important thing agreed across the leaders was that taking it right back to the basics was the most important thing to do.To start with they agreed they should be looking at who they were targeting, are they the right clients to sell to, will they give a lifetime value.Customer acquisition cost needs to be looked at and addressed.It was all so suggested that you may need to pivot some sales guys from field to inside sales to generate the leads while they could not go out into the field and sell. Great idea to maximise everyone during this lock down period.Looking at your sales process and the experience for your sales team, could you make improvements now to help your sales team just get on and sell? Looking at your process your procedure and your support, can technology help? We do not want to bog our sales team down with needless task slowing them down from delivering the all-important sales.We talk about a hard scrub on the pipeline, peel back the onion and really understand what you have in there that you may think has just slowed but the reality is, it’s gone. Pipeline to quota has never been as relevant and important as it could be right now, and as a leader it was clear that they needed to know this information to be able to forecast future business accurately.When the leaders spoke about targeting the sales individual, there were some great ideas and one in particular I think everyone should consider doing in this virtual remote time we find ourselves in currently and for the short, mid, or long term (no on knows): video messaging. One of the leaders gave his team a week to put together video content and sent this out to potential new clients. The results have been far greater than expected. This is now a solid part of the sales team’s weekly plan and it really works very well, simple but effective. When talking about changing and setting targets or KPI’s for the team, the agreement was that activity should be bespoke to the sector you are in and the experience of your team members. What the leaders did say was the targets need to be very visible to the whole team, they needed to be reviewed weekly and everyone should be held accountable. The visibility and accountability are very important at this time when getting everyone together is impossible and yet you still need to people to work as a team. Be noisy in the marketing field, let your customers and potential customers know you are here to help and have solutions that could help them improve. It’s never been a better time to get your sales teams putting out relevant content every day to your marketplace, giving information, tips and guidance to help them succeed. We should be relying on the marketing team; we should be working with them to produce content to give awareness of who you are and what you do.What was clear from the discussion was it’s very important to know what you are measuring and having a plan of attack which has clear, measurable tasks that can demonstrate to you as a leader how the plan is being implemented and the likely success of the plan and over what time scale.
GUEST FEATURE - The Recruitment Network5 potential recoveries - and how to plan for them There is a lot of predictions about how we will emerge from the current situation – when will it happen There will be 5 types of recoveries – and these do NOT apply to whole economies – sectors, companies and indeed skillsets will fall into one of these areas: Markets and organisations which will have a V-shaped recovery, i.e. very, very fast. Those who will have a U-shaped recovery – steady return over some months (maybe a year) to pre-Covid19 volumes of work. Those who which will stay low – L-shaped and will stay low for a long time. These are sectors/companies who just make it through the Covid19 period and will struggle to ever get back on their feet (firms who depend on personal contact who have experienced a huge drop in revenues with disproportionate fixed costs and who will have to regenerate demand and new clients) Stretching and busting. Clients who will not get through this period. Some of the above, and these firms with high fixed lease costs, borrowings and who were in trouble prior to Covid19. Some airlines fall into this category. This may include under-funded charities etc. Organisations which are highly leveraged will not survive in their current state. Flying high organisations who have continued to do well through Covid19 and will continue at current business levels or experience a dip, as competition enters the market. The former will include many areas of the Public Sector which will continue as is, and the firms who experience more local competition could be the on-line firms who have thrived through Covid19 but who will have high street competition re-enter the market post-Covid19Use this simple approach to map out different areas as follow:-Under each category, start entering markets, sectors, companies, organisations, and skillsets which will fall into each. Build these lists Create a plan and prioritise – objectives and actions Implement and align activity and Day Plans with all the team
Panel discussion hosted by Fintech Influencers - comprised of leaders from across FS invited to come together by The Realization Group and The Harrington Starr Group - virtually, on Wednesday 22nd April, 2020. Led by Clive Posselt of The Realization Group, and featuring Matthew Squire (Founder of Fuzzy Labs), Josh Rix (Director of Woodhurst), and Angelique Dwyer (Principal Consultant at The Realization Group). This was our first Fintech Influencer’s Online SIG, and we have been very pleased to have received such overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic feedback! As a result, we will be organising a longer follow-up event – watch this space for dates and more information. If you missed the panel discussion, you can watch the video at the bottom of this article. In the meanwhile, here’s a summary of our discussion, to whet your appetites… We began by framing the key questions for the panel to address: 1. How advanced is the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI / ML) in financial markets? 2. Is the real use of AI actually less than firms would like us to believe – is much of it just down to smoke and mirrors and clever marketing? 3. What is AI actually being used for within financial markets operations? 4. What do organisations need to do in order to prepare for more widespread adoption of AI, and to set themselves up for success? When we consider the potential for AI, it’s important to recognise the myriad forms that it can take, as well as their applications. We can start with optical character recognition – taking paper documents, scanning them and translating them to a digital format. Natural language processing (NLP) techniques can then be applied to these digitalised documents. This leads on to sentiment analysis, scanning documents for positive vs. negative messages and sentiments which can be applied as inputs to automated recommendations for investment decision-making. Within financial services, these AI capabilities can then be applied to specific use cases. NLP is being actively used to implement chatbots in retail and investment bank operations, and generating pre-emptive responses to augment sales and customer support chats. AI technology has also been used to automate reconciliations and trade processing, leading to a reduction in exception management and remediation costs and overheads. UBS is using AI to detect payments fraud by automating traditionally manual AML and KYC processes (with their associated high FTE requirements). BNP Paribas led the pack by a few years with its SmartChaser trade matching tool, built using AI and predictive analysis. The tool predicts the likelihood of a trade not matching and requiring intervention, and even generates a suggested email to counterparty. Other work in banks such as HSBC has focussed on client email routing and generation of automated responses. Sadly, for those holding the purse-strings on AI projects, cost savings and efficiency take priority, in many organisations, over the client experience (with regulatory drivers always coming out on top). This reflects the wider challenges in articulating ROI as it pertains to client service and satisfaction, despite this being an area that can benefit enormously from use of AI / ML to augment sales and operations interactions with clients. There’s an interesting distinction to be made between trading technology and more customer-facing solutions, with the former more likely to be bespoke and built in-house, highly customised to a business model. The latter is more likely to lend itself to the creation of generic commercial solutions that can be sold off the shelf and applied broadly to a wide range of scenarios. Selection of these is determined by a firm’s appetite to spend, appetite for technology and innovation, and appetite to invest without immediate ROI. Over the past few years, we’ve also seen that the big cloud providers are all starting to offer their B2B clients off-the-shelf AI capabilities (such as chatbots, NLP functionality, image processing software etc). These provide a relatively low cost route to adoption in the form of proof of concepts and pilots, with firms then moving on to more complex and expensive projects once the business benefits have been proven. We also covered the five key pillars that underpin a firm’s ability to set themselves up for success with AI. The first is data – it’s the lifeblood of AI / ML, and must be complete, accurate and available in order to be successfully consumed and utilised by AI solutions. The second is technology capability – firms must have the necessary computing power, whether cloud-based on on-premises, accessible across their organisation so that engineers can quickly spin up sandbox environments for testing. Thirdly, firms need capable individuals such as data scientists, machine learning engineers, developers and production support, as well as the culture and mindset that’s needed in order to successfully develop and launch innovative AI solutions. Fourthly, firms also need strong supporting processes: procurement functions must enable tech teams to access and work with a range of smaller organisations, data governance must allow for data to be moved where it needs to be used. There must be processes for executing AI projects consistently, that allow them to be driven forwards and productionised successfully. It is abundantly clear that AI solutions are heading towards a critical level of adoption, even where they are developed internally for a specific organisation and purpose. The key is developing a clear story and narrative about the longer term, more impactful return that can be secured through leveraging AI in the right way. Using readily available, low cost tools to build and run quick proof of concepts is a great, accessible, low-commitment start to that story for any organisation. The full video of the discussion can be viewed here and to see the original article, click here.