Tim Berners-Lee on the future of finance

Interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the “inventor” of the http protocol.

I had the pleasure of hosting Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the “inventor” of the http protocol that created the world wide web as we know it today, and spending a day and a bit with him over dinner and several sessions. The experience was interesting. He was warm, but in a complicated English way which left me wondering if the brilliance of actually completing the coding that reinvented civilisation itself actually lay in its simplicity, and that he did not have much more to say on it. Still nothing should ever take that distinction away from him and the fact that many others profited from and revolutionised the way we live off that platform he created.

I had invited him to speak at this year’s Future of Finance Summit, our flagship leadership summit that we held in Beijing in July. @The Asian Banker used to invite Federal Reserve Bank presidents and former chairmen of lobal banks in the past, but none of the traditional players speak for the future anymore. So, we are now increasingly thinking out of the box and are inviting transformational leaders from outside the industry to help us look back into it.

I had wanted to see what the person who invented the protocol that led to all the monster social media applications that define our everyday lives today from Facebook to Amazon and Alibaba, had to say about the future of finance. I also wanted to test with him my own proposition that the days of the platforms themselves were coming to an end, that we were on the verge of seeing the personalisation of the web and therefore the personalisation of finance.
In his speech, he covered the following key points and made the following observations:
– since inventing the world wide web, he is using his influence on programmes involved in narrowing the digital divide
– he is on the side of net neutrality and the importance that big businesses should not be allowed to prioritise their own turfs on the internet
– he sees Artificial Intelligence as building on data that is networked
– he saw that data and analytics on the web today is increasingly highly fragmented and siloed by the different platform players and thinks that this has to be democratised.
He interestingly saw blockchain as needing to exist on the world wide web that he created 27 years ago and not as something that can supplant it.
I used my introductory remarks to introduce the outline from my forthcoming book stating:
– that the future of finance will not be in the building of platforms by institutions but in greater personalisation, control by the user directly
– given the rise of open source programming communities and crowd sourcing of products and services, the financial institution as we know them to be today is increasingly not a sustainable nor a profitable platform for the future
– the definition, composition and nature of what customers define as wealth is changing dramatically and the product approach does not help financial institutions get closer to meet these needs.

Click link for edited video and transcript of our dialogue on the main website.

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