Emmanuel Daniel, chairman of The Asian Banker, in his opening speech during the second day of The Future of Finance Summit 2017, explains the principles behind the newly-formatted summit, and the changes that are happening within the financial services industry today.
It’s the second day of The Future of Finance Summit.
The new format conference that we’ve put together and that we’ll be building on in the next few years as we define and redefine how the industry should evolve or take stock of how it is evolving and in a real and credible manner.
I made some comments yesterday at the opening keynote, no use of the word, the “f” word. There are green bottles that you are welcome to fine each other and just donate into it. And the reason we don’t use the “f” word in this conference is not because technology is not central to a lot of evolution that is taking place in the industry. The reason we don’t use the “f” word is because we don’t want you to use phrases without thinking about what is actually means. And worse than that, without, by taking it for granted that the person you are speaking to actually understands what you are saying. So, very often, we degenerate the clichés and phrases that make presumptions about how we understand the industry. And what’s shaping it. And by removing that word, I’m also asking you to then replace it with words that are closer to what you want to say. So, if you are raising funding, then you’re raising funding. If you introducing a disruption technology then you are introducing something that is a disruption. And if you are just an IT vendor, a new age IT vendor, having developed something on Java, and that’s all you’ve done. And so, we will make a distinction between the boys and the men, between the leaders and those who run off the mill.
We want to avoid what happened during the dot.com era, where everyone would think that just because you are in dot.com, you are entitled to large amounts of funding; that you’re parents would think that you’ve got a career or a calling that is bigger than your job. And then, it fizzles out in a few years and perhaps, most important of all, it never added to our understanding of how the industry is evolving into the future.
Today, we have two components to the summit. We have the main tracks of which, this is one. We are also running something called the FutureWealth; and it is a little seed that we are planting. The moderators for FutureWealth are not bankers. They are people taken from the street. Or rather, sorry that it doesn’t sound right, people who understood the industry as man on the street. That’s what I meant. And the reason is that increasingly, this industry has to be understood in a personalised manner. In the same way that we understand ice that we pull out from the refrigerator and we don’t need to understand the businesses of the ice merchants.
And there, all of the issues that we’ve been discussing from an industry perspective, blockchain, or bitcoin, managed investing versus index funds, robo-advisors are all discussed from a customers’ perspective looking back and we need to be credible in the way in which we give customers a reason to believe in how we are leading the industry and not make it a suspicious back door for us to sell more and be more productised as we always have been. Because over time, through all of these technologies, the customers are going to be increasingly in-charge of their personal investments and personal wealth. And we need to be, to redefine ourselves in terms of how we want to be relevant to the universe in which we serve.
In this way, we are laying the groundwork for the Summit to become a repository of knowledge, and of learning that we can build on in the years to come. And it becomes a resource for the industry.
Yesterday we had a number of keynotes speakers who helped us think through how well legislation today. And how it is evolving. And what about current legislation is core to the evolution of the industry going forward.
This morning, in this morning’s keynote, through our keynote speakers, as well as through the panellists that we’ve invited from out-of-the box thinking, Samsung Pay, PayPal, Grab and so on, organisations that we’ve never previously imagined were part of financial services or have any relevance to the financial services.
We want to understand just one, answer to just one question. That question is “what happens when the financial services industry finally loses its intermediation role?” The world moves in phases. And in one thought leadership idea that I’ve subscribed to, the world moved from a tribal phase to an institutionalised phase. And from an institutionalised phase, it moved to a market space. And now from a market space, we are on the onset on moving into what is called the network phase.
Tribal, we all understand. It’s primodial, it’s family, friends, people we are familiar with, village and so on. And when we moved to an institutionalised phase, that’s where many of you belong to. You’ve got jobs; you go in the morning to institutions; it’s a predictable experience; you’re brought together not because of your tribe but because of your learning and because of your skills. And it’s something that we understand today. I have a theory that the reason the financial services industry has these problems in moving from tribal to institutional is because that whole process was not narrated well. So, if you take Libor for example and the crisis that ensued, Libor, you can argue, was developed in the tribal phase of European evolution of the financial services industry in the UK, where it was a gentlemen’s club. People were familiar with each other. When they institutionalised it, it had to have practices that have nothing to do with familiarity with each other. And then when it moved to the market space.
I remember, when the Libor crisis was erupting in 2010, I was constantly called by some of the international media because the announcements were made in London, and then the media needed to pick it up in the morning in Singapore and have it as a sound bite through the day when it reach back London the next morning. One question that I was always asked was, “so what happens to the responsibility that the Libor market had to the trading floor and $5 trillion in FX trading?” And I said to them, “actually, the problem was that Libor didn’t own a duty of care to the $5 trillion market.” And I maintain that view for a long time. And if you know, finally, the UK courts were able to prosecute individual liability, seven years later to make the connection between the institutions and the markets that trade on it. And as we know, markets go around looking for indexes to trade on, of which Libor was only one of them. And increasingly, as we become more indexed, there will be other indexes that the markets will look for. It can be indexes of the value of durians, it could be indexes of the value of coconuts, and so on. It will get more and more ridiculous as we go along.
But now we’re moving into another phase which is from markets to networks. And the big difference between markets and networks is that in the networks’ phase, there is no broker. So when we think about blockchain, and all of the new technologies that are coming on in the networks’ phase, we are disintermediated from playing that central role. And for that reason, I’m a big critique of any financial services initiatives on blockchain that keeps the bank in the centre of the relationship. In fact, the validation comes from fact that there is no centre; that all of the parties interact with each other and validate each other in the process.