The Future of Finance Is Human
Technology has become the new battleground for financial service companies looking to gain a competitive edge in an increasingly digitized environment. Developments such as blockchain, tokenization and the Internet of Things look poised to radically overhaul our industry. But these technical advancements are not a short cut to the finish line. They are simply tools helping humans do things better and faster.
New systems are only as effective as the people who use them. And machines can ultimately only do what humans program them to do. What technology gives us is the freedom to take a machine’s output to the next level and allow individuals to do their best work possible.
As we learn to work with the growing number of technology tools in our industry, “soft skills” such as empathy, communication, critical thinking and team work are as important as ever.
A great example of this is our eFX trading team, which uses powerful algorithmic trading techniques, combined with advanced technology, to engage in high-frequency trading to provide fully automated market-making facilities for our clients 24 hours a day, five days a week.
In talking with my eFX colleagues who are immersed in this complex technology, the skills they value most relate to communication. While technical skills and the underlying knowledge of the role are critical, being able to concisely articulate abstract concepts is equally important.
These capabilities are top of mind for my organization. The short list of attributes that I admire most about my team — professionalism, intellect, and drive for innovation and ingenuity — have nothing to do with their technical or trading prowess. These abilities are what the machines cannot do. In practice, this can mean picking up the phone and answering a client’s question, designing products that meet a clients’ specific need, or presenting a complex topic in a clear and engaging way.
When hiring, we also look for people who are curious and stay on top of what’s trending in the industry. People who are self-learning and can adapt to a quickly moving industry are key in helping visualize and design the next iteration of technology and how we will use it in our business.
It’s the co-existence of humans and machines that will give us the best outcomes.
When I first started in the industry as a financial auditor, the technical tools we used to do our jobs were much different than what is used today. However, the interpersonal skills that were critical to my role, such as analytical thinking and communication, remain intact. Much like the way machines are continuously programmed with the latest innovation, humans learn and refine both their hard and soft skills through training and mentoring programs along their career path.
Humans’ best traits are their ability to adapt, learn and move with the times. Computers may take over the more routine tasks when it comes to supporting our clients, but our people will be the ones helping clients solve their most complicated challenges. And as technology takes care of the more repetitive tasks, humans will be the ones to re-engineer the next operating model.
I believe in the power and promise of technology to resolve big challenges facing existing and future business models. But it’s the co-existence of humans and machines that will give us the best outcomes. While I don’t know where technology will be in 10 years, I firmly believe that adaptive skills will never become obsolete. With the right ‘tools’ in our pocket, we will continue to learn from both our strengths and mistakes as we refine and build on the big ideas that are radically changing our industry.
Nadine is an executive vice president and head of State Street Global Markets. In this role, Nadine oversees all aspects of Global Markets’ trading, product and operations platform, helping to drive successful client solutions. She is also a member of the company’s Management Committee.