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Rebuilding trust at Sibos

Sibos 2020

What can we expect from speakers at this year’s annual operations meeting, being held in London for the very first time?

About 8,000 delegates are expected at this year’s Sibos, which for the first time will take place in London. Swift’s annual operations meeting has been held in the UK before, however. In 1985 the event – which at that time was a much smaller affair – was staged in the southern coastal city of Brighton

The conference will be opened by Dame Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a former deputy governor for markets and banking at the Bank of England. During her career, Shafik has worked in senior positions at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the UK’s Department for International Development. She became deputy governor of the Bank of England (BOE) in 2014.

In her farewell speech as BOE deputy in February 2017, Shafik talked about rebuilding the trustworthiness of experts. “Getting this right is vital for determining whether our futures are shaped by ignorance and narrow-mindedness, or by knowledge and informed debate,” she said. She added that while the digitisation of freely available knowledge had been “hugely democratising and empowering”, it had also created information overload and difficulty for people to verify such information.

The closing plenary speech will be delivered by Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google Cloud, a position he has held since November 2018. Previously Kurian worked at Oracle and McKinsey. He is a member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council and Princeton University School of Engineering Advisory Council. Speaking at a Google Cloud conference earlier this year, Kurian set out the company’s strategy, emphasising its open approach to development and the importance of cloud computing. Much of its cloud strategy is about partnership with other developers and suppliers, so expect Kurian to relate this to the increasing collaboration between financial institutions and fintechs.

The closing plenary session will also feature author Rachel Botsman, who has written about how trust works. Her book, Who Can You Trust, explores how technology is radically transforming human trust. Other speakers on the Sibos conference program include financial institution chief executives such as Antonio Horta-Osario of Lloyds, Bill Winters of Standard Chartered, David Schwimmer of London Stock Exchange Group, Charles Li of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, Christian Sewing of Deutsche Bank and Jean Pierre Mustier of UniCredit. They will appear in a series of ‘Views from the Top’ sessions throughout the week. The topics they will address include leveraging data and technology to drive innovation with customers. Li will share strategic thinking on the development of the Chinese and Hong Kong capital markets, in the context of a changing geopolitical landscape and technological advancements. This should be an interesting session given the trade tensions between the US and China.

Innotribe, the concurrent event that has a more forward-looking focus, will feature a keynote from UK particle physicist Brian Cox as well as sessions from Brett King and Dave Birch. King is author of Augmented and Bank 4.0, while Birch has recently published Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin and Identity is the New Money.  

Rebuilding reputations

The 2008 financial crisis significantly affected the reputation of the financial industry and rebuilding trust is a common Sibos theme, in both the main conference sessions and Innotribe. Trust is also a theme as it relates to the sharing economy, where technology is enabling communications and transactions between strangers. During the Innotribe sessions at Sibos, speakers will discuss how the concepts of trust, identity, reputation and credibility should be adapted to the digital world. For example, how do trusted intermediaries in the financial sector adjust their value propositions to diverse customer groups? What are the challenges and opportunities that financial institutions face as trust is codified and commoditised?

There are more than 50 conference sessions on the opening day of Sibos and the pace doesn’t slacken much during the following three days. There’s a wide range of topics covered during the week – foreign exchange, open banking, geopolitics (very much from a Western perspective), digital technology, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data and many, many more. Even climate change gets a look in.

The overarching theme of this year’s event is ‘thriving in a hyperconnected world’, which Swift says recognises the growth opportunities available from digital technologies to initiate new platforms, value propositions and business models. “Speakers will focus on the ability of financial services providers to identify, develop and strengthen the right connections and what is required to succeed in a hyper-connected world,” says Swift.

Five ‘sub-themes’ will relate to the overall theme. These are: enhancing digital ecosystems, leveraging data, keeping ahead of cybersecurity threats, adapting to shifting geopolitical and regulatory priorities, and exploring the human element.

The human element theme, for example, will examine how workplaces will evolve to accommodate the changes digitisation will bring. Discussions will likely include the issues around trust and identity and the ethical implications of technology. The employment market in financial services has become particularly competitive, with data scientists in great demand. Financial institutions need to convince the current crop of newly graduated data scientists that they are a viable organisation with which to work. The challenge is that many millennials in particular are more attracted to the ‘big techs’ such as Ant Financial, Google, Apple and Amazon. Banks also need to widen their horizons and tap into other sources of potential employees – the days of going to the same universities and business schools to recruit staff are becoming a thing of the past.

Examples of some of the sessions on the human element planned for Sibos include how AI is augmenting compliance practices, ‘what’s left for the human after AI and robotics’ and protecting privacy and instilling trust in a millennial world.

The impact of AI on the human labour force is a substantial topic. An ‘elephant in the room’ is the potential of AI to eradicate thousands of jobs as humans are replaced with technology. This raises the spectre of social unrest, as referenced by founder and chairman of Alibaba, Jack Ma, during the 2018 World Economic Forum. At present, most of the discussion about AI in financial services is centred on augmentation of human capabilities.

Another topic of interest this year is likely to be Facebook’s plans to launch a decentralised cryptocurrency. There’s only one session – the Future of Money – that directly addresses digital currencies. But it is likely to be referenced during the event – the prospect of a big tech launching its own currency is big news for the financial services industry.

Away from the conference agenda, the exhibition will be the biggest to date, with more than 200 organisations, including 39 new companies gracing the exhibition floor. A separate exhibition area, the Discover Zone, will include 100 financial technology companies from areas such as regulatory technology, cybersecurity, AI, machine learning, big data, blockchain, cash management and supply chain management. There are five Beijing-based fintechs exhibiting in the zone, along with other innovative companies such as Fnality International, which is creating a network of decentralised financial market infrastructures.


Article by-

Heather McKenzie
Consulting Editor

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