Not so fast – Mr Robot!


Debi O’Donovan. She ain’t no robot


Telling moment during the Lockton Global Forum today: Mike Tyler refers to the famous study BMW did comparing performance levels between a production line with older workers with a line on younger workers.

Delegate from BMW speaks up: “I haven’t heard about that study, but now we are replacing everybody with robots.” – Debi O’Donovan- REBA

I like Mike Tyler, my guess is he would have laughed outside and in at that!

Mr Robot 2

While the Lockton Global Forum was going on , I was absorbed by the CSFI’s Fintech breakfast, listening to Octavio Manzini and Tim Jones (ex-NEST) explain how we can use distributive ledger technology without the cumbersome blockchain.

Izabella Kaminska of FT’s Alphaville marvelled at the investment public’s gullibility. She pointed us to Valerie Szczepanik, head of the SEC’s distributed ledger group, who had some advice for the blooming “Initial Coin Offering” market. ICOs seem a pretty good way of vaporising your capital!

Once again, technology is eating itself as we develop a less sensational and more ordered relationships with machines.

“Pentech” little in evidence

It is trite to say that machines are learning faster than us, but -sitting as a guest – I sensed how far off the pace of artificial intelligence, most of us in retail financial services are!

Certainly, the pensions dashboard did not appear on the June de-brief!

Robo-advice, or “wealthtech” was scornfully dismissed as an American survey found 91% of consumers don’t trust robo-advisers yet.

“Perhaps they can’t differentiate the robots from the financial advisers behind them”

whispered a sceptic.

There appears to be a new form of “hybrid robo” appearing to combat public fears, I expect she’ll be called Theresa and wear leopard-skin shoes.

Doing a BMW on compliance

If there was one confident prediction for Fintech, it was in the area of compliance. “Regtech” as it is known, is the capacity of machines to replace committees in hunting down money laundering and other areas of financial crime.

Sadly, robotic advances in this area will come too late for many pensioners scammed out of their retirement wealth. But it’s not hard to see how patterns can be detected by machines that can do for fraud detection in pensions what they have done in areas such as online betting.

The compliance officer – by the thousand – faces a tough ride ahead. He or she should shudder at the opening comment of this blog.

Realism – not scepticism in the room

There was an air of realism among those leading the group, as we were urged to catch up with technology and take a step back rather than a step into the unknown.

On Open Banking and PSD 2 (the payment service directive), there’s a general retrenchment

“Wannacry” has put the fear of God into politicians and Cyber insurance and the Government’s Very identification program headed the list of topics under discussion.

Mr Robot

Did someone cancel the revolution?

Perhaps the prevailing Zeitgeist was captured best by Accenture with its report Did someone cancel the revolution?

Here’s the gist of Accenture’s argument

 …has the Fintech phenomenon already burnt out? After a revolutionary birth, has it become a victim of cost containment and lacklustre productivity throughout the UK banking industry?

And are uncertain political and economic conditions muddying the waters further?

Shifts in the balance of global power appear to be underway – Eastern market are gaining traction, while the West appears mired in both legacy and new challenges to its besieged banking system.

It concludes

Given Fintech’s seeming failure to live up to its transformative promise, this is an ideal  moment to pause and reflect on how far the phenomenon has come, and to look forward to the next steps in the revolution. What challenges does Fintech face, and what should be considered in the battles ahead?

On a day when Britain decides how it is going to manage its economic future, that sounds like good advice to me.

Not so fast, Mr Robot!domo arigato mr robato


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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