Women in Funds: A Conversation on Innovation, Technology, and Diversity

June 28, 2019
BBH’s Ainun Ayub speaks with futurologist Christiane Vejlø about how businesses are adapting quickly to change their relationship with technology and the key roles that diversity and inclusion play in future success across all industries.

Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH) co-hosted our third annual Women in Funds event at FundForum International in Copenhagen along with SEB. The event was attended by business leaders from across the asset management and fund services industry.

BBH’s Ainun Ayub stepped out of her normal role as Alternative Fund Servicing Product Manager for Europe and Asia to sit down with keynote speaker futurologist Christiane Vejlø. As advisor to the Danish Government, Christiane helps the disruption council to power their potential. They discussed how businesses are adapting quickly to change their relationship with technology and the key roles that diversity and inclusion play in future success across all industries.

Ainun: You say true innovation only happens in cross sections. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Christiane: If you want to be truly inspired and create something new, you need to step away from the circles you normally move in. Some of the biggest inventions throughout history have occurred as a result of serendipitous moments. Penicillin is one example – Alexander Fleming, who was experimenting with the influenza virus, returned from a trip to discover a mold had formed in an open petri dish and killed off all the surrounding bacteria. This led to the invention of penicillin.

The modern business world is very different to this example, but let's say you work in a role where you're always around people who move in the same circles and go to the same conferences as you. It's unlikely this will provide you with the inspiration you need to do something unique. If you want to be truly disruptive, you need to match yourself up with people who think differently from you. By that I don't mean an individual working in another area in the same organization, but someone who is in a completely different line of business. As an example, a pediatric heart surgeon wanted to speed up his operations, so he could improve his patients' outcomes. He didn't look at what other doctors were doing – instead, he went to a Formula One team to learn how they could change tires and oil in seconds. Another example would be a city planner talking to a biologist who is an expert on ants to find out how ants build their homes.

Moving in different circles is even more important in today's digital world, in which technology presents us with things we might like based on what we've liked in the past. It can be difficult to discover things that are completely different from our norm.

Another way to find true innovation is to build a team that isn't simply based on the ranking of your colleagues. Include people such as the administrative assistant or someone from the kitchen, and ensure there is diversity in terms of gender, age, location, ranking, ethnicity, and religion. We can be blind and biased if we don't have that type of diversity.

We talk a lot about disruption in the financial services space and you're working with the Danish Prime Minister on the “digital future.” What do you see as the digital future?

The future is certainly digital and more things are being digitized all the time. There are many advantages to that but there are also some important challenges. We are trying to be efficient and spend money the right way, but we have to be very careful because a lot of efficiency innovations are based on citizen data, which is personal and sensitive. On the one hand we are being innovative and moving forward, but on the other hand it is important to take a break and ask ourselves, “Why are we doing this? What sort of world do we want to live in?”

Which areas are ripe for disruption?

We had the Industrial Revolution which was about machines coming in to take over hard physical labor. Now we have machines that are beginning to take over what some people might describe as the more mechanical, or even “boring,” labor. It is the calculations and spreadsheets – all the things we outsource to people who have expertise in that area. Insurance, accounting, and banking have several components that could be taken over by artificial intelligence (AI). However, in all of this it is important that we keep the “human factor.” I don't want an accountant who can't speak my language as a human. They might be the best at the numbers, but if he or she can't relate those numbers to my company there is no use for that person anymore. Therefore, if you want to prepare yourself for disruption you might need to become even more human than you are now. If the way you talk to, email, and meet your customers becomes too mechanical, then you cannot compete against the machines.

What is the “upgrade trend” and how does that relate to diversity and innovation in today's companies?

Software is being continuously upgraded and my suggestion is you try to be inspired by this. In today's world you don't just create a product or service and that's it – there should always be version 2.0 or 3.0. Similarly, you can't expect to create a business today which carries on as it is for 100 years. You have to continuously reinvent yourself and ask, “How can I upgrade this product, this situation, this part of my communication?” If you introduce a culture into your organization whereby you're always thinking about how things can upgrade in six months' time, you'll be prepared to deal with the current state of flux that we are in.

Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. (“BBH”) may be used as a generic term to reference the company as a whole and/or its various subsidiaries generally. This material and any products or services may be issued or provided in multiple jurisdictions by duly authorized and regulated subsidiaries. This material is for general information and reference purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice and is not intended as an offer to sell, or a solicitation to buy securities, services or investment products. Any reference to tax matters is not intended to be used, and may not be used, for purposes of avoiding penalties under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, or other applicable tax regimes, or for promotion, marketing or recommendation to third parties. All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed, and reliance should not be placed on the information presented. This material may not be reproduced, copied or transmitted, or any of the content disclosed to third parties, without the permission of BBH. Pursuant to information regarding the provision of applicable services or products by BBH, please note the following: Brown Brothers Harriman Fund Administration Services (Ireland) Limited and Brown Brothers Harriman Trustee Services (Ireland) Limited are regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland Brown Brothers Harriman Investor Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority Brown Brothers Harriman (Luxembourg) S.C.A is regulated by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier All trademarks and service marks included are the property of BBH or their respective owners. © Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. 2019. All rights reserved. IS-05251-2019-06-28

This browser is not fully supported by our public website and may not display or function as expected for this reason. Please note, the Infuse Portal and BBH client applications fully support the IE 11 browser.

Important Information for Non-U.S. Residents

You are required to read the following important information, which, in conjunction with the Terms and Conditions, governs your use of this website. Your use of this website and its contents constitute your acceptance of this information and those Terms and Conditions. If you do not agree with this information and the Terms and Conditions, you should immediately cease use of this website. The contents of this website have not been prepared for the benefit of investors outside of the United States. This website is not intended as a solicitation of the purchase or sale of any security or other financial instrument or any investment management services for any investor who resides in a jurisdiction other than the United States1. As a general matter, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. and its subsidiaries (“BBH”) is not licensed or registered to solicit prospective investors and offer investment advisory services in jurisdictions outside of the United States. The information on this website is not intended to be distributed to, directed at or used by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation. Persons in respect of whom such prohibitions apply must not access the website.  Under certain circumstances, BBH may provide services to investors located outside of the United States in accordance with applicable law. The conditions under which such services may be provided will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis by BBH. BBH will only accept investors from such jurisdictions or countries where it has made a determination that such an arrangement or relationship is permissible under the laws of that jurisdiction or country. The existence of this website is not intended to be a substitute for the type of analysis described above and is not intended as a solicitation of or recommendation to any prospective investor, including those located outside of the United States. Certain BBH products or services may not be available in certain jurisdictions. By choosing to access this website from any location other than the United States, you accept full responsibility for compliance with all local laws. The website contains content that has been obtained from sources that BBH believes to be reliable as of the date presented; however, BBH cannot guarantee the accuracy of such content, assure its completeness, or warrant that such information will not be changed. The content contained herein is current as of the date of issuance and is subject to change without notice. The website’s content does not constitute investment advice and should not be used as the basis for any investment decision. There is no guarantee that any investment objectives, expectations, targets described in this website or the  performance or profitability of any investment will be achieved. You understand that investing in securities and other financial instruments involves risks that may affect the value of the securities and may result in losses, including the potential loss of the principal invested, and you assume and are able to bear all such risks.  In no event shall BBH or any other affiliated party be liable for any direct, incidental, special, consequential, indirect, lost profits, loss of business or data, or punitive damages arising out of your use of this website. By clicking accept, you confirm that you accept  to the above Important Information along with Terms and Conditions.

1BBH sponsors UCITS Funds registered in Luxembourg, in certain jurisdictions. For information on those funds, please see bbhluxembourgfunds.com

captcha image

Type in the word seen on the picture

I am a current investor in another jurisdiction