Key Insights from the 2017 BBH Symposium

The pace of change today is fierce. How will emerging technologies like Robotics Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence change asset management?

Brown Brothers Harriman’s third annual Symposium held at the Banking Hall in London on 6 July 2017 brought together experts from both inside and outside of the financial services community to discuss how technology is creating opportunities in three key areas: helping to connect and engage with investors; improving operational processes; and shaping the future workforce.

Here are 9 key insights from our speakers.

1. Keep an open mind

“We must open our minds and listen to new voices in order to realise the new possibilities technology will bring.”

Séan Páircéir, Partner, Global Head of Investor Services, BBH

Harnessing the power of big data to transform our businesses will involve hiring a new type of talent. The next game changing idea will inevitably come from experts outside of our industry.
sean pairceir
brian cox3

2. Challenge existing frameworks

 “We still need humans to look for the unexpected.”

Brian Cox, Professor of Particle Physics, University of Manchester

Business leaders need to ask questions and challenge current practices to adopt technology successfully. This can be likened to the way scientists challenge and prove theories – for example, proving the Big Bang happened, and demonstrating that the universe is expanding. Robots can look for predictable patterns but we don’t always know what we’re looking for and there can be patterns in the data that we don’t expect. We still need humans to exercise ingenuity and look for the unexpected.

3. Avoid technology for technology’s sake

“Data is enabling asset management to find out what their clients really want and actually solve their problems rather than just simply selling them a product.”

Gemma Godfrey, Founder/CEO, Moola

Technology and automation should upgrade the user experience, not just replace humans with machines. The future of asset management and financial services is a hybrid model of humans with automated support; of digital engagement leveraging trusted relationships; a wealth of data with the tools to analyse it; and automation of administration with the human application of analysis.

gemma godfrey
scott johnston

4. Create engaging digital interfaces

“As consumers, we demand instant access to information. Investors are no different. "

Scott Johnston, Head of Product Strategy, International, Vanguard

Access to portfolios via a phone or tablet isn’t a nice to have anymore, it’s a must. Companies need to develop digital interfaces that are intuitive and engaging and which tell the customer something that improves their knowledge. Attention spans are short, so customers need reasons to stay online.

5. Do not ignore behavioural biases

“People won't trust money to a machine, they want to see (or know there is) a face."

James Harris, Head of Marketing, Fidelity

Ignoring human behaviour when building platforms can lead to the idea that technology is at fault. We need to ask, “Do we have the right mindset?" Will people really spend 20 minutes on an online financial planning tool? Some will and some won't. Some need to know there is a human at the end of the phone even if they do not use that option.

james harris
lorrie gordon

6. Technology isn’t just about speed  

“When it comes to emerging technology vendors, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Lorrie Gordon, Co-Head of Technology, BBH

While there is no doubt that technology will accelerate many processes, it can also help us slow things down when needed, to point out the anomalies that we need to see in order to protect our clients and their assets.

7. Employ the Intellectual Artisan

“Social, creative, and complex jobs are harder to automate."

Andrew Allum, Partner, L.E.K. Consulting

In financial services, more high-quality jobs have been created. Areas such as compliance, change management, and IT are now home to what has been termed the “intellectual artisan." People will be paid to think rather than complete a series of processes.

andrew allum2
adnan khan

8. Curiosity is essential

“Today, science fiction is becoming science reality."

Adnan Khan, Head of Digital Client Experience Europe, BBH

It seems like nothing is really impossible anymore. The amount of data we have access to now is unbelievable. To be able to analyse data effectively, those working with the technology and artificial intelligence need to be able to ask powerful questions and challenge what seems real.

9. Create a fertile environment for innovation

“The data is not the only intellectual property. It’s also about the thinking and the smart application."

Diane Teed, Head of Business Process Automation and Change Management, BBH

Chances are you don’t have a shortage of ideas but bringing the ideas to life has always been challenging. Firms who create ecosystems with open infrastructure to let the best ideas to rise to the top will be better positioned to hypothesis, experiment, and rapidly deploy.

diane teed

2017 Symposium Highlights

July 14, 2017