Symphony Blog

Digital Transformation in the Enterprise

Katherine Kilpatrick

The theme of this year’s Symphony Innovate 2018 conference in New York was ‘The New Digital Workplace.’ Leaders from Putnam, PwC, Barclays, and RBC came together to discuss the role of digital transformation in their teams, across the Financial Services industry, and beyond. Read the full panel transcript below.



Diane Brady: You're in for a real treat, because I think one of the issues that we all think about right now is disrupt or be disrupted, digital transformation. These are the people who can say how it's happening in their firms.

Let me just quickly introduce them, and then we'll get straight into it. Sumedh Mehta, CIO of Putnam. We have Gautam Moorjani, Principal Financial Services Advisory at PwC. They have reversed the order, so Brett Tejpaul, who is the Global Head of Digital Transformation Strategies at Barclays.

Last, but certainly not least, Kim Prado, who is Managing Director and Global Head of Client Insight, Banking and Digital Channels Technology at RBC. Welcome everybody. Sumedh, I'm going to start with you. Why don't you just give us a sense, first of all, define for us what it means within the context of Putnam, “digital transformation.”

Sumedh Mehta: Sure.

D. Brady: Your priorities and such.

S. Mehta: Sure. We started digital transformation about three years ago. Perhaps I can just, if you don't mind me just take a step back and talk about digital as what we have decided it means, because I don't know that anyone has defined it consistently, in any way.

I'm going to talk about vulnerability for a second, because that's exactly how I feel right now. Companies have their strengths, companies have their weaknesses. Humans have their strengths, and humans have their weaknesses.

We manage, like if you could tell what the inside of me looked like right now, it's nothing like the outside, although I'm projecting what the outside might look like. It may look like what I feel like on the inside. Companies do the same thing, which is they manage their vulnerabilities on the inside, not from a security standpoint, but from an information standpoint.

Digital is the great enabler of getting the core information out to the edges, where it's needed the most. Take a company like Kodak, what happened to them? Digital happened to them. It's kind of a funny twist on that word digital, right?

D. Brady: Sounds like a sad tale, or uplifting.

S. Mehta: But maybe they didn't quite see what they should have seen. The data needed to be doing the talking, and not anything else. If you enable that data to make its way unbiased, you're managing the vulnerabilities of all of the chain of command along the way, but you're enabling better decision-making, than you've ever done. To me, that's where digital starts, at a strong backbone of an organization, with data intact, and then information flows based on access, not based on who you know.

D. Brady: Before you go, I want to get everybody else to weigh on whether, is that how you think about it? In your case, obviously, Gautam, you're also talking to clients and how they're thinking about it. Is this the right sort of mindset? Is this what most people are doing when they think about transformation?

Gautam Moorjani: I think it's all very common, and everyone's on their journey. Ultimately, if you look at it at the macro-level, it comes down to clients and your people, and how you manage that, and there's two real ways that I've seen organizations approach it, and ask us about, “what's happening out there, what's the market doing, what am I missing out on?”

Because everyone knows that all these buzzwords out there. They want to know what are we doing to either stay on top of it, or not risk our clients. Then what the people question is “how are we going to transform ourselves, because we know something's coming, we know it's going to be big, and what are the things we need to do to compete for talent, but also rescale and upscale our talent, because it's going to be just everything that we can get on the market?”

Ultimately, it comes down to those things, and then, “how do we define our journey?”, to Sumedh's point, on how we approach that. Knowing ourselves, I think that's one of the things he was kind of insinuating, which knowing yourself in the inside is very important, because your journey is dictated by who you are, not what you project.

D. Brady: And how ready you are as such.

G. Moorjani: That's right.

D. Brady: Brett, I want to, because both of you are very much, this is your role and there's an issue also of culture change, and give me some sense as to sort of how you're thinking about it right now, and what the motivation is, even for people in the firm to be wanting to transform, feeling they have to transform, and what it looks like.

Brett Tejpaul: Sure, so just to give some context behind my comments, I'm a creature of the trading floor, so I've been in sales, trading and structuring jobs for 25 years. I'm not a technologist by background, but I'm certainly someone who's cycled through the asset classes - I’m playing one on TV.

D. Brady: You play one on TV.

B. Tejpaul: I play one on TV. The way we think through it and I've set things up is to have a digital strategy. Our strategy has four pillars, the first is a state-of-the-art data science platform, which we're in the process of building. The next one is analytics. We've hired into front office head count, on the trading floor data scientists, who can then interrogate those data sets and come up with things like we talked about, recommendation engines.

The next pillar is workflow tools and apps, and so we saw some amazing demonstrations, by the way. My compliments to all those bot development demos earlier. Then the last one is acquisition of third-party, well outside, technology, FinTech partnerships. So we're building the vision across that stack about what we need to do.

Specific to the desire to innovate, first of all, it's a commercial imperative, for sure. It's all designed around productivity. But I guess culturally, something that we intend to change and it's hard to change in a big institution. Full disclosure, we're on the eve of launching symphony, enterprise-wide to 10,000 people front and back in markets. Previously, I've also been an advocate to creating a silo and trying to push out to the trading floors a new way of doing things, which is really hard work and it's difficult.

D. Brady: Inertia is a powerful force.

B. Tejpaul: Inertia is... So, instead what we're doing for Symphony in particular is we're going to take those 10,000 people and divide them up into different user types, so equity sales and trading, or credit sales or credit trading. Then have, we've got this network of 500 ambassadors. We're going to task the ambassadors to come up with the strategy and execution to adopt Symphony.

D. Brady: Okay.

B. Tejpaul: And all the Bot development. The culture is, the business is going to take their own fate in their hands and be responsible for it.

D. Brady: Okay, so Kim what about you? By the way, you were Key Technologist of the Year, weren't you? Is that one of your accolades, so congratulations for that.

K. Prado: Thank you.

D. Brady: Give, what does this look like in terms of how it’s playing out at RBC, and do you have a similar approach?

K. Prado: I would say it's pretty similar to what Brett mentioned, except I don't have four pillars, I have three, sorry.

B. Tejpaul: Okay.

K. Prado: So the way I break it down is like this: it's capturing the data. And for years, we've been at it, capturing as much data as we can. It's also like stepping away from the typical things that you think about all the time, around market data, or misstrades, down-trades, whatever it may be, and start capturing the information, in a way that doesn't impact the users' workflow.

We call it a “passive CRM,” it’s just like a term I like to use. For example, capturing the chats or the emails, or the voice conversations is one of our big focus items for the future and now. Then taking that data and being able to serve it up in a way that reduces the fire-hose effect. Now, we have too much data.

So before we didn't have any data, now we have too much data. It becomes meaningless if you don't figure out what to do with it. Really using, I hate to use the term AI, because it's such a broad term. It reminds me of STP in the '90s. AI whatever. Really, being able to find the data that makes the most sense. Can we provide a return on your investment? Number three is serve it up to our end users in a self-serve model, where they don't need IT to give it to them.

D. Brady: Right. Well, it's interesting…

K. Prado: So monetize it.

D. Brady: I've mentioned this earlier with David, but I am always fascinated with the role of the CIO, because there is that sense of initially saying “no” to people. Like your marketer wants to find some shiny new toy, and you're like, "Please no, who's bringing what into the firm?"

Now, it feels like the role has shifted somewhat, and whether it's Symphony or otherwise, it's very much about unleashing the abilities of people in the firm to innovate. Talk about just where you sit and how your role is changing.

S. Mehta: Yeah, that's a very interesting question actually, and something I've learned over the last three years. I thought it was about managing an IT department, but it's actually not. It's about managing the change. Not really managing the change, you're trying to enable the change. I hate the word change agent, so that's not who we are.

Collaboration is the new teacher or trainer. We're training each other about how the information gets to be what it is. What are the core strengths of our organization? Are we going to win this deal, or are we not going win it?

D. Brady: The mindset shift, it's almost done.

S. Mehta: The CIO's job is really to help the rest of the organization. By the way, it applies to IT as well. We are very resistant to change. People are, IT departments are resistant to change. If we are going to set an example, first we have to change ourselves, but then our job becomes to enable our business partners, their teams, deeper in the organization to accept the information that's coming in as the new reality.

And say now, “how would we use it to make better decisions?” So we further the mission of the company, which in our case is looking after shareholders' money.

D. Brady: One of the things that fascinates me, and we've talked a bit about the scale and the scope, the speed of disruption. And there's a lot of talk about collaboration. Gautam, I'd like to ask you and all of you, so much of this has been a firm internal exercise. Now, we're talking about how do you partner especially in financial services, where the data is precious, and there's proprietary intellectual property.

When you're talking to clients, how much are they thinking about partnership and collaboration, and what's motivating it? Is it opportunity, is it fear, a bit of both? Something else?

G. Moorjani: I think it's a bit of both, but also I think what's happening is there's a realization that you can't build everything on your own. There's enough traction now with these technologies and tools, and all of these companies coming out from the fintech space, that can leapfrog, give that leapfrog effect of getting you sooner into a path, rather than try to build it from scratch.

D. Brady: Where's the focus? What's shifted this year versus if we were talking this time last year, do you feel like the priorities are shifting, or there's a particular types of collaboration that people are seeking out?

G. Moorjani: Yeah, I think what's shifted is if we look at just the 12 month window, there's been a transition from POC/pilot to how can we scale? That brings about another set of considerations and challenges to think about taking something now and deploying it to a very large population, different businesses that all have different data, have different systems, have different people. Really figuring out how to navigate through that.

A lot of times, it's not even one solution or even if you're going to partner, it's not one partner, it's going to be multiple things that you're going to have to do, data is going to be unique to each circumstance. A lot of what's happening is how do we partner with the right people at the right time, to make sure that we again create that effect of the leapfrog.

D. Brady: Okay. And probably and Brett, in general, how much of the focus is internal and as you're looking at some of these external opportunities? How is that playing out in terms of the receptiveness internally to this, and just the partners? How are you finding?

B. Tejpaul: Two things have changed. I mean, the earlier presentations were private finance example of collaboration across the industry, right. Let's all share problems. I'd say in the past year, there's been an explosion in a good of fintech companies, that have come through our rise accelerator, or otherwise, have established some sales further.

There are at a point in their own business development, where we can plug into them on POCs like you described, and really go from a successful POC to a deployment quite quickly. That's cool.

I would say that the second thing is clients are becoming a lot more vocal about what they want as their needs change. I love that Greg was up here as a real high OPM who wants to change the process by which he gets given recommendations and executes. No longer do we want to support a manual and repetitive process, where he calls up, we get something, we give him, get a price, can you prove the price, we confirm, I mean, all that manual stuff.

The clients are telling us that they want to change. They're identifying pain points where they want to collaborate together to solve problems. As the clients become more vocal, that informs our product delivery.

D. Brady: Vocal clients a big driver for you?

K. Prado: Totally and we need more of them.

D. Brady: Bring it on.

K. Prado: Yeah. The biggest issue that we see is around in the business: people are afraid to change, especially salespeople are like, well, “if I give you that, then you have my secret sauce.” What we're trying to do in my team is come up with ways to partner with whoever will talk to us about driving a business process change.

If you go back to, I don't know, early 2000s, I think back to when we automated the voice trade through a trade feed at ICAP, right. I'll never forget this as long as live: I remember the voice brokers said to me, they were like, "Why are you on the floor talking to my traders?"

I'm like, "Well, because we have, I'm here to help you." They were so pissed off because they think, "You can't just do that." I'm like, "Yeah, we can."

D. Brady: I'm the government and I'm here to help, right? Go away.

K. Prado: That evening one of my developers literally added a E versus V flag into the trade feed down to the trader.

D. Brady: What's an E versus V?

K. Prado: “Electronic versus voice.”

D. Brady: Okay.

K. Prado: It's the straight electronic and voice, and after that, the voice STP was born and then the brokers became our friends.

D. Brady: What's the pain point for you today? What is your biggest challenge in realizing the dream?

K. Prado: Getting the end users to want to work with us to drive that change. So we're making massive progress recently, but that's been the hardest part. The FinTechs popping up are amazing, and we're trying to do as much with them as we can. But you still need that business buy in.

D. Brady: What's in... go ahead, 'cause I was just going to ask FinTech.

S. Mehta: Well, sure, so we have an initiative with MassChallenge. I agree with what you're saying about FinTechs and it's actually a word that needs to get cemented a little bit more. It's trying to be well sort of convalidated in broader technology, can we try and do something fundamentally different.

The digital thing when we started was an ambition that said, “we can change the business model.” That has proven to not work for asset managers. We're pretty digital, everything happens electronically.

D. Brady: Right.

S. Mehta: We talk to endless third parties and whatever. That's not what it's all about. But when fintechs come in and MassChallenge comes in, what they do is they help organize 400 different companies in a certain way. Could Putnam Investments, an 80-year-old, Boston-based investment management firm, while, the only pure place of its size really act like a startup?

I think that would be a mistake if we tried to do that. It's not who we are. But we could partner up with someone who behaves like a startup, who is a startup, who's supported an organization, where talent is going in, and they can work with us to say, what critical challenges do you have.

D. Brady: There's a lot of different ways you can do that. You've got all these corporate venture arms, where they kind of have their little incubator spaces. You can acquire them and that's got a mixed record of…

S. Mehta: Sure.

D. Brady: ...get the company T-shirt, absorb them into the company, and all of a sudden, “where's that innovation I bought?” Or there's just the external partnering. It's hard for smaller firms to partner with big firms. What's been most fruitful for you in terms of actually capturing innovation without squashing?

S. Mehta: Sure. Well, when you lead with this thesis that says let the data do the decision-making. Let AI make the predictions, let core operation do the training, you're changing the way things are working in the organization. When you get ready for change, and if we're in the business of helping people change, including ourselves, by the way, and it's the hardest thing to do, is change your own organization.

IT should get more productive, software development should become faster. But imagine a software developer who can write a really complicated code and take months doing it, that's real value, and they feel good about it. If you tell them I can pull some software off the shelf, and it's freely available, then they feel their value is diminished. It's not the case.

D. Brady: Write a bot that can do it.

S. Mehta: Right, right, so that's the world we're getting to, due to consumer tools, we're accepting of these changes. My job, for example is no longer to be a gatekeeper, where we say unless you have a billion dollars in sales, you're not getting into this organization. That's the old days. Now, we're trying to say, if AI's going to help make the predictions, we don't have the talent do it. But maybe you do, and if you're willing to commit to us…

D. Brady: You're a connector?

S. Mehta: Yeah, if you're willing to commit to us for a certain period of time, obviously, it's not forever, could you be a catalyst in helping enable the change through our business partners?

B. Tejpaul: Can I build on that?

D. Brady: Go ahead.

B. Tejpaul: I guess Kim and I talked about the challenges of getting everyone to have a shared vision. But we also talked about pushing the data, letting the data speak for itself. One of the best ways to get adoption for us has been to inform traders and sales about themselves. So pushing a data set with auto-populated prices, that takes a look at market events, and the timing, and my behavior around recycling positions, or holding, et cetera.

There's a whole world of learning about myself in risk management, and you can't ignore it. That's one way certainly to use technology to drive adoption. The second thing I'd say is innovating differently, which is the point you were just talking about. We've established a Chief Innovation Office. It actually runs top to bottom, and it runs across all, the whole group actually.

That's the mechanism by which best of breed technologies are transported between the different silos. Those scripts themselves…

D. Brady: So it's embedding people?

B. Tejpaul: Yeah, we've got a Chief Innovator, one person at the top, and then we've got those people embedded across the firm, then we have working groups, where we're talking about what are you doing in this part of the firm. People talk about it, and it's created that network effect that David talked about earlier.

D. Brady: Yeah.

B. Tejpaul: Hopefully, next year, I'll be talking about how we used that network Symphony to do great things.

D. Brady: Tactically, and you do this as well, but Kim, do you do this in terms of shifting the way the "innovators" or who the innovators are in the firm? Because I do think that embedding people's something I hear about more, that you're in the business unit, you're not in IT, for example.

K. Prado: Yeah, I mean we have a little bit of all of that going on here, trying to figure out what the right setup is. But the way I look at it is it's in everybody's job description. If you're not innovating, you shouldn't be in IT to start. On the business side, if you're not willing to work and push this change, you're not going to be here. It's adopt or get out.

D. Brady: It's a powerful driver. At the same time when you talk about AI automation, the discussions often been around job loss, and there is a concern. Now, you come here, you see things that go from the 30 minute process to a 30 second process, that becomes a powerful bottom line, sort of ROI conversation.

I'd love to sort of hear from you Gautam, in terms of when you look at the clients and just the culture change, which is always the hardest part, any tactics that you find have been most effective, in actually sort of driving through that change? I mean, paranoia is a powerful incentive, as is opportunity. But what else gets people in the far reaches of the organizational change?

G. Moorjani: Yeah, great, great question and I'll share a story and it's already dated, it's already been two years now, where I did a career day at my daughter's middle school. One of the questions asked of me was don't you feel bad, you're putting a bunch of people out of jobs? I didn't even have the answer.

D. Brady: Oh the wisdom of youth.

G. Moorjani: I didn't even have to answer, another kid before I could answer said, "What are you talking about? Haven't you heard what he's been talking about, that..." You know, and this kid had read an article about how household chores had gone from 49 hours a week to 9 hours a week in the last 50 years.

He said, "Just like dishwashers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners all came up, you need the people to manufacture those, to make bits, hoses, repair them. It's just going to be a new set of jobs." I didn't even have to answer, and this came from a 12 year old kid.

Thinking about it and taking it to heart, one of the things we've done at PwC is actually invested in the digital fitness of our people. We were very surprised to learn what types of people are interested in rescaling, upscaling, and it's not the traditional, what would you with.

The millennials are going to want to be more tech savvy or it wasn't anything like that. We actually had people apply to be an accelerator, a digital accelerator.

D. Brady: Is there an unusual genotype that you should be looking for in organizations?

G. Moorjani: It's just the biggest thing is the thirst to learn, right?

D. Brady: Right.

G. Moorjani: What we found where 3500 people applied to be part of this, for a thousand slots. This was, you came out of your business, you actually got trained on the different things that were out there in the market, and the idea was you go back to your business unit, and take some of those principles back with you, and be able to apply them.

3500 people applied. Large demographic, for seniority, of tenure, of you name it, very diverse group. And a thousand of those were selected, now, to go through this program. I think that's a pretty interesting transformation, where it's you just got to kind of start the conversation, and so you'll be surprised at how many people would want to be part of the solution. No one wants to do the work that's repetitive and boring.

D. Brady:  Well, I want to ask a little about priorities. I'll ask all of you, but this, but you mentioned data, which is like crude oil, until it just doesn't do much for, until you have a way to process, get some intelligence. When you think about limited resources both time and money, and the priorities that you have. Let's talk about the next 12 months.

Just in general, can you give me some sense as to where your focus is shifting in terms of the greatest return that you're going to get, where you feel the greatest need, even from a data point of view? Sort of what is intriguing to you as a possibility for how to make the customer experience better, etc.? I’d just love to get some sense tactically for where we should be looking in our own organizations.

B. Tejpaul: Sure. A great focus of ours has become digitizing voice. I think you mentioned that as well. It's quite interesting. There are probably six to eight, probably more, very capable companies who approach it differently. But even still in the sales and trading business, notwithstanding the fact that most trades get done electronically, a lot of the more important or liquid trades get done via voice.

There's a lot of context that's shared pre-trade, post-trade, and around it, and we're limited by our own ability as a client-facing firm to remember, catalog that information, and make it come back again. I think that's probably the most exciting bit, because it's all about serving and responding to client needs.

But in the future it's about anticipating client needs, and being able to present information at the right time. That's a big focus of ours and it hopefully will get to a place, like you, where we can auto-populate or passively this year with some of that information.

D. Brady: You use the term AI, do you feel that's premature? Do you feel in fact that the future is now, Kim? That where you have enough that you can be talking about artificial intelligence being a real force?

K. Prado: Yeah, I do, I actually do. I mean, we have a few things in production that are working. I also think voice is absolutely critical that we start really capturing those conversations, and also the chats.

D. Brady: And the bot, do you have any fun-named bots? Tigger, Izzy, WhiteSand?

K. Prado: Yeah, well, we have Arthur and we're working on another one, purely for support.

D. Brady: Okay. What about yourself?

S. Mehta: I'll answer that question a couple of ways. Very tactically, we're looking at the liquidity arena, and improving liquidity in the fixed income markets. If we can manage that, we've obviously created more automation than there historically has been. We're looking to evolve the landscape of sustainable investing. ESG is a pretty strong focus, and the data and access available is pretty limited.

D. Brady: How exactly, is that a filtering tool? Are these things that are making people sort of screen faster? What would be the ways in which you're actually making a difference?

S. Mehta: For ESG?

D. Brady: Yeah, ESG, for example.

S. Mehta: Sustainability is a big topic. Institutional clients almost demand it these days. What is your view as an organization, as an investment management firm on supporting the companies that have better governance, for example, have women on their board of governance.
here's investment thesis behind it.

But the hard part is getting data, and getting it in the same way, some sort of a standard, it's not there today, so there's an opportunity to make it. But really, if you think about what digital is doing across the organization, it's improving productivity at every level. That applies to IT, and it applies to non-IT roles. In that productivity improvement, you touched in the issues of jobs et cetera, but the other side of it is that it's about growth.

D. Brady: Before we get to the takeaways-- I hope your watch is correct. I don’t have anything in front of me here in terms of the timing but I'd be remiss not to be conscious of financial services, the regulatory environment, and it does move at a different speed than the innovation environment.

When you think about that, we've had the fear factors of Facebook hackers, etc., how do you feel, what are the constraints and opportunities within the current regulatory environment to innovate? I'd just love to hear all of you quickly. Kim, you've got the mic, you can either sing or answer the question.

B. Tejpaul: Please sing.

K. Prado: You definitely don't want me to sing. I look at it as an opportunity. All the budget is going into reg, so you've got to try to kill two birds with one stone there, and innovate while solving for the reg has been our strategy.

D. Brady: Okay, everybody else agree, sort of.

G. Moorjani: Well said.

D. Brady: Okay.

G. Moorjani: I would just say that actually more and more clients have proactive conversations with the regulators say, “we're thinking about doing this, we're thinking about mining this data.”

D. Brady: To educate them?

G. Moorjani: We're thinking about using it this way to get kind of that education out there, but also to get that viewpoint of how would this be viewed from that standpoint.

B. Tejpaul: We have perennial problems in the industry with really simple things like contact management, and so the onset of me feed and other reg initiatives were actually really good for us to clean things up, to get to that good data set, to then inform and understand the interactions you have. It's a great base to build on. I don't see it as an impediment going forth.

S. Mehta: Regulation is a must, so no matter what you do, that's the first thing, you have to comply. Very close to it is your 77% of CIOs care about security, and that's also true. I haven't tested the 41% yet, so Lawrence, will check with you on that one, if you go deeper into our organization. But we deeply care about cyber strength in the organization.

D. Brady: Okay. Let's end on giving some takeaways to the audience, it could be advice, sort of what you're thinking about, what we'll be talking about this time next year. But especially, anything that you think would make us smarter about how to think about digital transformation, and more importantly do it, in the context of symphony or otherwise. Sumedh, I'll start with you.

S. Mehta: Very simply put, I would say fix the disconnection between the different silos in the organization. You need collaboration tools, obviously, you need AI tools, you need predictive tools, you need all of that together, working in harmony, as it makes it’s with through the organization. I mean, when they say Chief Information Officer, I'm still trying to figure out what all that means, but there is… Well, it's about the information in the company is really the make or break. If you're not going to be good at it, then you're going to do something different. The world's trying to tell you something, it's how you take that information in, create the change that's needed, and move forward.

D. Brady: Gautam?

G. Moorjani: My biggest word is “act,” just take action. There's enough of this technology that's been proven out there, there's tools that are out there. Take action and don't wait for it to catch up to you. I'm envisioning all the wildebeests trying to cross the river.

G. Moorjani: You don't want to be that one at the end.

D. Brady: The disrupted versus the disruptor.

G. Moorjani: Absolutely.

D. Brady: Yeah. Brett?

B. Tejpaul: No pearls of wisdom, or advice to give. But an open invitation…

D. Brady: What keeps you up at night? Where's the opportunity? What excites you? How about that?

B. Tejpaul: I think the opportunity is to actually hear the voice of our clients and co-creating things. That's probably the number one invitation I'd like to extend, and also to the competition in some way, to collaborate on things that are utility tools for the industry, because it will save us all quite a lot of time.

D. Brady: Great. Kim, last word.

K. Prado: Yeah, I agree with Brett and just one last point, if you're going to do a POC, fail fast because it's okay to not have it work, but you got to try.

D. Brady: Yeah, excellent. Well, please join me in thanking our panelists. It was terrific. Really interesting.

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