As the landscape of communication continues to evolve in our increasingly digital world, the financial services industry is feeling the pinch of regulatory scrutiny. In recent years, financial firms have faced nearly $2 billion in penalties from the SEC and CFTC due to unregulated “off-channel” messaging. This surge in “off-channel” communication, including usage of platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, SMS, LINE, and mobile calls, is largely fueled by the rise of hybrid work. Yet, regulators maintain that all business communications must be monitored, auditable, and occur only within official channels. In the words of SEC Chair Gary Gensler, “As technology changes, it’s even more important that registrants appropriately conduct their communications about business matters within only official channels. And they must maintain and preserve those communications.”
Operations Workflows in a Digitized World
During our virtual Symphony Innovate New York 2020 event, it was my pleasure to host a breakout panel discussion on operations workflows featuring three leaders from the Symphony community, representing BlackRock, BNY Mellon and Credit Suisse.
At Symphony, our goal is to be the connective tissue that enables our community to use data more intentionally and overtly, while minimizing the need for context switching, which can interrupt workflows, hinder efficiency and increase risk. From confirms to clearing and collateral to custody, this complex topic yielded insights on data analytics, identity in a more connected and distributed digital financial world, transparency across the lifecycles, and more.
Right place, right time, right data
When it comes to operations workflows, getting data to the individuals and teams who need it is paramount. As Lou Rosato, Director, Investment Operations, Global Business Strategy and Relationship Management at BlackRock said during our panel, “We’re moving data so that people can make decisions. When we get the right data to the right people at the right point in time, then decisions are improved upon and the friction comes out.” For BlackRock, Symphony’s role in this process extends beyond that of a communications tool. Symphony has “been a catalyst for change. It’s a tool where we can connect through that lifecycle with our ecosystem better.”
Orchestrating the efficient flow of data also depends heavily on securing input from the right people–which requires access to the right contacts at the right moment. Whether that contact is an internal colleague, external contact, or even a bot, a secure, shared and granular directory helps streamline the collection and exchange of data to power efficient workflows.
Driving interoperability through common problem innovations
In the collaboration economy, the ability to work across barriers that separate teams and organizations is critical. But as Raj Iyer, a Director of Core Digitalization and Reimagination at BNY Mellon pointed out, “the challenge is there are a lot of disparate processes built up over time: different roles, different nomenclature.” Within the trade lifecycle, different teams and individuals speak different languages, describe tasks differently, and focus on different priorities.
Technology, Raj added, can help solve this challenge by establishing a “connective tissue” to facilitate data sharing and streamline workflows. This increased interoperability doesn’t just happen overnight — it’s incremental and iterative. But with more of the investment lifecycle happening in real time, the need for standardized systems that can support real-time processing is growing. Tools like Symphony that facilitate connectivity play an important role in achieving the greater interoperability that operations require to be more collaborative, agile, and efficient.
Human-centered technology is the future
Karen Newton, Managing Director, Credit Suisse shared thoughts on how human-led technology–specifically automation, augmented reality, and virtual reality–would be game-changers for operations professionals in the future. “Automation allows us to point our talent in more challenging and mentally stimulating directions, whether that’s client service, problem solving, future design, or strategic thinking,” she explained. And while some people associate bots and artificial intelligence with eliminating human jobs, Karen stressed that when it comes to operations workflows, the types of responsibilities automation can take over tend toward time-consuming busywork like manually transferring or mining data. These are tasks a bot can do instantly and flawlessly, and most professionals are happy to hand them off in order to focus on work that is both more rewarding and adds more value.
Looking to the future, our panelists expressed excitement about innovations still to come. From interoperability that enables seamless collaboration across supply chains and lifecycles, to augmented and virtual reality tools that “shrink the world” by replicating our sense of physical presence in virtual meetings, human-led technology presents myriad opportunities to evolve operations workflows and enhance collaboration.
Today, the world is fragmented, siloed, linear, and batched. The future is more connected, more circular, and more real-time. Digitization can play a significant role not just in automating manual processes, but also by acting as the fabric within the frame of larger and more connected workflows. Professionals and teams can leverage this technology for improved outcomes to better share information, increase transparency, and collaborate to solve challenges.
Many thanks to Lou, Karen, and Raj for joining me in this informative discussion during Innovate New York 2020. To watch the video of this panel and other sessions from the event, visit our event replay page. You can also read my blog that recaps my other panel which dives further into the Future of Markets and our new human-centered digital reality here.
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