28 September 2020

The rise of "technosphere" - post-Covid thoughts

Author: JB Tanqueray

I had the opportunity to discuss with Mr Markus Iofcea from UBS’ think-tank, UBS-y. The think-tank objective is to try and figure out what the work would look like in the next 30 years. Why? To help UBS board plan for the future. One of their themes is the “trillion sensor network”, meaning that everything will get more instantaneously connected. We will no longer need to search for things; they’ll be automatically suggested to us.

My goal is not to comment on whether I agree or disagree. I find the exercise intellectually stimulating. I have indeed always been fascinated about how we all got excited about imagining it. This is something investment managers and bankers focus on. Still, if some manage to have the big picture right, there remain too many unknowns to validate the actual capability of coming up with something accurately realistic.

Nonetheless, it is great to be reminded of the significant trends that now seem inevitable: further digitisation. The recent pandemic forced us all on-line. Digitisation has not been accelerated by the perseverance of many CTOs but by a 30 nanometre virus that has scared nearly all authorities. Therefore, digital ability is no longer a concept that only we, geeks and whatever-techers, get excited about. Better still, it has plenty to offer to handle this uncertainty more effectively in a way that most tech entrepreneurs deal with daily.

As such, I believe that we can all learn a few things from what could be termed as the “technosphere” to adapt to whatever post-covid19 normal we will live in:

  • Data security and confidentiality can no longer be a side issue. It must be protected from hackers but should be usable in a way that delivers its true value so that we all benefit from this data collection: how to improve?
  • Data usability is of strategic importance to unlock such data benefits and enable deeper insights more rapidly. Moving data between two tools should no longer be an issue. It must be combined with strong data analysis skills to avoid fatal misinterpretations. Therefore anyone should be supported in accessing relevant data and be technologically supported to use and make sense of such data easily.
  • Learn from other sectors’ best practices. As I moved into tech from financial services, I realised that many tech entrepreneurs were using the asset management technique developed by Toyota’s car plants: the “5 whys”. The 5 whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.

I find all these particularly interesting for financial services, a sector built on a notion of irreplaceable expertise. Characterised by high professionalism, the so-called experts are authorised to decide what their clients need regardless of their actual needs. Therefore, please let me indulge in guessing the future of my beloved asset and family office management world: what would selling investment products look like? Would asset and wealth managers emulate the tech sector and its product-led growth approach with its cohort of customer success managers? A model for which a product must be easy to use with as little support as possible until they drop, i.e. until the customer success manager needs to get involved in making that customer successful on her or his own.

For this, I would like to encourage my previous colleagues in the space to read Wes Campbell’s “Product-led growth” book together with Matt Syed’s “Black Box Thinking” group.