Bibles, 4 fundamental freedoms, mattresses, funding, shadows, scandals and a declaration of love: the Gresham lecture had it all

By Phil Cantor,

Chief Marketing Officer,

iGTB | Intellect Design Arena Limited

GreshamOct30

Verena Ross at the Sir Thomas Gresham lecture

 

Ah, regulations, doncha just love ’em?

And regulators, too. Well, yes, actually, in one sense, but we’ll come to that at the end.

At the Sir Thomas Gresham lecture run by Gresham College and hosted by the gentle, piercing, forensic polymath Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, Emeritus Professor of Commerce, Verena Ross, the German-born, UK-careered, now Europe-centered Executive Director of the regulator the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), gave a clear and powerful dissection of the state of financial markets and Europe. Here’s my take on this: any credit goes to the speakers, any errors/howlers, all down to me.

In short, three things: one, how to make sure the financial markets flourish, are respected (tall order that one, have you heard of Wall St – Occupy, that is) and be more open; two, how can financial markets contribute to growth and three, what role will Europe play in world financial markets? One, London is and will remain Europe’s and maybe the world’s top financial centre (the capital with best access to capital), but the “dangerous cocktail” mixed by the lack of a single rule book contributed to a few small financial crisis issues: now we are much stronger by avoiding the divergence between countries and resultant friction seen elsewhere; two, we need to find money if we are to grow – EUR 2 trillion to be exact (well, to be approximate) – and bank lending ain’t gonna cut it – so retail investors have the money and must step up to the mark, but how do we protect them, how do we educate them and how do we increase their risk appetite: it’s not about shrinking banking but increasing diversity; three, an already big role for Europe can get bigger – as a more attractive market itself, benefitting from the single rule book and access to nearly one billion consumers, and as a contributor as other markets develop: achieving things individual states could not achieve such as TTIP (whether TTIP itself is a good or a bad thing).

Phew.

ESMA has just 160 people doing the regulating, compared with over 3,000 in the FCA (hope I got those numbers right). Impressive. Reminiscent of the statistics about how few were needed in the Civil Service to run the British Empire compared to needed now to run only a small island. Regulations, regulations: Basel 3, MiFid 2. (James Alexander Gordon, where are you when we need you?). MiFiD, the Bible of the securities market. EMIR in EMEA. You’ll betray yourself if you mistake one for t’other there, luv. Regulating benchmarks: historical, fairly straightforward. Judgmental, not so simple. LIBOR was a scandal because what had been a historical, factual, reportage benchmark became judgmental, an opinion, and so susceptible to manipulation. But all of this is crucial to nothing less than shoring up one of the EU’s four key pillars of freedom of movement: of people, of goods, of services and, in this case, of capital.

More regulation, that’s not the aim, nor is the EU the aim, but the development of society and of the economy, aka wealth. All of us – you, me, your next door neighbour, invest these days in vehicles not much different from putting the money under the mattress. There’s the cash. How to put it to work? So financial innovation, and it’s rife, and they want to encourage it…er, but then it gets to a point it gets a bit risky – risky for the investor or risky for stability – then the regulators start to consider acting. Here’s the issue – and this is me, Phil, talking now, not paraphrasing others – here’s the thing. If we have to regulate – or even just consider regulating – every new financial product, every financial innovation and if, if, we encourage and promote a flood of new innovations, whether from traditional players, from “shadow banks” (that triumphant nomenclature devised by banks to suggest any competitor they don’t like is somehow evil), from entrants like supermarkets or innovators like Amazon, Google and Paypal, from crowd initiatives from the real Amazon or Africa (mobile phones anyone?) or from would-be disruptors like Blockchain, Ripple, Bitcoin, Payswarm and their derivatives, so if, if we encourage this flood of innovation, can’t we atomise financial products? Can’t we put some science to this and identify and isolate the key components, the atoms, of financial products and regulate at that much simpler and more effective and more cost-effective level of granularity? Then any new combination of atoms will come ready-regulated, the regulator’s job becomes simpler (= possible), the risks of over-regulation and playing catch-up are lessened and, quite frankly, the humungous number of closely-worded pages that have to be scrutinized to play in this market might be lessened (or at least the rate of growth lessened).

As Michael himself said at iGTB’s own Advisory Event last month in Boston, is the regulator the banks’ best friend by making the sector well nigh impossible to enter? On which point he made another good, rather robust sally forth. Is regulation the only tool (reminds me of a favourite nostrum: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail). Let’s compare. The food safety industry uses regulation but also voluntary standards, 800 ISO standards. Shipping? 300 ISO standards. Financial services? just around 50. Why so few? Er…yes, good point. Or Chris Skinner’s rapier thrust: why not just make sure banks are smaller, small enough, then we won’t need to regulate them so much. Small enough to fail, as in Matt’s famous cartoon.

Back to one point. If the saviour of growth and capitalisation in the EU is to be the retail investor, and this means relying on the retail investor to be prepared to take risks and “be educated” so they can judge what to invest in, er, how does that work then? How, as a retail investor, am I expected to gamble more accurately (or even avoiding-disastrously) on what to invest in, what risks to take, when there are professionals out there who spend their whole lives doing this and still, still get it collectively, spectacularly wrong, from tulips, South Sea, black swans, Wall St 1920s right up to the global financial crisis and whatever new mass hysteria is currently brewing? Educate? Who’s going to do that then? “I know, I can explain how to invest well – tell you, what, I’ll go educate people. I could go make pots of money, but no, I’ll go tell others how.” Really? I don’t think so. In any cases 99% of the retail investors are reluctant investors. They don’t WANT to be educated, to judge a good investment. They just want some way to keep their money safe and not look a fool 5, 10, 20 years later when they look round and find their pension has withered away because of “management fees” or their mortgage is still not paid off because of getting some dim out-of-market rate they never checked. Actually all they really want is to have an old age for however long chance (or God, if you’re like that) grants them and have somewhere to live. If they could avoid financial services entirely, they probably would.

Anyway, I’ll declare my personal passion. At dinner I declared my love, publically. In front of 30+ serious, besuited and betie-ed men (well there were precious few women) after a lovely dinner and ding-dong chat, I stated loudly and firmly I was in love. The table was shocked, they asked with whom or what? With Verena of course. Er…nervous laughter. I explained. “The more she regulates, the more systems I sell.” There you go. I’ve said it, I’ve made it public, can’t say fairer than that. I’m in love. After all, iGTB sells systems to banks so they can help corporations create the wealth of the world. Personally I’d like us to have fewer, more precise and less reactive regulations, but professionally it’s in my interest. This is all tongue in cheek, of course – actually my mission is to make it EASIER for banks, not revel in and profit from their discomfort. But it got a good laugh anyway and if you can’t have fun discussing bank regulations, you’re in the wrong job.

Looking forward to next year’s lecture.

(For the hugely wide-ranging programme of free Gresham lectures that always stimulate, supported by Z/Yen and – continuously since the 16th century the City of London and the Worshipful Company of Mercers, see http://www.gresham.ac.uk).

Gresham2

 

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The Sibos Diaries – Chapter 5

By Phil Cantor,

Chief Marketing Officer,

iGTB | Polaris Financial Technology Limited

iGTB Sibos 2014 team

Bill Gates (the one who founded Microsoft, not the one who’s Head of Alliances at SmartStream, of course) came on stage to a rapturous welcome from 3,000 people plus more standing at the back, in appreciation of his having ruined their lives with the blue screen, the three-fingered salute (Ctrl/Alt/Del) and the infamous “Registry”. Bill is applauded because of his insight and foresight, eg., in declaring that 640k was as much storage as anyone would ever need and so inflicting the most vulnerable operating system on us all, just after application protection was made pretty good in OS/360 and taken to a new level with segmentation in ICL’s VME. Still, at least he has a Delete Key (not to mention Page Up and Down, Home, End etc), unlike that Jobs chap.

But he has redeemed himself, with the Bill and Melinda Foundation. At first thought to be a bit of an attempt at gaining popularity, he has unquestionably become one of the most serious and thoughtful philanthropists on the planet. And in his talk, he faced hard bitten bankers with the insight that to alleviate poverty requires the rollout not just of aid and essentials but of access to financial services. Financial services just jumped down one huge level of the Maslow hierarchy! No, really. He made it so clear that alleviating the problems of the poor is bedeviled by distribution of aid: subsidies are regressive benefitting the rich more even if they reach the poor, direct grants tend to be usurped by intermediaries, thieves, the “man in the village” and so on. So the premium is on simple digital approaches to e-identity and to simple payments.

Puts Access to Accounts in the Payment Services Directive II into perspective, doesn’t it?

He went on to show his own version of the “customer experience”, a video of people in a small tribal village market buying vegetables using a simple electronic device that checks identities etc. Also doing family finances for (for example) borrowing for school costs, and paying each other. One of the key points made was made as follows: the interviewer asked us all to take out our mobile phones and look at them. “These are some of the most sophisticated computers, per ounce, on the planet.” She went on, “but that’s not what these people will use. They will use some old $20.00 Nokia phone. How do we do these things on that. Bill explained various ways they could use even small screens and the power in even small old phones.

So that was the first Sibos closing speech in history that had 3,000+ people queuing to get in half an hour before.

Last day. Tired and emotional. No, I mean it literally, not drunk, just tired, very tired – partly because of standing up pretty much all day, tired from being “on stage” for hours on end, tired from constantly scanning with your eyes for people you are trying to get to see. Emotional because of the number of plaudits about our booth, emotional because of the net effect of working intimately closely with a crazy team of colleagues solidly (including cramming into cars with the luggage), emotional especially because of it being the last day, this island, this home for four long days, this royal throne of demos, this sceptred isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars bars,
This core of Sibos, demi-paradise,
This offering built by us for our clients
Towards their profit and the hand of competition,
This happy breed of men and women, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver carpet,
Which serves it in the office of an open door,
Or as an entrance open to a house,
To the envy of less happier vendors,—
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this iGTB.

Nothing like destroying a good bit of iambic pentameter, eh?

On which topic, and as a digression, last night at the Volante party we all ended up singing “Volante – oooh oh,…..Volante – oh oh oh oh…”. No, not stunning words, but put it to the tune of “Volare”, and no-one knows any of the other words, except for “something something oh Pinto Del Blu…”. So I couldn’t be having this, and after a bit of thought, came up with that famous tune from West Side Story: “iGTB in America! iGTB in America! iGTB in America! iGTB in Americaaaaaa!”. Again, not the most wide ranging use of words.  And Manish came up with, to the tune of “YMCA” the stunning lyric “iGTB”.  We’ll teach you the hand actions later.

Thursday is the quiet day. Tell that to the birds.  Veni, vidi, vendi.

I kept trying to get us all together to share any learning points before people left for early flights, but 3.00 meetings, 4.00 meetings put this back again and again. And just at the end, up popped one bank again saying “aha, you saw the transaction people earlier…we’re the trade people!”. Also I went to see someone on an African bank booth and as we were chatting he asked me what I thought the theme of Sibos was this year. I paused and said: “Come with me – I’ll SHOW you!” and “Bring your camera” and led him to our stand, where I showed him our 8m graphic.

Digital 360

I explained it – he loved it!

Anyway, this is me, Phil, singing off.

Oh nearly forgot, two final photos:

Ex-Fundtech employee attempts to destroy iGTB stand

pic31512

iGTB CEO takes his work home with him

Until Singapore next year.

It’s only a b***y bit of rock

By Phil Cantor,

Chief Marketing Officer,

iGTB | Polaris Financial Technology Limited

 

You really must lose weight, said my wife, so I bought a new bike. After a while, I found it much easier to get up hills. Between me and the bike, I think we shed a good 5 kilos. Not evenly split, of course, I did my bit, and the bike more than made up for it since it was a good 6k lighter than the last one. So that didn’t work. Got away with it for about a year, then my wife suggests a holiday. That sounds good, I thought. I didn’t realise it, but this was actually just another “you really must lose some weight” conversation. It was several weeks later that I worked that out.
“Let’s follow the Rhine!” were her actual words. I thought that might be quite fun, a glass of wine on a boat. “By bike!!” “Oh,” I said. Thought a bit. How far is it? “Just under 1500k.” Oh, I said, thought a bit more. “Which way?” I asked, thinking that would be the key question. “Oh, downhill, of course”. So we did. All of it.

I won’t tell the whole story of how that didn’t lose me any weight either or how we did manage to get to an Alp with just a bike each and under 5k of luggage each for over two weeks pedalling, or of how many surprisingly uphill elements there are to a river made of water which I had always thought only flowed one way, the down way…BUT here’s the point, the real point, we went past the Lorelei.

Now as you approach the Lorelei you can see the river, which has grown quite wide and well, full of water, gets narrower and faster and there is a really ominous piece of rock sticking out where you can see it would be treacherous – bits of rock sticking up with water flowing round them and logs and twigs getting swooshed about, and…………

 

Read the complete article here.

The Sibos Diaries – Chapter 4

By Phil Cantor,

Chief Marketing Officer,

iGTB | Polaris Financial Technology Limited

Chapter 4 Sibos

Alea jacta est. We cast our bread upon the waters. We plough the fields and scatter. Que sera, sera.

We’ve done what we can. Tomorrow’s the last day. (Tomorrow’s another day, also, but that’s a different story altogether). How do I do it justice? Let me count the ways.
Let me start in true Oscar fashion.

I’d like to thank the following, in no particular order and leaving out key people who will be less offended by that than they should be. Renu. Renu again. Naveen. Naveen again. Ashish, Nacy, Nachu. And Vineeth, Sri, Hema, Ganesh (B). Adelina, Razia, Mani, Sans. Oh I guess also, definitely, Manish, Upps, Paddy. Hari and Ashutosh. Guneet, Ganesh, Gahenry. Anand (but he won’t see this unless I tweet it). ALL the attendees. Product writers – too many to name individually, plus Partho. Guys without you we are but blossom in the wind, drifting we know not where, fertile ground or fallow, loam or rock, and now we’re back full circle. Alea jacta da da etc. Que sera, Sarah. And so on.

So let’s get to the fun stuff. As we’re in Oscar mood, award night.

  • Hero of the day award: Mark. 7,000 people exit Sibos on a cold rainy evening and 6,500 of them want a cab. The line was huge and slow moving, we estimated a 45m wait. And Katherine was not well and getting worse and just wanting to get home, please quickly (yes by this time we think of the hotel as our home). So, cunningly, hero Mark led us to the nearby Westin Hotel to get a cab there. Only not so cunningly: everyone else had had the same idea too. The line was even longer. So we decide to walk into town. But THIS TIME, Mark spots an off duty cab at the side of Sibos, lopes over, and like the true sales negotator he is, persuaded him to take us all back.
  • Brass Neck award. The lady from a major global household name corporation. She strolled onto our stand, sat down and started working on her laptop. When asked who she was meeting she replied “no, I’m good.” When asked to leave she said “yes in a few minutes.” When asked to leave because we had clients who needed to sit down right now she still tried to refuse until we firmly insisted. Shows we have comfy chairs though.
  • Yes! Yes! award. Some guy. The chap who came on the booth and asked if he could take a photo of our bug digital 360 design (see it in Michael Mainelli’s article attached to an earlier letter). And not even a competitor!
  • Shock news business has sentiment award: SWIFT. For throwing a huge party with giant cake for a lady who (a) was having her birthday today, (b) had worked for SWIFT for 25 Sibii, (c) who had just yesterday left SWIFT so it was her last day, (d) was celebrating the 150th anniversary of SWIFT (I may have heard that wrong).
  • Longest meeting award. 2 hours. With the guys from Central Europe (you know whom I mean).
  • Good luck go for it girl award: Renu. For explaining a technology solution to Guneet.
  • Pied Piper award. Renu and Anand, jointly. For gathering followers hugely by posting bits of the Mashreq article on this funny social media thingy.
  • Bad prep award. Me. Headline: “Crusader against lastminutitis suffers huge lapse.” For at 0800 having no clue what to present and finishing a ppt by 1050 (session at 1130) ie with (fractional) time to spare. I threw together extracts from Karim’s interview, extracts from our new iGTB video and a handful of cartoons and a couple (no literally, 2) ppt slides. Well I did it, presented it and we had a full house. Right from the outset. Now I know these events, they’re PR, nit lead generation. It’s usually suppliers and it’s free – and it’s open plan – so you usually get a very small audience of people either (a) wanting to JUST SIT DOWN for one moment, please, it’s not much to ask, one moment in four days, oh look at that comfy chair… or (b) checking their phones or (c) had read the agenda wrong or (d) competitors. So anyway I got their attention after the kind SWIFT Belgian lady introduced me (seemed like she’d known me for years, not seconds). I did it by starting “Welcome everybody, and especially those who are not using the mobile phones or laptops…!” which got a big laugh. As it happens I had a pretty much full house, with people standing round the back, and very few not paying attention. I did a few more gags and then played out opening video section. We got a round of applause! (well, started by me, it must be said).That’s a great tip, by the way, in any public show, plant someone in the audience and create a dramatic moment. At this moment your stooge starts to clap. The very funny thing is, people have a natural instinct to clap along. So almost certainly you’ll get everyone clapping too. I’ve even seen it started by someone dropping a book! Anyway, to illustrate digital outside, I played a clip of Karim stating the problem and how customer centric his boss is: “he says, ‘put a smile on every customer’s face’.” Then talking them through the ‘day in the life’ material. We basically did a typical morning. Of course all the while I am interacting, picking on people, asking them specific questions: “yes! yes, you at the back in the green jumper, do YOU think this is a typical customer value chain?” Anyway did that for a bit, then talked a bit about “digital inside”  Good PR though.

It’s 2305 and the last meeting was not that long ago. More – and stickier – meetings tomorrow.

Anyway, enough from me right now.

Sleep tight.

The Sibos Diaries: Chapter 3

 By Phil Cantor,

Chief Marketing Officer,

iGTB | Polaris Financial Technology Limited

The Sibos Diaries - Chapter 2

Wow. What a day.

The highlight was videoing Karim Labadi of Mashreq saying some stunning things about us but the real value of yesterday was the high quality of the meetings that happened.

People think of shows as being for lead generation – and we collected many leads – but there were several meetings yesterday that pushed existing deals significantly further on. These don’t show up in the statistics so much but have the most value. At times yesterday there were 10 or more meetings happening simultaneously. A few meetings even had to be held standing up, despite us having around 20 chairs (any more would not have fit on the booth).

A word about Mashreq bank. The first bank in the UAE to install cash machines. The first institution in the UAE to issue credit and debit cards. The first local bank in the UAE to offer Renminbi account services to customers. Now, the first bank in the region to launch a state-of-the-art Corporate Banking Online Portal – mashreqMATRIX – using the full Intellect iGTB platform, giving clients a single point of contact for issues around accounts, payments, collections, liquidity management, and trade and supply chain. During 2014, they have been winning awards right, left and centre: Celent’s Model Bank “Cash Management and Trade Award”, The Banker Middle East’s Product Award for “Best Corporate Account” and now, here at Sibos yesterday, they received the EMEA Finance’s “Best Cash Management Services in the Middle East Award” 2014.

They have doubled the transactional corporate customer base within 9 months thanks to iGTB. Yes that’s right, up 100%!

A few other stories about banks.

  • One bank, where discussions had stopped, saw our booth, and said they looked at the video, they looked at the Digital Outside poster, they looked at the Digital Inside poster and they looked at the Digital 360 graphic, and the icons, and that “everything spoke to them” and they have come and want to discuss reopening conversations!
  • One bank, saw our “concept car” and said “I would like to personally show this to my CEO!”
  • One bank, who had seen CBX and liked it but felt it needed more, saw the concept and immediately said we must bring it to show them all.

On the lighter side,

Standard Bank, as ever, have a ball with the best wines and this time bringing a jazz band doing covers of Hugh Masakela tunes. (This allowed me to get to speak to their new head of GTB, on the excuse “oh, iGTB sponsored a South African jazz band at BAFT last January” – when I told him about Adam Glasser, and how he had played piano for Hugh when he received his honorary doctorate, suddenly we are having a great conversation with a top banker – and one of the conversations he will remember!)

Finally, quiz time.

Which of our people:
– Fell asleep in the car on the way to the restaurant?
– Got out of a car with only one shoe on?
– Has write-only penmanship?
– Is known as “the man in the closet”?
– Overheard two people saying to each other “What happened to Al Carpetto?
He was great at Keybank, where has he gone now?” (and was able to enlighten them)

Day 2 of Sibos 2014 in pictures