I'd like to propose a New Year's resolution for those in financial services.
Let's leave behind the lazy narrative that only millennials use apps or conduct online research. Or whatever other variation of this nonsense there is. While it may have seemed crazy years ago, Bridget Brennan was correct to suggest in her Forbes column that we’re all millennials now.
My mom is a baby boomer who is glued to her iPad most nights. My 20-month old niece, who as far as I know doesn’t even have a generation associated with her yet, already knows that there is a response to hitting the home button on my iPhone. She repeatedly does so until the phone ends up getting temporarily locked.
So as consumers of information, yes, we’re all millennials.
Still, the Fintech revolution is creating a great disparity within financial services because many firms are led by people who aren’t technology experts. Bloomberg recently covered a survey by Excelian Luxoft Financial Services, which concluded that the lack of programmers and engineers in the boardroom means that projects necessary for innovation are not being championed.
There’s only one Larry Fink after all. The same can be said about Lloyd Blankfein. But for those companies without such a leader, a lack of technological prowess stifles the ability to implement artificial intelligence or machine learning techniques. Besides strangling a firm’s ability to compete, there’s also a human cost, with 22% of tech decision-makers reporting that they are being kept up at night due to a lack of support from senior executives, according to the survey.
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Downstream, boutiques are even more likely to be hindered by their managements’ skill set. For these types of investment managers, it is often the successful financial advisors or portfolio managers that graduate to the C-Suite. However, just as Michael Jordan has not been able to parlay his success on the court into success as an executive, a former portfolio manager may not necessarily be the best CEO. This is only compounded by today’s CEO now being asked to be part data scientist, part financial engineer, and general tech enthusiast.
That’s a significant departure from the traditional resume that required having an MBA and perhaps a CFP or CFA certification.
Judging by the increasing number of posts (and the engagement levels) on Harvest Exchange related to AI, machine learning, and big data, it’s really no stretch to say that we’re all millennials these days. What is a stretch, however, is to think that most financial services firms are prepared for that reality.