Written by Kevin Okell on Tuesday 27 October 2015
A few weeks ago I presented the technology slot at this year’s Platforum conference. My aim was to show how a client’s investment journey could be hugely improved by the use of some currently available technology, how data aggregation could eliminate much of the friction in the journey and how that journey could flow seamlessly between self-directed and advised channels.
The session went well. Scores on the app were good and several delegates were complimentary at the drinks reception later in the evening. But when I asked people what they felt the most radical aspect of the session was, the response surprised me. It turns out that the most exciting bit of my presentation wasn’t the cool Airfix model Prezi, the automated analysis of my spending patterns or even the real-time calculation of my retirement options. What really stood out was the fact that I’d managed to get 3 different technology suppliers to collaborate on stage to tell one joined up story!
As founder of a company that is passionate about open standards and inter-operability, that reaction is depressing but understandable. We have long since had the technical capability to make software systems talk to each other and these days discoverable web services and standard APIs are making it easier than ever to plug components together. The number of new apps available which essentially mash-up widgets from other app providers to target some new consumer niche seems to grow daily. Whether it be flickrmap fusing flickr.com photos with google maps, or Tripit magically making sense of all your on-line travel receipts, a new era of systems which combine and build on the capabilities of other applications is already with us in many areas of modern life.
In the more sedate world of Financial Services this technology revolution is taking a bit longer to arrive. Whilst it’s true that we have the twin challenges of regulated products and legacy systems to contend with, the bigger obstacle in my opinion is commercial. Whilst most of the suppliers of software to the industry are happy to endorse the theory of integrating with other systems, in practice they show an alarming tendency to try and do everything themselves – often with disastrous results.
Whatever the real motivation for this kind of software protectionism, it is likely that the market will eventually sort it out. At Altus we are seeing clients increasingly prioritise the availability of modern APIs when selecting systems to form part of their digital ecosystem and, in the U.S. we now hear that the most successful risk rating tool, Riskalyze, is not the most functional or the best performing but the one which is easiest for third-party platforms to integrate with.
The organisations who will ultimately succeed in the new open systems world will not be those who seek to corner a market or restrict competition, but those who embrace interoperability and use it to build better solutions for consumers. At Platforum we saw a glimpse of what they will look like.