Blockchain technology (aka chaintech) applied to capital markets has been lauded as the next big thing in database management and ridiculed as vaporware, depending on who one asks. The “in operation” test, meaning real actors and real assets transacting on a blockchain, is a decade away according to the skeptics. But news out yesterday by Northern Trust and IBM suggests that this far, far away operational milestone for blockchain is, in fact, in the here and now.
With the departure of Forex Capital Markets (FXCM) from the U.S., leadership change, etc., financial reporters far and wide are asking for perspective on these events. Some go as far as probing whether this is the end for the U.S. retail foreign exchange (FX) industry—to which I say, no, it isn’t the death of retail FX in the U.S. since there are still three authorized brokers (Gain Capital, Oanda, and TD Ameritrade/thinkorswim). But why are there merely three viable U.S. brokers for FX when Japanese traders have a good dozen brokers (with 150,000 and more than 500,000 traders each) and another dozen brokers of smaller brokers behind that? Moreover, why did the U.S. and Japan go so far apart over the same (2005 to 2017) period in their regulation of the same industry?
This year’s "FinovateEurope" took place in London on February 7 and 8, 2017, attracting more than 1,500 visitors. Following the tested concept, fintech companies had the opportunity to present their ideas to the audience in a seven-minute pitch. Despite—or perhaps thanks to—the limited time available, most presentations came out crisp and clear. Less is more.
Although banks may appear slow to react and less agile than emerging fintech companies, banks remain their corporate clients’ main point of reference for technology innovation and inclusion. Even many leading corporations don’t want to be the pioneers in something that is not part of their core business and keep a wait-and-see attitude toward fintech innovation, expecting advice from their banks, which are perceived to be more reliable and knowledgeable in assimilating technology innovation into tangible business benefits.
When people ask me what I do, the response I typically get is, “Wow, but life insurance is a pretty boring industry!” While it has always excited me, my friends just don’t get it. So why is this industry so darn exciting to me? This is an industry full of change—especially over the 20 years I have been involved in it. Consumers have changed, getting both older and younger at the same time. The economy has changed, going up and down, and having more impact on some than on others. Needs have changed as we have moved into a more digital and customer-centric era. There are so many changes that have occurred over the past 20 years, why would the life insurance industry be considered anything but exciting as we decide daily how to change with the world around us?