Ultimately, Banks are ‘Big Data’ and Technology Companies

The Financial Times published a letter of mine:

From Mr Zachary Townsend.

Sir, Banks are “Realising the promise of new technologies” (The Connected Business, FT.com, September 30), despite being saddled by outdated and outmoded core banking technologies. Some of the best but least studied innovation is happening inside treasury management and commercial banking groups. There, far from the public eye, new technologies – such as application programming interfaces – are allowing financial institutions and businesses of all sizes to interact in new, faster ways. These technologies speed the flow of transactions for the business while decreasing risk and delivery costs for the bank.

Unfortunately, Eric Openshaw and Larry Albin continue the false dichotomy between the business and technology functions of banks. Ultimately, banks are “big” data and technology companies. At the centre of every bank is simply a data store that records who has how much money and the rules governing transaction processing. We call this data store a core banking system, which is then surrounded by delivery channels, risk management and other technologies. Banks, their boards and their shareholders will come to realise that huge portions of bank budgets and headcounts can be replaced by modern web technology if architectured correctly. Those financial institutions that remake themselves fastest in the model of software engineering first companies such as Google or Facebook, including picking a forward-thinking technologist as chief executive, will be the true benefactors of this new era in finance.

Zachary Townsend, Co-founder, Standard Treasury, San Francisco, CA, US