Is anything we hear true ?

A few things have recently prompted me to question the various claims I hear at work, on television or in the media. Firstly, I’ve been reading the fabulous “I think you’ll find its a little bit more complicated than that” by Ben Goldacre (Bad Science is also an excellent read) and Super Freakonomics, the sequel to .. yes you’ve guessed it Freakonomics , but Stephen J Dubner and Steven Levitt. Both these books look at that way data is presented, how data shapes the decisions we make and generally questions how we design data collection, approach its interpretation and how human behaviour comes into play.

I’m currently designing a significant transformation program and so starting with accurate data is crucial. I often hear wild claims of the benefits that can be achieved, because a particular area is allegedly very inefficient, or how much better the business would be if “we just fixed [insert hot topic of the week]”. Usually when I dig into these types of claims, they rarely have any data to back them up and are based on anecdote or instinct. Both of these sources are notoriously unreliable bases on which to spend substantial sums of money.

Being in question everything mode, two particular claims jumped out this week, firstly because they are both ambiguous and one of them seemed particularly misleading.

The first I have seen a few times an appears on the back of (i think) arriva buses in Leeds and proudly states Buses up to every [x] minutes between A and B, the one i saw this morning was “Buses up to every 30 minutes between Leeds and Keighley” (although why anyone would want to go to Keighley every 30 minutes is beyond me).

The second was on a TV advert for Smart Meters, this proudly claimed “If we all got a smart meter it would save enough energy to light every home in Aberdeen, Manchester and Cardiff”

The problem I have with the Arriva claim is its of no use at all . “Every 30 minutes” is a measure of frequency, and so “up to” suggests this is the maximum frequency of buses and so the claim would be valid if there were only 2 buses a day, separated by 30 minutes. I don’t get how its helpful to proudly display such information on the back of a bus in big letters – Arriva, I’d love to hear from you the customer experience design that said this was a good idea and the mathematician who signed off the phrasing.

The problem with the smart meter claim is another classic sleight of hand. On the surface, it sounds like a good thing – that must be a lot of energy to light all those homes – but enter lies, damn lies and statistics – apart from the details like – what assumptions were made about how much energy each house uses – there are two glaring flaws.

The first is .. over what period … If we all get a smart meter do we save that much energy every year, or does it take 100 years to get the pay back.

But that point, whilst annoying is still irrelevant to the fact that getting a smart meter doesn’t save you energy . Using less energy saves energy. So, getting a smart meter and turning off all the lights, not leaving the TV, Computer, Games console etc. on standby, which are all things you can do without having a smart meter by the way would save energy.

But humouring the smart meter people for a second, lets have a guess at how much energy we’d need to save.

I reckon there are probably 3 million people in Manchester, Cardiff and Aberdeen out of a UK population of 70 million – so 5% in round numbers. Now the advert explicitly said “save enough energy to light all the homes in” . The average home in the UK uses 10 KWh per day of electricity (of which about 10% is lighting ) and 35 KWh of gas. In total 45KWh.

So to light every home in the aforementioned cities, we would need to save 3 million x 1 KWh – or 3,000,000 KWh per day.

But this saving is made from the entire populations entire energy usage of 70 million x 45 KW/h or 3.1 billion KWh . In other words, if we all reduced our energy usage by a whopping 0.09 % .. no thats not 9% thats 9 hundredths of a percent. Or if you gave me one hundred quid, I’d give you 9p back.

Looking at it another way, each household needs to save 0.04kw hour per day. If we use 1KWh for lighting and we have 20 light bulbs in our house we can make the far simpler to deliver claim

“If we all took out one light bulb, we would save enough energy to light every home in Manchester, Aberdeen and Cardiff”

And that’s without the overhead of making the smart meters and driving to my house to install them.

I’m sure (i hope) there’s a flaw in my argument some where as there must be lots of bright people gainfully employed in smart meters.. so please embarrass me and point out where I’ve messed up the maths.


Bad chatbots make customer experience worse, not better.

I don’t often pay much attention to my utility company, but as I had a smart meter installed recently I decided to log onto the mobile app and see how it presented my data. This part was pretty good, it showed I was £400 in credit, on average burning (no pun intended) £150 per month and paying £200 per month.

I went to the contact us page where I was presented with a web chat like interface and was initially impressed as I was expecting to have to send an email message. The below then represents a transcript of the “conversation” I had with their bot.

Nic – “Hi, I’m £400 in credit and only using £150 per month of energy but paying £200. Can you refund the credit and reduce my direct debit payment”

Bot – “Hi, before we can refund the credit, we need a meter reading from you”

Nic – “I’ve got a smart meter, you don’t need a meter reading”

Bot – “Would you like a smart meter”

Nic – “Can I please speak to a real person”

Bot – “To talk to an advisor, please call us or go to the web site”

Nic – “!@%^&^&”

Bot – “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help with that”

I then went to the web site and spoke to a real person over web chat who was very helpful and within ten minutes had refunded the credit and changed my direct debit.

Finally, I got an automated email that’s obviously triggered whenever a direct debit changes telling me:

“We are pleased to tell you that we have re-assessed your direct debit and your payments will be reducing”!!!

This example provides three key lessons for customer experience:

  1. Bots can know their limitations and should hand seamlessly over to a human when they can’t parse what’s being asked
  2. The whole conversation needs to take place in the same environment – don’t hand customers off elsewhere
  3. Customer communications need to be context aware, as the number of routes into an organisation increases, dumb communications that assume they are always triggered from the same place make you look disjointed.

Issues like this will only increase as we strive to deliver more advanced technology enabled customer experiences, disjointed elements will stand out.

Omni-channel means creating a connected experience that flows seamlessly across different touchpoints, maintaining the context of the customer conversation.


Does changing my password make me safer … It depends


I’ve always questioned whether there was any benefit in changing my password, so I thought I would try and work it out.

The initial conditions are:

  1. Someone is already trying to hack my password and methodically working through the combinations
  2. No-one is currently trying to hack my password

If I’ve got a password that is 8 characters long, using all the allowable printable characters , there are  645,753,531,245,761 possible options. Lets say a computer can check 10,000 per second, then on average it will take 645,753,531,245,761 / (10,000* 2) seconds to crack. To keep it simple lets round the numbers a bit.

Total number of options = 6.45 x 1014

Options tried per second = 1 x 10 4

Seconds per year = 3x 107

So, the simple calculation to crack my password (on average) is

6.45×1014 / (1 x 104 * 2 x 3×107 ) years,

That’s about 1,000 years if I’ve got my sums right.

So, setting aside whether I need to change my password at all, given I’m unlikely to have it for 1,000 years (and if we were going to make this argument properly, we should probably look at when there is an unacceptable risk of my password having been cracked rather than the mean time to crack.

If no one has started cracking my password , then there is no benefit in changing my password as it’s not going to change the probability of avoiding cracking (one could probably argue that changing it increases the risk slightly as I might have to write it down in order to remember it if I change it often)

So the benefit rests on:

  1. How likely is it someone is hacking my account right now
  2. Does changing my password increase or decrease the probability of them working it out.

I’ve not got the data to calculate (1), so lets look at (2). The diagram below shows position when someone is hacking my account – they have already tried a number of passwords – let’s call this value t. They haven’t tried the remainder and my password sits somewhere in the remainder (assuming I know I haven’t been hacked yet).



So, t is the number of passwords already tried.

T is the total number of combinations

nt is the number of passwords not tried or nt = T – t.

p is the index of my password in the total number of combinations

The probability that my password is next to be hacked is 1/(nt), assuming that my password lies randomly in the untried set.

If I change my password, there’s a chance that I jump into the already tried set (a good thing) of t/T and there’s a change of 1/(T-1) of unfortunately choosing the next password to be tried. In this case, clearly 1/(nt) > 1(T-1) so changing my password is a good thing.

Let’s as the question does changing my password have more chance of moving me closer the boundary where the hacker is.

The number of combinations lying in the boundary between where the hacker currently is and my password is (p – nt), so the probability of choosing a password in this range is

(p – nt)/ (T-1)

NB the -1 is because we assume that my password needs to be changed to something different.

So the answer to the question should I change my password rests on whether

(p – nt) / T-1 > 0.5 – i.e. am I more likely to choose somewhere in the danger area or outside it.


(p-nt) > ½ (T-1)

Whether this is true or not, depends on where my password started, the order the hacker is working through the set and how far through it is.

So, the answer to the question, is it worth changing my password is

Only if you know how far through hacking your account someone is, other wise it might increase the risk.

This seems to fly in the face of standard IT security practise, so whilst it will probably be embarrassing, could someone point out the flaw

Are we good at our jobs, or just lucky ?

As my colleagues will testify, I can be somewhat stubborn and convinced I am right  at times (at times means most times) and even if my colleagues are too polite to say so, my partner will tell you unequivocally I am the most stubborn person she’s ever met.

So, when I came across a book called “How not to be wrong”, my first thought was I never am, but I’ll read it anyway. How not to be wrong is a tour through maths that affects our everyday lives.

Ever since school I’ve found maths fascinating, my Mum still recounts about how I came home one day having learnt about Pi and proceeded to recite it for hours – it fascinated me that one irrational number could be so profound in the cosmic order. In reality, there’s nothing special about Pi, some number had to be the ratio of the circumference of a circle over the radius, so it might as well be 3,1415926…..

Many of the amazing things that happen in our lives that seem improbable are actually quite likely, if not almost certain when looked at from the correct point of view. The old friend we meet on holiday, the stranger we are introduced to at a business meeting who knows our best friend, all seem like outrageous coincidences but we tend to think about things the wrong way round, we look at how many friends we have and then our heads tell us its highly improbable we’d bump into them on the beach in Paphos.

The correct view is that lots of people go on holiday, lots of people have friends so among the beach towels its almost certain there are two old friends amazed at being re-united.

The maths that changes my view of daily life fascinates me, that is until in “how not to be wrong” I came across regression. I’ll paraphrase some exerts  to illustrate the point.

In the 1933 a statistician, Horace Secrist, published a detailed analysis of the performance of businesses over time. One startling conclusion was that, over time, the best businesses become worse and the worst businesses become better all tending towards the average. Secrist put this down to market forces and hypothesised that competition caused the triumph of mediocrity. To further support his point, he not only compared Profit / Earnings ratios but many other business performance metrics and found identical conclusions in all of them.

60 years or so earlier, Francis Galton (cousin of Charles Darwin) had been studying hereditary intelligence when he realised that over time random forces tend to return things to the mean, so (again to paraphrase the book), tall parents tend to have taller than average kids, but the tall kids are generally not as exceptionally tall as the parents. Multiple factors affect “tallness”, or any other trait for that matter, both genetics and environment. The tallest people are tall because there was alignment between genetic and environmental factors causing them to be the “most” tall. Probability suggests that all the random factors are unlikely to also be true for their children as well and so, over time tall parents have less tall kids, until the less tall kids are just average – or “Regression to the mean” as its formally called.

So, Secrist’s detailed analysis is nothing more than regression to the mean which should not amaze people, in fact people should have been amazed if any other result had been found. Sectrist was not a mathematician and so hadn’t made the connection.

This lead to Harold Hotelling publish a put-down of Secrist’s work that Churchill would have been proud of, to quote –

“To prove such a result by prolonged numerical study of many kinds of business profit and expense ratios is analogous to proving the multiplication table by arranging elements in rows and columns, and then doing the same for numerous other types of animals. The performance, though perhaps entertaining, and having certain pedagogical value, is not an important contribution either to zoology or mathematics”

Still with me.. that doesn’t sound to bad does it, apart from for Secrist who wasted 10 years of his life analysing tables of data unnecessarily.  Ok here comes the kicker.

I was looking at my ISA shares this morning and patting myself on the back because one of my stocks has delivered a 20% return over 2 years. I must be smarter than the average punter to select that fund and the fund manager must be better than all the rest to consistently grow the fund at 20%.

That’s when regression hit me in the face, gave me a kick in the gut and stamped on my foot for good measure. Two factors are at play almost everywhere we look in life, skill and luck. My fund manager may be excellent, but to generate 20% return – which is outperforming the mean for that sector, regression tells me he must also have been lucky. Maybe I am inspired in picking the funds, but again regression humbles me with the fact that, in that instance I was probably also lucky.

In conclusion, over time, regression tells me that the shares I pick and the performances of the fund managers I invest in will perform at the mean of the market and anything else is primarily good or bad luck.

That’s not to say, I shouldn’t consider my choices, as clearly I can fall out of the game and never allow regression to have it’s say if I pick an investment that goes bust, however I should be more humble about success in that it’s more likely to be temporary luck and regression will soon pop up to put me back in my place.

So, thanks Jordan Ellenberg, I no longer think I’m right all the time, just lucky sometimes.

References: “How not to be wrong, the hidden maths of everyday life”, Jordan Ellenberg


Retail Banking Innovation Roundup

Having been at RBI2017,  there was considerable discussion about Open Banking, what benefits it might offer to customers and the issue of customer consent for sharing data.

What is open banking

For those not in the know – which is apparently about 90% of the UK population, open banking is the competition and market authorities (CMA) response to the fact that whilst challenger banks & current account switching were introduced as a way of stimulating better competition, most of us haven’t bothered to move and the challengers are all pretty small (and I think regulation keeps most current account products pretty similar so there is minimal opportunity for innovation)

It’s pretty difficult to become a bank, you need around £50M of funding, at least, will probably take a number of years to get the banking license and create the necessary systems  – ultimately to create a product that is free for many people.

Open banking tries to address these two issues (it’s hard to become a bank and none of us move accounts) by defining a set of standards and working with the large banks to create a set of APIs on which other service providers can build.

New service providers might then spring up that offer full banking services,  without them needing to manufacture the products and have a lot of the overheads and capital requirements associated with being a bank. Companies might also offer niche services that break banking down into a set of micro products that can be personalised with different providers building a specialism in one area or another.

Ok, so what I hear you ask , in fact the speaker was asked how he saw that open banking might benefit consumers. He gave a pretty credible use case. A 3rd party (with whom you’d chose to share your data), could receive updates from your bank on transactions and balances and then if you were going to go overdrawn, offer a short term facility at a better rate than the bank. 

That sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it – well , maybe. I think there are two problems, firstly what’s the incentive for the bank if other providers cream off all the elements where a profit can be generated, they will be left with running current accounts for free that cost them money – interest rates are currently so low, there is little profit in traditional margin business (the difference between what you pay savers and charge lenders). We only need look at the Royal mail to see how this strategy panned out in that sector.

The second problem, I think is more interesting  – and potentially more transformative. 

Imagine this :

Today’s scenario: You have a sore back, so you go to your GP . The GP says I think know what the problem is, I’m going to refer you to a consultant with the right specialism. You go to the consultant he sorts you out, no problem. Behind the scenes he’s had access to your medical data in order that he can do his job and the GP made the decision who you should go to and you trust him to do this.

The “Open Healthcare scenario”: You go to your GP, tell him you’ve got a sore back, he says, I can refer you to 3 providers , a gynachologist, an orthopaedic surgeon and a chiropractor, which one would you like and do you consent for me to share your data with them. 

The problem with the second scenario are firstly, I don’t have the expertise to make decision about which “product” is right for me .. indeed, all could be valid solutions to my unknown problem (well except the first as , the last time I checked i didn’t have a womb)  and I don’t know how to decide on what basis it’s ok to share my data.

The same problem exists for open banking, customers have problems and needs, not a technical specification of requirements and my decision on whether I want to share my data is based on whether it will benefit me.

Therefore I (controversially) suggest that asking users permission to share their data is fundamentally flawed. I want my data shared with companies i can trust, won’t abuse my data and can offer me value… and i don’t want to have to share my data to find out the answer. 

It’s the same problem as channel preference, my preference is what suits me right here right now, based on what I’m trying to achieve. Most of the time i’m happy with my utility bill being online , until this morning I needed it for proof of address. So, I’d just like to click a button and have my provider send me a bill.. I can’t find that buttton on the mobile app, I probably have to call the call centre (busting my channel preference to do most things mobile unless I find them complicated) 

Whilst i’m ranting, this leads me onto another issue, so called “customer journeys” – when did you last hear any customer ever say, I want to go on a journey to get a “loan”, my journey is buying a car, going on holiday fixing the boiler or whatever. The “loan welcome journey” is an annoyance and anxiety inducing process somewhere in the middle. 

So, my message to the CMA and Banks is, stop trying to reinvent the system from the inside out, become your customers and reinvent from the outside in. 

Digital Transformation 

Alongside open banking and innovation,  digital transformation was discussed by many speakers. There were some genuinely innovative and inspiring case studies of the changes companies are implementing – the scale and complexity of which are mind-boggling. 

Having done a bit of research, Piyush Gupta from DBS (who wasn’t at RBI in London obviously), puts very eloquently the impact of digital transformation on his organisation :

“The idea of this separate group was to see if we could create a mobile-only bank, completely paperless and branchless. We have chosen to do this in India first, and if it works, we will take it to different markets. So far, we’re very encouraged with the results—over 800,000 customers in just nine months. It’s all driven by a digital identification process that uses artificial intelligence. An intelligent bot handles all inquiries, so you only need a minuscule call center. There are no checks or checkbooks. If you can do payments well, you can do online lending well, and you can kill paper. You change the customer experience immeasurably. We believe we can run a bank of this sort with 10 percent of the head count needed to run a traditional bank. Today, we are at 25 percent, but we think in another year or 18 months we will get to 10 percent.” – Piyash Gupta

Imagine if in 2 years your company had only 10% of the staff you had today. How would it look, how would we deliver that, because if you believe Gupta, that’s where we should be aiming.

When I look at some clients transformation programmes, I get the sense that they are just creating tomorrows legacy systems . The same monolithic programmes and IT solutions underpin tomorrow as they do today , just with the words “API, Open and cloud” thrown in to replace “client server” or “distributed computing”. 

What is really different today isn’t the technology – yes an iPad is very different to a main frame, yes we can do voice recognition accurately in real-time, but they are just point in time capabilites – tomorrow it will be holographic displays and neural interfaces – the real difference is the pace of change. 

You only need to look at the graphs for time to reach 50M customers – 75 years for the telephone, 35 days for angry birds, to see this.

In the old days , we had time to evaluate what was going on, gather requirements and build a solution that was going to last for 10 years. Today,  by the time we’ve decided its a good idea and got seed funding to stand up a team to investigate it, the world has moved on.

That’s when the lightbulb came on. 

The real point of digital transformation isn’t to chanage a capability, the point of digital transformation is to change the way we change.  The legacy we leave behind is an organisation with processes and a culture comfortable with agile, able to test quickly and fail fast and an investment approach that is risk based, not geared around black and white business cases. 

So, if you are responsible for digital transformation, ask yourself am I creating a legacy that will have changed the way my organisation changes. 

Some of the other points.

There was a  really clear summary of some of the trends and options for the large banks of the future. At present, challengers are just “copying” and the cost of customer  acquisition is high. Real disruption is about companies (e.g. TransferWise) taking part of a process and “nicking” that business.
The problem with digital take up isn’t our digital abilities it’s our financial ability. Ernst and Young data data suggest when compared,  50% of us say we are comfortably digitally savvy, whereas only 32% of us consider ourselves financially savvy. 
Four possible business models for the large bank of the future. The companies in brackets are comparative organisations who have done similar things in different sectors:

1. Leverage data (Tesco, Strava)
2. Reinvigorate traditional (John Lewis)

3. Provide infrastructure (Open reach)

4. Build a platform (trip advisor)

In conclusion

Thanks you RBI for a stimulating couple of days, there are some amazing things happening in the sector. The future is about more technology, we can’t imagine, delivering services  we haven’t thought of yet through an ever increasing array of devices and channels. So, focus on changing the way you change if you want to be part of it.

EU In or Out – I’m not making the decision for me, but for the generations that follow.

Since Cameron negotiated the new arrangements with the EU there has been a constant stream of arguments for and against staying in the EU and as on 23rd of June I have to play my small part in whether we stay or go I decided I should at least try and understand the arguments on both sides.

This is not a short term decision. When my parents voted in 1974 their decision set the direction for the next 40 years. We can probably divide the key areas into  the economy, immigration and self determination which seem to be covered so much by the media, but we should add defence, security an aging population and the environment to the list – and I am sure there are others. 

Many of the arguments are applicable only to the moment we are in and I think to make the right decision we need to look at the arguments with greater long term implications – those that will affect Britain over the next 50 years, not the next 5.

The evidence on the economy, immigration and self-determination seem to have no conclusive evidence one way or the other – indeed even the facts seems to be unclear. For example, some camps say that being in the EU costs Britain £8bn per annum in contributions whilst others say it is only £5.7bn when you net off money we get back in terms of regional development or direct grants. This is large number, but Britain spends $250bn on welfare alone so whether it is £5bn or £8bn is largely irrelevant. The majority of this, around 35% of UK government spending pays for our pensions. A small fraction goes to unemployment benefit.

No one is suggesting we can exist as an isolated Island, so the question is really will we have more effective, profitable relationships with EU and the rest of the world inside or outside the EU. Any argument about the economy will fundamentally depend on where were are in the cycle – there will be good times to be in the EU and good times not to be, however as India and China come to dominate the world economy, I’d rather be part of a larger negotiating block than going it alone against economies with 2bn people – we’d just be too small to matter.

With immigration any point of view based on “we have, you don’t therefore you can’t come in” over the long term will only  build elitism, isolation and resentment and I can’t see how it could be sustained. I hear a Muslim on radio 4 say – “When God made man, he didn’t say you live there and you live there”. The arguments for protecting borders can be applied at any level and seem to feed into a human selfishness to keep what we have. As a southerner who emigrated to Yorkshire I am grateful there were no border controls – although I did experience southern xenephobia in my teenage years. Most people would think this point of view as ridiculous – so why then does it suddenly become acceptable when we consider the arbitrary national borders. Furthermore, it seems to me we are an Island that has always benefited from our willingness to adopt a multi-cultural approach, integrate it into our society and grow as a result – yes this is never without pain – no change is but resisting such a change is far more damaging.

 The real long term arguments are then our aging population and the environment. As part of the EU at least part of our silver surfing generation can go and spend their years waiting for God on the Costa Del Sol – reducing the burden on the UK. Immigration, used effectively can help rebalance the population. Rather than focusing on how we keep people out we should be looking at how those that come add value to the economy. 

In many key areas we are simply not independent – we import around 32% of our food and 60% of the fuel we need to generate electicity and I would attest strength in numbers and purchasing power are key here. 

Finally, the environment is undoubtedly the biggest long term factor affecting humanity. This is a global problem not a Bristish one and will require global solutions. 

We might be able to withdraw from he EU, but, despite being an island we cannot withdraw from the world. It seems to me that we are wasting valuable resources discussing points that are largely irrelevant in the longer term. We should be working on the solution, not isolating ourselves from short term problems. 

So, having started this article not really sure which way to go I have ended it on the “in” side. Not because I  believe it is economically better, but because there are issues that matter far more to our children’s future we should be spending our time on.


Finovate day 2 – Rise of the machines 


As I glanced round the auditorium on day 2 of Finovate, one thing struck me. White, male 40 something. This wasn’t me getting hit because I’d made a bad joke it was the make up of the audience. Women were low in number and a represenative sample of the diverse cultures that make up this fair isle even more scarcely represented. Similarly, the presenters largely fell into the 20-50, white male category. 

I fear that if the people making the tech don’t represent society, the results won’t represent their needs any better. There may be no evidence to support this one way or another, but it’s certainly a stark point to consider. 

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning call it what you will but intelligent algorithms cropped up in many of the presentations. Predictive analytics to help the end consumer manage their money, investment management strategies, fraud prevention and virtual assistants to name a few. 

If any of us are under the delusion that machines cannot replace humans in jobs we once thought reserved for us – complex decision making, cusotmer service, for example – think again. We are arguably facing a new industrial revolution that could have the same impact as the introduction of steam power two hundred years ago. 

When  Turing defined a test for intelligence in 1950 he framed it in terms of being able to create a computer that was indistinguishable from a person. Many of todays technologies perform tasks way beyond any human, not just in computational scale as they have always done,  but also in terms of analytical complexity. 

I can say to my phone “Please transfer some money to my son” and it will ask me “how much”, or tell it I have had my wallet  stolen in Rome (in fact their should be a speed dial for this) and in a few minutes, the system will have asked me if I’m ok, told me it’s sorry for what happened, understand where I am, have cancelled my cards and shippped new ones. 

These technologies are starting to fulfil my wish for tools that make my life better, not just my banks cheaper and there were some nice examples of technologies looking forward at predicted financial activity and warning me if I didn’t have enough money and suggesting how I can better organise my limited resources. 

Marketing has traditionally been the least automated of business functions – maybe not for much longer. I have wondered for a couple of years how it will evolve as communications become more personalised, more data is available to drive individualisation, but we are still limited to POH’s (plain old humans) writing marketing material. I saw a demo of technology generating copy – specifically subject lines for emails, automatically, based on limited inforation about the topic. It generated multiple variants, from which it’s only a small step to deploy these and begin to learn what works best and refine it in real-time.

Conversely, another area of technology that saw a of outings on the stage was virtual meetings – connecting customers to real humans by video along with on-screen documentation to help applying for a mortgage or finalising a loan. A few years ago this just wouldn’t have been practical. High speed internet and developing web browser capabilites make feature rich interactive experiences easy to create and deploy.
I could purchase a few tools from Finovate and I’d have  an advanced, mobile enabled bank, with voice driven interaction, intelligent personal finance and investment management with a robot marketing department. None of the legacy technology, scalability or people issues faced by high street brands. Only one problem, there is probably a swathe of paper forms to fill in to get a banking license… where’s my pen. 

For me as a customer, there are just too many decisions, I could spend my entire day, every day, optimising my pension, investments, utilities, car insurace, credit cards. What I really need is a virtual assistant that will deal with all the bots, IVRs and web forms from the companies I deal with and just sort it.  

Maybe in 5 years time we won’t care how many women, men, ethnic minorties or any other division of society  there will be at Finovate – my AI will be watching your AI present and making decisions whether to invest, purchase or pass onto the next one whilst I sip my  mojito from the balcony of the hotel . 

Thanks to all the presenters last week for making it a great couple of days and insipiring me to think harder about how we use all the great technology that is being invented.