3 Key Takeaways from ISITC 24th Annual Securities Operations Summit

By Lisa Iagatta, Vice Chair, ISITC

This year’s Annual Securities Operations Summit in Boston, now in its 24th year, gathered leading financial services and operations professionals from many of the world’s largest firms for three days of discussion and collaboration on industry pain points. We were privileged to hear from top executives and industry thought leaders on hot topics such as AI, blockchain, big data and the whirlwind in Washington, among many others, during our timely discussions. We are very pleased with the audience feedback from this year’s event and our attendees’ efforts to move the industry forward.

As Emcee for the event, I had the opportunity to listen to the fantastic keynote presentations and panel sessions. Throughout the day, after collaborating with others in attendance, the following three takeaways stood out to me, which capture the over-arching and important themes from this year’s conference:

1.     Agility is more important than ever

In the closing keynote address, Cheryl Nash, President of Investment Services at Fiserv, said, “If you’re coming into the office every day and are doing the same things you were doing two years ago, you’re doing something wrong.” A key focus of this year’s meeting, and the purpose of ISITC, is to push professionals to evolve alongside – not against – the new technology developments impacting our industry as disruption will only continue to accelerate as time goes on.

Dan Houlihan, EVP and Head of Global Fund Services at Northern Trust, echoed this notion in his presentation “Out of the Lab and Into the Business” where he discussed how his company is evolving by integrating the lessons learned from their innovation labs into operational tactics. Houlihan shared that applying this new knowledge and learnings to their business strategy has allowed his team to become more agile.

2.     Focus on the problem, not the solution

Kevin Johnson, Head of Innotribe at SWIFT, dispelled two innovation myths from the business world during his “Think Like a Startup” Innotribe workshop. The popular sayings “focus on the solution, not the problem” and “build it and they will come” are not sound approaches to adapting and innovating in business. Instead, Kevin encouraged attendees to turn that paradigm on its head and put the business problem at the forefront of innovation projects. This allows you to be flexible and tackle new challenges and opportunities as they arise.

One of the more powerful anecdotes Kevin shared was how Tesla has evolved its business model and marketing throughout the years. The company, which started out as an electric car manufacturer, now calls itself a power company. They learned that building electric cars made them experts on batteries and power distribution and are now taking that knowledge and applying it to bring value to a whole range of power and storage problems. It was an excellent example of how focusing on the problem (energy storage) allowed the company to capitalize on new industry opportunities.

3.     Data is the new currency

Morning keynote speaker Michael McGovern, Head of Investor Services Fintech at BBH, said, “Data has become the new currency,” especially in what he called the “API economy” where APIs are the digital rails for data distribution and services. APIs are the new public face of the Internet, he noted, but if they’re not distributing high-quality data, they’re pointless.

The panelists on the “Is Big Data Dead?” panel emphasized the importance of having the right data for tools like machine learning as well. “If we don’t know what the data means and how to structure it, we can’t leverage big data and AI,” said John Bottega, EDM Council. Both sessions demonstrated that while new technology can dramatically change the way our industry approaches operations, human touch and intelligence is still needed to capitalize on these technologies’ full potential. Machine learning won’t fix your data problem, but standardization can definitely lend a hand in data management. 

We’d like to thank all of our keynote speakers, panelists, and moderators for their contribution to the summit’s success. We’d also like to extend our gratitude towards all who attended the event for their participation and valuable insights. We’re grateful to have such innovative and strong minds at the table and hope you left feeling inspired to embrace change and take action at your organizations. We are looking forward to seeing how our ISITC family leverages this year’s insights to better our industry.