Imagining 25 years from now is a great way to challenge our thinking and prepare for the milestones we may expect three, five, 10 years ahead in our strategic plans. In 2044, I strongly believe that digital wealth won’t be something we talk about, it will be a given, and legacy platforms and high-friction processes will be obsolete. We will live in an age where everything is real-time, ergonomic experiences will make life easier, and everything that can be automated, will be. The implications for our industry, clients and advisors are huge and should influence how we think about priorities today.
Consumers already prefer to be served on demand—speed and convenience are table stakes especially with the younger generation. For financial services, real time means the end of batch processing, multi-day and overnight processes, and even same-day settlement. To achieve real-time service levels, we will have a new architecture for our industry’s foundational systems. Inefficient processes, like ACH, ACAT and anything paper-based, will finally be eradicated, allowing financial transactions to be instantaneous. The benefits to financial firms and their clients will include speed and flexibility, as well as radically improved costs.
The smartphone or smart device is an example of ergonomic, or human-centered, design that is still evolving. The 25 separate apps on my cell phone will be just as funny to the 2044 consumer as DVDs, cassettes and boom boxes are to people today. In 25 years, the reimagined smartphone will be 100 percent connected between functions, with underlying data and information integrated between applications. Instead of looking up a pizza shop, ordering on its app, making payment and arranging delivery via Uber Eats, some version of one click or voice ordering will exist that takes care of everything in a connected fashion. Through their smart devices, consumers’ needs will converge, and this will reshape how we think about delivering financial and non-financial products and services.
It helps to look back to see forward. I remember the early 1990s when the first algorithmic traders entered the industry. They were a small, intensely quantitative group of people that were initially discounted by the traditional trading culture. Over time, algorithmic trading took market share and today accounts for about 50 percent of trading volume. Other aspects of our industry—anything that is essentially math-based—are ripe for automation. As this happens, some business models and jobs will be displaced.
However, there is a bright side to the story. For instance, 50 percent of trades are still done by humans, not computers. Maybe someday Amazon will make Alexa a great personal financial assistant for everyday financial needs. Still, Alexa can’t replace human emotion, compassion, insight and judgment when it comes to relationships between advisors and clients. In 2044, our industry will be highly automated, real-time and technologically connected with the nexus of the client experience in the hands of clients (literally) on their smart devices. On the other hand, human connection—advice, guidance, coaching and support—will need to be reserved for the high-value conversations and moments of truth where technology falls short.
Our work ahead is about technology, and it’s about people, and we need to increase the focus and urgency across our industry to be prepared for 2044. When change is upon you, and you can identify where it’s headed, it’s time to get on board.
William Capuzzi is the CEO of Apex Clearing