Wall Street sees technology in its future

April 30, 2014

Disruptive financial technology was the topic for the “Future of Wall Street”event at the Milken Institute Global Conference. The panel was moderated by Robert Shafir, head of private banking and wealth management and CEO of the Americas region at Credit Suisse.

Richard Daly, president and CEO of Broadridge Financial Solutions, spoke on the gap between federal regulatory goals and actual implementation. Daly expressed concern that technology is rarely considered in the regulatory process. Technology adopted and used throughout the financial services industry will provide a better picture of the overall risk and will allow the industry to analyze mass amounts of data to anticipate and protect against potential risks to the system.

Wallstreet sees tech2

On the cybersecurity front, Ruth Porat, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley, said businesses must come together to address the threat of spies, thieves and hackers as it poses a “broad problem” to such an interconnected industry. Smaller entities could be more at risk than larger financial institutions that are able to allocate substantial resources to safeguarding their own networks. The problem, as Porat explained, is that attacks could come from anywhere, and weak links in the system could still pose a threat to larger institutions, no matter how secure.

Bob Diamond, founder and CEO of Atlas Merchant Capital, provided more of a global perspective on the promise of technology in emerging markets. He discussed the development and potential of cloud-based services and the role financial technology can play in developing nations “where so many people are underbanked.”

The panel also focused on the Dodd-Frank Act and discussed how the industry will evolve under all the regulatory changes taking place. Former Sen. Chris Dodd, an author of the law and now chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said time will tell whether Dodd-Frank accomplishes what it was originally intended to do. He said that changes will be made to the law due to the overall size of the bill, but remained adamant that the U.S. should take the lead in implementing regulations in response to the financial crisis as “a lot of the problems were created here.”

Pressed on what he would have done differently in crafting the act, the former senator said he would have consolidated the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, in addition to addressing housing finance reform and bankruptcy laws.

Porat pointed out the importance of the central clearing provisions for financial derivatives under Dodd-Frank, though expressing concern that more risk is moving to clearinghouses, some of which have governance and risk issues themselves. Three other areas of concern listed by Porat were products moving to the shadow-banking sector, the dramatic growth of student lending, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Diamond said European banks “haven’t shown much” in increasing capital reserves and deleveraging. It could take a number of years to restructure European Union banks before “we see them in the same position as U.S. banks,” he said.

On the evolution of the finance industry, Tom Milroy, CEO of BMO Capital Markets, said the sector “will change moderately” as firms will adopt differentiating business models in response to financial regulation. Banks will focus more on reducing costs and determining where to allocate capital given the current environment. Banks need to ensure they’re compliant with the letter and spirit of the regulations, he said, to prevent damage to the reputation of the bank and the industry as a whole, he said.