Machine Learning, Capgemini and Talent Acquisition: A Week in Review

John considers some of last week’s top BST stories, including some of ETAS 2016’s best panel discussions.

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John looks at some of the top Buy-Side Technology news items from last week, including discussions around machine learning and talent acquisition at ETAS, and Capgemini’s new FinTech program.

One of the strongest panels at this year's European Trading Architecture Summit focused on the potential and application of machine learning and artificial intelligence, helped along by the moderating skills of yours truly.

To be honest, it's tricky to keep up with the nuances of what the panel is discussing for the duration while also lining up the next question, tracking the questions coming in from the audience should something relevant appear, and keeping an eye on the clock.

But the prevalent theme was that of a clash between machines and man. Plenty of questions from the audience on this meant that the inevitable Terminator reference was made but the panel members were clear that this is not about people losing jobs to computers, and they dampened concerns around risk.

It is quite remarkable that technology has progressed to this point so quickly, yet there is still some ways to go before machine learning is more widely adopted. 

Finding the right level of technological talent is a tricky business for the buy side. There's no X Factor or America's Next Top Middle-Office Processing Prodigy (although I kind of which there was). Instead, asset managers have to compete with both their institutional banking rivals and the wider technology industry, which includes small-time players like Google and Facebook.

The C-level panel at ETAS took the view that the industry needs to be open to new ideas and embrace innovation; that sounds fine to me, but it's also something of a cop-out.

The buy-side faces a much harder challenge, in my opinion, than the sell-side when it comes to luring the best and brightest talent. The afternoon's keynote speaker, Joerg Guenther, CTO EMEA at Northern Trust, gave a glimpse at how the bank is fostering new ideas through its innovation lab and accelerator program. Very few asset managers are in a position to invest in such a way, so the answer might be to simply offer those talented young people more money to switch sides. It works in sports.

One firm that is taking steps to foster new technologies is consultancy Capgemini, which last week launched a new accelerator program for financial technology startups.

Aiming to use its existing integration skills to "fast track" new technologies for clients, the program covers the investment lifecycle and clusters groups of start-ups with like-minded objectives.

Capgemini is not the first firm of its kind of start a program like this and it won't be the last; the differentiating factor will be if it is still running this time next year. There's always a risk involved in bringing new technologies to market and firms in the industry are more demanding than ever. The real test here is one of time.

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