Lollipop Man, Girl Power, the Sensei and Food ATMs

HTNW is back after a week off – spent last weekend hanging out with my son at  Massanutten , VA. Interesting fact – Massanutten, incidentally is neither a city, town or a village – it’s actually an example of a CDP (Census Designated Place). In short, a classification created for a concentration of population defined by the United States Census Bureau for statistical purposes only. Other more famous examples – Hershey, PA and Seneca Falls, NY. What would be even more interesting to the data geeks – my blog site’s spell check did not recognize Massanutten but did recognize Seneca Falls.

This week’s edition covers the usual macro watch on economy, markets and regulation. We also cover design thinking, shocking revelations about QWERTY and the role of diversification in moving technology and financial services forward. And finally, a little leadership self-introspection ….

Interest Rates and Deregulation…

Interest Rate Hike – as expected, the interest rate hike happened with promise of further hikes. By the way, this is the first time that we have hit 2% since the 2008 crisis. Credit card users – beware! The daily APR compounding got a little nastier..

Last week focused on how the pieces were in place for Volcker 2.0 and scaling back the post-crisis regulatory measures.

  1. With the Crapo bill signed and pressed into effect – the threshold for big banks (read, “enhanced supervision”) now has gone up to $250 bn.
  2. CFTC cleared a proposal to allow financial, energy and agricultural companies to avoid registering as swap dealers (read, “enhanced supervision”), providing a reprieve to firms that use swaps to hedge risks.

My professor of economics in college used to stress on the importance of being able to identify what he called the “ebbs and (responding) flows” of the market. While the shifts are small, we may be edging back towards a pre-crisis market dynamics and a regulatory framework. What will be interesting to watch is the role technology plays in ensuring checks and balances to prevent another crisis without adding overheads to market efficiencies.

….and while we talk about going back to a 2008 market scenario – what will change is the increased commitment to create a more diverse Wall Street. My colleague, Shruti Parekh forwarded me this article which is worth sharing.  It talks about Goldman Sach’s goal to have women make up half of it’s global workforce, starting with new analysts by 2021.

Design Thinking – Be Obsessed

I was recently asked by a reader of HTNW about my “obsession” with Design Thinking and relevance of “old-school” industries to what the Fintech world.  I remember being challenged by my boss, Vishnu Dusad at Nucleus Software to think about comparing software process efficiency to the pit crew at a Formula One track.  At the time, the average pit stop timing was around 5 seconds, the current benchmark is less than 2 seconds. By the way, if you want to know what a Lollipop man does in F1 – watch this great video  of the crew at work.

Consider this – despite all the improvements in technology and process, can we really say that we are delivering technology and financial products 2.5X times faster over the last 10 years? Doubtful….and that brings forth the need to constantly thinking about (the oft-used but seldom delivered) value and efficiency in each of our actions. And hence, my obsession…

This week it’s the seemingly trivial but incredibly thoughtful design around the Icebreakers cool mint. Notice the ability to shake out either a single(“One”) or multiple (“Many”) mints. That obsession with customer experience is a must for the Fintech industry…


Data Science in Financial Industries

Continuing on the themes of diversification and design thinking , I am reading Scott Hartman’s book “The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World”.  Increasingly, we find enhanced contribution of the fuzzy (liberal arts) on key business and technology ideas. I would almost argue that the greatest impact of software advancement has been breaking down the barriers (remember those forbidding mainframe and UNIX screens) that stopped talented people from other areas participating in technology. Easy to configure tools and programs and wider access of talent has made it possible for everyone to come up with ideas and implement these.

I have always found it extremely stimulating to be involved in any form of liberal arts not just for the sheer joy it provides but also I find it helpful to constantly enhance my ability to perform conceptual thinking, which I firmly believe is a must-have for any leader.

Adobe Sensei – I was fortunate to attend a great session by the Adobe team on the Adobe Marketing Cloud for Financial services. I was excited to learn about their services and especially, their unified artificial intelligence offering – Sensei.

I look forward to working with Greg Rust from Adobe and his team on how these can be applied to solve challenges in the banking space. The modern day marketing is not just about the 360 degree customer view and micro-segmentation. It’s about extending it to the 5th dimension – the ability to reach out and partner with your clients not just at the point of sale, but to traverse the entire journey of need creation and fulfillment with them.

Blast from the Past


Recently at Charleston, I found myself sitting next to two keyboard enthusiasts, and learnt about the launch of the KALQ keyboard – apparently the beginning of the end for QWERTY.

There is an interesting theory that the QWERTY was designed to deliberately slow down typists – apparently typewriting machine technology could not keep up with fast typists and would often breakdown. This was done by keeping the commonly used combinations as far as possible.

Think about it – the keyboard (that piece of instrument on which you spend majority of your digital life on could have been actually designed with the specific goal of in-efficiency). Here’s a picture of the patent for QWERTY and the full article



…Nowhere in Particular

While I was enthused by the increasing role of women in Wall Street, it would be amiss of me not to mention another breakthrough. And while this one is on the other side of the spectrum and the world – it’s equally important. Saudi Arabia issued a driver’s license to Esraa Albuti, an Executive Director at Ernst & Young. Esraa becomes one of the first women in Saudi to have a driver’s license.

I’m extremely proud of the initiative the Indian government has launched to eradicate use of un-necessary plastic products.  The state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located has already banned use of specific plastic products.


The concept of wasting food is a pet peeve and one that is widespread in America. How to bridge the gap between excess food and providing nourishment for the hungry is a tricky and yet unsolved problem. It was great reading about Asif Ahmed and his concept of Food ATM in India. Power to these innovators…

Thought of the week

In the past week, I spent significant time on mentoring and one-on-one sessions. Meeting with a cross section of team members across specialization, location and experience – I found it interesting how the expectations from a leader varied. And it got me thinking, do we spend enough time outlining our expectations from our own self? How do we perceive ourselves as leaders?
An enabler? If so, are we truly able to spend time enabling the team to perform at their best? Do we actually (still) understand the problems at the ground level? 
A problem solver ? Do we actually solve the team’s challenges or harbor an illusion of being a solver by fixing the easy problems? Are we ready to take on the big, hairy challenges – and sometimes concede failure in front of our teams or do we fix problems by numbers and probability?
A mentor – are you able to think beyond short term project and organizational goals? And do you truly care about their success more than organizational needs when these are at conflict?
It got me thinking that while reconciliation of expectations from a leader and what’s realistic may be hard to do – has that also reduced the bar we set for ourselves? Do we over-buffer expectations from ourselves – is our marginal utility across each ladder of the corporate world diminishing?

And as always, Citius, Altius, Fortius!

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