Here, There, and Nowhere in Particular #14

Interest Rate, Regs and Tech

Life after LIBOR – I briefly touched upon the phasing out of LIBOR and the impact on the financial ecosystem in last week’s post.  The Wall Street Journal estimates there is $170 trillion in outstanding LIBOR-based swap contracts. In addition, the rate is referenced in several trillion dollars of corporate loans, floating-rate mortgages, floating-rate notes and securitized products. 

Read this article on Bloomberg which talks about the comparative merits and demerits of the subjectivity that goes into determining LIBOR (unlike SOFR which is determined by the bank operations). The article’s hypothesis on the increased risk of volatility with SOFR is definitely worth a read.

Members and Exchanges – Another development this week, the Member’s Exchange appointed Jonathan Kellner (a veteran of brokerage Instinet) to lead the U.S. stock exchange that some of Wall Street’s biggest traders are building. These include Citadel, UBS, Morgan Stanley and BAML. Given that these firms own a major percentage of total volume in the world’s largest stock market, the creation of this exchange creates a very credible challenge for New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc., the nation’s three dominant incumbents.

Regulatory Sandbox – Talk about credible! Here’s something we can all get behind – Wyoming became the second state in the U.S. after Arizona to open up a regulatory sandbox for testing out innovative financial products including but not limited to crypto-currency and blockchain based solutions. I’m enthused by these movements which will allow the United States to foster innovation and growth. These reg sandbox have been in place for a number of years at U.K., Singapore,and UAE. In fact, Policy Pal – an AI based solution to digitize and manage insurance contracts – was one of the first graduates from Singapore’s MAS sandbox.

 Data Visualization


Check out this excellent piece providing strong data visualization being leveraged for data with multiple dimensions. 

It’s fun read looking at schedules for some world’s greatest creative people. The abysmal  absence of exercise (dark blue) apart, the percentage of time spent on honing their craft (orange), despite day jobs (green) and other day-to-day activities (yellow) fascinated me. Of course, they did not spend as much time on their blogs!

Read the piece to look at the different visualization concepts. The graph that combines depth of ocean and tallest human built structures will make you want to  both dive deep and climb high. 

The world’s next Oligopoly

Talking of climbing high – is it right to think of google search as a software anymore? How is the Google search any different from electricity or a bus service or even depository services provided by a bank? That is the basis of Sen. Warren’s argument as she pushes for extended and more structured regulation for Big Tech, i.e. treating critical software services as a public utility.

Meanwhile, Google’s cousins from Crystal City, VA and no longer from Long Island – were busy acquiring the Yes Network and (surprisingly?) beating all comers to the production rights for Lord of the Rings. Big Tech taking over Hollywood?

On a related note, for all of us who thought that Big TECH was in trouble, here’s a data face to chew on – Facebook delivered its best-ever earnings in its most recent quarter, showing investors that advertisers continued to flock to the platform despite public scrutiny over how it handles users’ privacy. 

Hence my take on the 2036 Olympics logo:

Death of Nations

Blast from the Past

Here’s the big quotes from tech events this week, “that” year….

“Mr. Watson come here I want you.” – Mr. Bell to Mr. Watson, 1876

“I invented the Internet.”  – Mr. Gore to the world, 1999

…For a Fistful of Dollars (Or a Bit More)

If Al Gore invented the internet, I invented real estate. Okay, I did’nt but last week I did talk about some worthy real estate options if you have a few $$ lying about. This week’s theme – Space Travel!!!

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin reportedly plans to start selling $200,000 to $300,000 tickets in 2019 to send tourists on 11-minute suborbital space flights. And Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has tickets to space for about $250,000 each.

And SpaceX recently announced billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will be its first customer for a private space flight around the moon – but the cost has not been revealed.

Quote of the Week

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.

*Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged*

And as always, Citius, Altius, Fortius!!

Here, There, and Nowhere in Particular #13

HTNW is back after a hiatus forced by travel and work pressure. I wanted to thank each one of you who took the time out to remind me that they missed HTNW – meant a lot to me. Here’s the first 2019 version with the usual sections on finance, technology, “fintech” and all the other rambling, unstructured thoughts.

Interest Rate, Regs and Tech

Life after LIBOR a key project in 2019 for every organization has to be understanding the current exposure to LIBOR . Organizations must form an consolidated impact assessment covering investments, hedging, borrowing as well as derivatives. On the financial services sector, almost a third of the balance sheet is linked to the Libor. Firms must make the necessary investments in data discovery & technology to understand the size of the challenge before closing on strategy for this industry changing shift.

Consolidated Audit Trails The big news from last week was the announcement of FINRA as the plan processor for the CAT (Consolidated Audit Trails) project. It will be interesting to watch how the drama around this initiative unfolds. And while it was interesting to read a recent online poll where 38% of respondents believed the border wall would complete before the Consolidated Audit Trail launched, we believe that the combined regulatory ecosystem is on a 4th quarter two minute no-huddle drill to launch the program (well, maybe scratch the no-huddle on that sentence…).

Smaller Community BanksI came across an interesting fact. Did you know 4,600 U.S. banks (assets < $1 billion) hold 6.6% of all bank assets down from 31.5% in the 1980’s. And the single biggest stated reason? The high end tech expectations from these smaller players more in line with the larger players are hard to deliver for smaller banks. The recent press release around BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. merger cited the need to spend more on technology to compete with the larger banks as the biggest factor.

Here’s my one blue sky over the top Utopian thought and while it’s not original, it’s interesting on why modern day enterprises continue to be organized into task focused units as opposed to outcome focused units.  If technology is either the problem or the resolution to the above changes, should tech teams not be consolidated with business/HR/compliance to engage in outcome based solutions imbibing the principles of Agile and cross functional teams. Yes, a naive point of view but yet, one worth thinking….and on the other side of the lens, I was having a conversation with my colleague Jeff Zibluk on why business has not adopted a more scrum based, Agile framework in it’s day to day operations. An area for research and discussion… 

Blast from the Past

This one comes from the vault. On this very day, 22 years ago – Bill Gates admits Microsoft’s contracts bar Internet content providers from promoting Netscape’s browser. Coincidentally, 11 years later (2008) and almost to the day, America Online discontinued Netscape. And while I’m sure most browser geeks know this, the baseline code of Mozilla Firefox is built on Netscape.

A tech version of Obi Wan as the spirit guide living on….(yep, am reaching but it’s been a while since I added a Star Wars reference).

Data & Tech – Jekyll & Hide

Inspired by my recent viewing of Black Mirror, introducing this section on the good, bad and the downright ugly of the technology and data driven world we live in.

Stalker Alert!! Do you remember all the places you have ever visited? Probably not, but guess who remembers – each place, cataloged with day & time. Your iPhone! Read on – if you want to know.

And here’s some original iPhone stalker poetry…

I’m your shadow in the shade and the light,
following you everywhere you go and don’t,
I always travels with you watching and learning,
in the sun, rain, wind, mud and grime.

I recently viewed a very disturbing  episode on Black Mirror where your Social Media likability score determined every single action including entry into events, flight booking preference and your engagement with your social circle. As someone who moved to the US a few years ago, and suffered through the thin credit file problem, the I find the subject of the prevalent (and arguably, pervasive) nature of objective scoring interesting. What further piqued my interest – the episode was more real than we think. Here’s a piece on how millions in China were barred from using trains due to their poor social credit score.

Scott Galloway did a recent retrospection on some of his 2018 predictions and launched his 2019 tech predictions. A must read….

The world’s next Oligopoly

Section covers news and opinions on Big 4 Tech Firms (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon)

New grocery stores – mere news on WSJ that Amazon was planning to open a chain of new grocery stores caused Wallmart and Kroger shares fell significantly. Can’t make up your mind on whether to buy Amazon or NewsCorp.? 

If you live in Austin, Baltimore, Dallas, LA, San Diego, Oakland, San Antonio, Seattle, San Jose or Scottsdale, open up your Google maps – the app is now integrated with Lime options. Can’t wait for Lime to be in NYC – the classic case of the best of times places and the worst of times  places.

The supply chain as the world knows it will rapidly change with the Big 4 taking over branding, sales, distribution and corporate management over the next few years. There already are reports that Samsung is in talks with Apple on supplying fold-able display samples for future iPhones. What does that say about the future of Galaxy?

Musings on Leaderships

During the last few weeks, we have been working on holding our 11 year old accountable to this responsibilities at home, in school and to people. While it has not been the easiest journey,  I felt we had a breakthrough a couple of weeks ago – and this was driven by defining the end goal of the constant journey that is accountability. And that goal is not accountability for tasks, and even outcomes – to make someone accountable to reach their potential. 

Here’s a great read on what triggered the thought process…

The ability to adapt this approach at the corporate level is definitely not easy but I believe the starting point is engaging in a meaningful conversation of where we see our team member’s potential – letting them know how amazing you think they can be, and help them define an accountability model built around potential realization, not projects, not tasks or even outcomes. It’s an idea worth thinking through and one I actively plan to work on with my team. As always, am open to sharing notes, and ideas.

Recommendation of the Week

If you are in NYC, try out this amazing cocktail bar – Dear Irving Gramercy. Build on Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris with time travel as a theme, each of the 4 rooms are based on a different era. Another fun part – you get to press a buzzer every time you need to order a cocktail….

Knowledge by the kilo (I found this hilarious sale sign in Delhi)


What was amusing – underneath the publication of known writers like Crichton, I found a veritable treasure including a Romanian book on best practices while making tea.

…for a Fistful of Dollars

Last weekend , I immersed myself into a binge watch of Agatha’s Christie’s Poirot (only the 5th time in the last 10 years). I was stuck by how many of the plots revolved around a distant uncle in Australia leaving someone a fortune.  And that inspired this section on how if you came into some unexpected good fortune, suggestions on spending the money. 

This week the theme is real estate – and your choices are Michael Jackson’s Neverland at $31 million. No, it’s only expensive if you don’t know about the 70% discount.

Too steep? Try Soros’ $22.5mn Hampton’s home which is currently in the market.

Citius, Altius, Fortius!!

Here,There,Nowhere in Particular #12

As promised, the gimmicky marketing keywords have been eschewed from the blog title.

Interest Rate and Housing Bubble

A couple of good reads on the “free money” created by low interest rates and impact on real estate pricing. The article theorizes that 27% of the actual 31% increase in real estate prices is caused by the yield curve compression.

A follow up article discussing the potential housing bubble building up. A great graphic on the build up of real estate prices.


And while on the subject, here’s another gem from Anthony Carfang’s timeline on the 2008 crisis – this piece is a look at how the indices, key stocks impacted and interest rates stood during the turbulent 2008 as compared to now.

Digitization – Productivity or Connectivity

During the week, I had an opportunity to interact with several members of a back office operations group for a large bank. The one overarching theme through several questions was the potential loss of jobs due to greater digitization and automation in the financial services space. While the short term impact on the more tactical jobs cannot be denied, we all need to do a better job on education around the job creation opportunities that digitization brings in.

Digitization leads to an enhanced connectivity between actors and ideas creating an unique market place. While digitization does indeed create productivity gains and efficiencies, the biggest benefit is the proliferation of ideas and undiscovered product combinations in this new age market place.

The word connectivity or market place or network is of special significance, because densely connected systems will always lead to greater innovation as compared to one sparsely connected. The enhanced 24 hour mobile connectivity has led to amazing products like online retail, segmented marketing and on-demand cabs, leading to millions of jobs.

Here’s a U-curve on the job groups across the American economy.


Digitization – The Crit

And here’s the crit – too often, we come across digital architects and blue sky thinking strategists talking about wide, all encompassing enterprise wide changes in the matter of a few months. While the intent and long term goal makes sense and is undoubtedly the way forward, creating collaboration and non-didactic education forums is equally important to creating an inclusive environment of innovation and change.

Regulatory Platform – It was also a momentous week for my team as our work on a critical regulatory marketing infrastructure went live this week. A product of multiple iterations of inspired thinking and just good old fashioned grind.

Congratulations to this wonderful, talented team!!

Sneaky Decentralization

While going through news on Amazon’s decision to open big centers in Crystal City and Long Island, I was stuck by an interesting thought. How much has Big Tech contributed to this big divide that America is experiencing in the last decade.  Coincidentally, found an article on very similar lines on WSJ.

And this Big Tech divide is actually a global phenomenon – Christopher Mimms article   about the global backlash to Big Tech in countries like China and India which are increasingly putting their weight behind the Flipkart and Baidu & co. is the new battle.  I found the suggestion of Big Tech as an agent of neocolonialism  intriguing.

For folks following the burgeoning market place of data and technology, a key news piece would the Nielsen and Microsoft tie up coming right on the heels of Microsoft’s tie up with Walmart. Among other analytics, the platform will offer consumer diagnostics and the ability to measure media impact of marketing, branding and sales efforts.

Nowhere in Particular…

  1. I hope folks followed the world’s first AI newsreader 
  2. And on the topic of nowhere, here’s the island which disappeared
  3. Another disappearance – The rent-a-Cadillac experiment is shutting down
  4. Choosing between Cloudera and Hortonworks as your big data platform? ‘Tis the same
  5. This blockchain university in Crimea is teaching countries on how to leverage blockchain to evade US sanctions.


A mentor gave me pause when he asked me to do a detailed causal analysis on the other person’s perspective during a frustrating and long drawn out engagement. It was a fruitful exercise and caused me to –

…scratch out – “Obstinate”, “Not A Forward thinker”, “I,Me,Myself”

..and replace with

“We are starting at different points in the transformation journey”

“I don’t yet understand his challenges in the current environment”

As always “Citius, Altius, Fortius”….

RIP – Buzzwords

HTNW has been missing in action for the last 2 weeks. A heavy work and travel schedule is not exactly conducive to quality blogging time. However, an extended break does help in collecting a bucketful of ideas and thoughts for the blog.

The format for this week is a more rapid fire, staccato informational style.

Fed Interest rates and Stock market fire-sale – Markets in disarray, and while everyone I know is part of the fire-sale, it’s interesting to pause and think about whether this “correction” will be different from others. One key difference – the unknowns in terms of the impact of months of passive investment. Without the usual counter intuitive opportunistic buying  of active investment managers kicking in, the usual market dynamics and price brakes may be missing. Here’s an interesting read from active investment managers on the subject.

************************************************************************************The Big Four and Sneaky Centralization

Alphabet in Insurance Tech? No?

Google-Insurance Tech

Source: CB Insights


Blast from the Past

Ultra FICO – the big news on the credit scoring front was the launch of the ultra FICO. Essentially, Ultra FICO is an opt-in credit model that uses money market, checking and savings account to supplement your credit report. Harsh Sharma and I had co-authored an article in 2016 on the need for alternate credit scoring system. Here’s a piece from that article

….At least 64 million consumers in the United States do not have a FICO credit score, according to Experian. But, 10 million of these so-called “unscoreable” consumers are prime or near-prime consumers, while a large portion of the remaining consumers have either professional jobs or low liability levels. Their income distribution is also in line with consumers who do have a FICO credit score. Clearly, there is a need to determine creditworthiness outside of traditional models….

Also got me reminiscing about the time the article was drafted with inputs (over several beers) from Hans Godfrey, Dan McPheeters, Justin Wiseman, Pete Mills. This week also was the last week in Sapient for Hans – one of my mentors and a close friend. While I’m sad to see Hans go, I’m excited for him as he starts a new journey.


Design Thinking – Crit

I have been trying to make myself jargon free in my conversations with clients – and instead focusing on hard, tangible value me and my team can bring in.  Are you as sick of phrases like exclusive inclusiveness…?

My Gripe for this week – Tagging obvious common place solutions and using the word Design Thinking. Here’s a great video from Natasha Jen on Design Thinking – what is and what it is’nt?


The Big Apple

Nov 2nd is an exciting day for folks in NJ – PATH service on weekends re-opens between JSQ and 33rd. Traveling in to the city during the weekend has been an absolute horror.  Spending needless dollars on Uber did have a silver lining – got me intensely interested in the pros and cons of the different cab services. Here’s a graph of how they line up in terms of market shares.

Note to folks coming into Manhattan – install Via ($5 shared rides – covers most of the city). And an article covering the pros and cons for each


While on the subject (and while being stuck for 30 minutes outside Holland Tunnel), here’s the shareholder pattern for Uber and how it’s changed since inception.


…and while being stuck for 30 minutes on the way back, Uber’s latest valuation – $120 bn. (nope, it’s not a typo). Great article on Uber by Scott Galloway.


Innovation Labs

Does your organization run an innovation lab? How successful has it been – what have been the lessons learnt? On my to-do list is creating a LinkedIn group to put together the best minds across marketers, lawyers, technologists, data scientists and regulators to share lessons and the way forward. And the key question – how do you make innovation mainstream?

Here’s a great piece on successful innovation lab to production journey.

I also want to call out the excellent work done by David Poole, Robert Oliver and Adam Fitzgerald in keeping our organization informed about the latest in the FinTech space. This is one of several great pieces this team puts together for Sapient and our clients in the Financial services space.


The Big Apple Circus is in town – yes, that mysterious tent next to the Lincoln center houses the circus.Skillfully orchestrated by Mark Lonergan, it’s a wonderful show. The trapeze act at the end is amazing. I recommend some downtime from Fortnight and a trip to the circus.



A chance conversation with a friend, watching Anthony Hopkins superb enactment of King Lear and this hauntingly impactful sculpture has resulted in a very conscious attempt to do a better job of being in touch with my parents back in India.


Melancolie by Albert Gyorgy

App of the Week…

My app recommendation for the week – use that iPhone and make that call to your loved ones.

LIBOR No Mor’, Kavanaugh Inc. & Happy 10th to FinCrisis

Research this week was the hardest ever. It’s hard to ignore the Kavanaugh media juggernaut – every other news was pushed down. While it’s definitely an issue the nation needs to discuss and debate – it’s worrying how polarizing these debates are, and the almost besmirching notes of related social media discussions.  Gloating, Slander and Hatred…Not a great experience by any standards…

On a different but equally disturbing aspect –  the  impact of this media frenzy on the economy. Approx. cost of this media onslaught on business (hours lost)? Upwards of $9 billion….

LIBOR no mor’?

I got an opportunity to spend a couple of days at the SIFMA conference in D.C.  The hottest topic under discussion LIBOR no mor’ (I coined that catchy phase by the way) –  for the longest time, LIBOR has been used as to reflect the cost at which large, globally active banks can borrow on an unsecured basis in the wholesale markets. However, the rapidly  dwindling amount of unsecured borrowings post financial crisis now means LIBOR is increasingly based on expert judgement of panel banks.

The alternative – SOFR (Secured Overnight Financing Rate).

SOFR is based on transactions in the Treasury repurchase market, where banks and investors borrow or loan Treasuries overnight. A group of large banks, the Alternative Reference Rate Committee (ARRC), selected the rate as an alternative to the London inter-bank offered rate (Libor) in derivatives. It cited the depth and robustness of the market where around $800 billion is traded daily.

Here’s how the comparison goes over the last 3 years –


Sneaky Centralization

A few weeks ago, I wrote about another nail in the coffin of the free market with the takeover of GitHub. Next up – the camera company, Snap announced a tie up with Amazon to take on it’s rivals Instagram. yes, Instagram where the founders just left the company over alleged clashes with Zuckerberg over product changes (the Facebookification of Instagram starts now..).

Watch out for Instagram v/s Snapchat (Read: Facebook v/s Amazon).

Blast from the Past

Anthony Carfang at Treasury Stratergies has been running a fascinating timeline piece on the tenth anniversary of the 2008 crisis. A must read…

Here’s news articles in top financial publications from 10 years back. For all those who were still in their financial career infancy, pause for a second and imagine the impact of this non-stop onslaught on daily financial news. Jobs, futures, savings all wiped out in days…

News Headlines

Sep 21, 2008 – Morgan Stanley Becomes a Bank Holding Company
Sep 21, 2008 – Goldman Sachs Becomes a Bank Holding Company
Sep 29, 2008 – The Commonfund For Educational Institutions Freezes
Sep 30, 2008 – Belgium’s Dexia Bailed Out, Taps $50B From U.S. Fed
Oct 12, 2008 – Wachovia Bank Fails, Acquired by Wells Fargo
Oct 13, 2008 – Royal Bank of Scotland Failure and Bailout

This is a big reason why market infrastructure programs like MIFID, CAT (Consolidated Audit Trails) and CSS (Common Securitization Solutions) have to be at the forefront of the industry’s focus area. And equally, sophisticated regulatory technology needs to assist the financial institutions in the adoption without it being a debilitating experience.

I always look forward to hearing from folks on this topic – drop me a note to exchange ideas and thoughts.

Regulations and Technology

The dissemination of fake news and counter measures against these will be a long drawn out battle. While the countermeasures still are reactive, they are a step in the right direction – this week we had Facebook taking the lead on closing down 200 pages with fake news from a right wing party influencing the Brazilian elections.

I have always been a big advocate of Elon Musk as a visionary. Not always a fan of his gunslinger leadership. I stand firmly behind SEC’s decision – market sentiment cannot be misguided through irresponsible texts and tweets. Now, foreign policy on the other hand…

Personally, I think the smartest things Messers Brin & Page did was to bring in Eric Schmdit early into the Google story.

The Underdog – Fitzmagic

I have always enjoyed watching Ryan Fitzpatrick – and not for his game. Harvard educated, father of 6, awesome beard and probably one of the most unlikeliest football quarter backs.

I can’t help but feel sad the fairytale of Fitzmagic is winding down. When a designated journey man has his moment under the sun, it’s such a great feeling.

On a humorous note, the somebody just trademarked “Fitzmagic” and it was not Ryan. Dolphins rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick has apparently been always called Fitzmagic and he wants the title back.

Leadership Musings…

I had an interesting train conversation with a complete stranger who turned out to be a compliance officer at a financial institution. The gist of the conversation was on how people faked compliance by manipulating the data.

Data has significance when data reflects real business decisions on the ground. Following data is counter intuitive when  business decisions  are made to window dress and keep data within control limits.

More to follow on this but here’s a parting thought – when you view data to get an understanding of your organization and teams, are you in the process of managing them or are you being managed (by your teams)?

The Game Changers

Asia has constantly been the change agent when it comes to technology taking the lead on solving larger welfare state problems. It’s an area I follow closely – a smaller, more efficient technology driven government is the future.

Kudos to med-tech start-up Bloodstream for creating a drone based blood delivery system in India. What a fantastic idea – of course, the sustainability and economics are concerns, but a shout out for combining passion for technology and a burning desire to solve the world’s problems.

..and finally…

Had a great dinner at Hearth. While the food was outstanding – I absolutely loved the  lock box for cellphones. I’ve been responsible for and have experienced too many dinners being spoiled by the constant cell phone checking.

Checklist for romantic dinner – Candles  (check), Wine (check) and now cell lock box (check)….

Last weekend I caught the Billy Joel concert at the MSG. What a showman – I might have gone a tad overboard with my enthusiastic rendition of “We Did’nt Start the Fire!”.  Apologies to all those who experienced the earth equivalent of Vogon poetry.

Good times with @Ed Watson @Eva Pittas @Shana Solomon @Abhi Bhattacharya @Raghavan Damodaran.


My Saturday mornings cuppa are always accompanied by my friend Jeremy Potter’s blog –  have to attach this amazing musical piece by a 12 year old from JDP’s blog.

And as always – Altius, Citius, Fortius!

Transatlantic Spread, Dusklit and Fintech Periodic Tables

Back in action after a few weeks of work, travel and lots of art exhibitions. The opportunities NY provides to explore avant-garde art installations and concepts were just too tempting to pass up on. As a result, this week’s edition has a heavy bias to these events. That being said – have included the usual sections on interest rate, data visualization and the world’s next oligopoly.

The Transatlantic Spread – the ever widening gulf and divergent monetary policy between the Fed and ECB is at it’s highest. The Fed has signaled interests to increase the rate from current range of 1.75% to 2.0% in September while ECB has indicated holding interest rates at the current 0.4% through summer of 2019. The CME group published a great article on the difference in central bank approaches and the reasons.

Land of the walking dead – drastic situations (financial crisis) require drastic measures (quantitative easing ). The last year’s uptick in the market and overall strong economic growth is evidence of the short term success. That being sad, the impact of years of QE and eventual reversal is yet to be determined. A good example of issues that don’t always surface – thanks to the cheap,easy money available, the percentage of zombie companies   is as high as one of five companies in the US. Are we sitting on a massive debt crisis?

Periodic Table of Disruptive Technology – found this fascinating representation of technology using the age old periodic table. The further we travel along the x-axis, the farther off into the future the technology is predicted to emerge. The y-axis is indicative of the societal impact of technology.  The color coding are also interesting!


Technology Oligopoly (Sneaky Centralization) – I read an excellent data backed research piece from Michael Tauberg which talks about the Power Law in the media industry (also known as the Pareto distribution of power) – where 20% of the participants hold 80% of the power. This piece covers films, books, and music and shows the same pattern across the media industries.Micheal mentioned how in the media line success creates success – the exponential power of informal networks is immense.

It got me thinking – how technology would line up on this Power Law. How much of the total software space is controlled today by the Big Five? And is it on the rise (yes, rhetorical question).

What was stunning was the yawning delta in productivity between the top firms and the other firms. And this stems from the lack of free market technology diffusion which used to ensure the entire industry could improve. I loved  Christopher Mims comment on what if Excel was a piece owned  as part of the internal infrastructure of a firm which never was shared with the industry.  Sobering thought!


Source: Wall Street Journal

Blast from the Past – Spent the weekend in Buffalo visiting my cousin, who just joined the University of Buffalo. A ride on the canal with tens of abandoned grain elevator factories was a grim  reminder of the need to keep up with the times. For the longest time, Buffalo was a critical piece in the transportation of grain. While most of these factories now lying idle, many of them have been re-purposed from ethanol plants to adventure sports factories a la Fear Factor.

It did get me thinking which of our current great cities would one day lose it’s relevance? I’m also intrigued by the belief some folks have in real estate – there is only one way it will trend and it’s up.  Nothing is constant!

Buffalo factory

Champion Challenger Model – I have been working on a software product design concept in the recent few weeks. My specific focus area has been to create a feasible solution to make the champion challenger model work.  It has been my belief that not enough work has gone into the champion challenger model to make it work within business models.

While there are overheads (especially sourcing challenger data), the rewards and the opportunity to constantly validate sandboxes in a real business context is a powerful one. Would love to hear from anyone of their thoughts and practical challenges on integrating the concept into the organizational DNA.

Dusklit and Narcissus Garden

Recently spent time at the Dusklit festival – an unique interactive art event which features the setting sun as the canvas for many of the installations. Fascinating was the installation showing the internet as the spider’s web. Photo album…

I was also fortunate enough to  be able to view Yayoi Kusuma’s Narcissus Garden at the Rockaways. The shiny balls of course are reflection of the narcissism which exists within all of us. A really great work of art.


A moving poem …

Read this at the museum at Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.


Restaurant Recommendation

I’m stunned by how few people are aware of the restaurant week that runs in many cities in August including both NYC and DC. It provides a great opportunity to visit some really great restaurants and sample their delicious offerings.

And as always – Altius, Citius, Fortius!

Swanson,Sneaky Centralization, and Kidney Beans

Free Market Forces – The Good, the Bad and the Swanson 

The grand daddy of who-blinks-first in the tariff war is now entering the middle rounds of a boxing match.  The image below is a a storage facility for a WI based kidney beans producer – and one who is rapidly running out of storage for surplus production.

The reason? With retaliatory tariffs from the US’s trade partners – agricultural exports have become expensive by as much as 25% (or more in some cases).  Can’t help but think – why tinker around with free market?


Source: Wall Street Journal

On a happier note – Fidelity just announced slashed fees, and removal of minimums among other changes. The battle is heating up on retaining the investor market with the models and new baseline set by firms like Vanguard and Charles Schwab. I’m always excited when the forces of free market (competition) and technology (efficiency) come together to create great wins for the end consumer.

A friend recently recommended watching the show Parks and Recreation. And while watching Leslie Knope and her special brand of antics combined with raw, unbridled passion for change has been hilarious, I found my hero on television.

Ron Swanson – the perfect mustache and a fanatical advocate for libertarian values. That perfect mustache may be out of reach but I do share his libertarian values. Laissez-faire forever! (that’s my goofy take on Wakanda Forever!)



Technology and Testing before Prime Time

David Poole, Adam Fitzgerald and Robert Oliver at the Publicis.Sapient’s Financial Services Center of Excellence do a phenomenal job of catching us and our clients up with the latest in the Fintech space.

This week’s highlight was this article from Chris Skinner. It’s a  great read for all innovators and talks about the perils of testing a technology before it’s ready for prime time.


Sneaky Centralization – I would love to take credit for this term, but it actually was coined by a friend I recently had dinner with. Ever notice how that indubitable edifice of decentralization (aka, the internet) is being chipped away at by the rapidly increasing influence of Facebook, Amazon, Google and co #world’s next oligopoly.

Data and the influence of widespread disinformation has figured prominently in the news for a while- here’s a piece on the challenges of fighting back  – the essential problem being that technology advances far more quickly than government policies. The disruptive technologies including blockchain are the one game-changer that regulators can use to counter deep fakes and increasingly democratized AI.

And while on the subject of blockchain, the big news around bitcoins is the launch of Bakkt (joint venture by NYSE, Microsoft, and Starbucks) – a federally regulated market for digital assets.


Musings on Interactions

It has become a practice for me to spend Saturday to reflect on my interactions with friends, colleagues and family every week. It has become a valuable tool for me to assess and improve the quality of my interactions. Reflections on my own success and failures for this week –

a) Never blame the amount of work on your plate for being late for a call or meeting.  I ended up doing it this week – and it just sounded hollow and fake. My mantra – acknowledge, apologize and address.

b) Feedback is an art – Holding people accountable is important, and so as is your choice of words feelings that accompany the feedback. Don’t spend time carefully phrasing the words – spend more time thinking through the emotions accompanying the feedback (concern, fear, worry, encouragement, frustration).

Here’s a great article on what causes employee disengagement  employee engagement. My personal favorite is the ubiquitous and horribly generalized “good job”.

App of the Week

On that note, I highly recommend installing Telegram – a messenger service similar to Whatsapp (you did know it was owned by Facebook, right?). It offers all the instant messaging services but also is a gateway into fascinating data science and bitcoin communities.

The 4 Horsemen, Kalinic and Unsubscribing Pains

A week spent in the same city – got a load of work done, and got to hang around with my fantastic team. Working with this crew and watching them grow everyday into a high performing team has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Also equally rewarding – no flights, and no hotel beds for an entire week! Oh, and a fantastic Radioheads concert last evening. What would you prefer – Karma Police or Creep as a closer?

This week’s edition is light on news on the financial and tech side – focus this week is on people and behaviors.

World Cup – The Story of Kalinic

The world cup just finished and fittingly a day after the Bastille day, the French team lifted the cup beating a spirited Croatian site. As a perennial supporter of the underdog and just knowing what that war ravaged nation has gone through, I was rooting for Croatia – but I think the better team won.

But, our viewpoint here actually covers the guy who was not there…

Nikola Kalinic – the Croatian and Milan star striker. Kalinic came into the world cup with a huge reputation and was only of the 2 strikers in the team. However, for the first game against Nigeria, he was on the bench based on the coach’s strategy.

On being asked to suit up for the last 5 minutes, he refused to go in and also did not apologize. After the event escalated – he left the team, and went on a holiday even posting pictures on social media.

Of course, what Croatia achieved after Kalinic left was nothing short of a fairy tale.  And the expected reactions followed – he has been publicly branded a villain all over the world, and been accused anything and everything under the sun.

As a manager of the team, how would you handle the situation? Even more importantly, are there any potential Kalinic situations developing in your team? On the other hand, (assuming Kalinic regrets his decision) how do we prevent having that one moment of pride, anger and madness which isolates us for a long time.

I often use what can only be referred to as the “Leave that angry, over the top, angry email in the drafts folder“.


On a lighter note….this world cup was an unpredictable one with twists and turns at every stage. But a totally forgettable one in terms of innovative celebrations – yawn!!!!

Remember the Bebeto baby celebration, or the Laudrup swimsuit model pose from previous world cups. Where have the celebrators gone?

On the right are the 2018 world cup celebrations – so passe. Guess, we will have to wait for the NFL to start.

From the underground

In one of my earlier posts – I wrote about the complexity of the airport operations. The NYC subway and the connected lines are truly a fascinating study.  And, after it took me more than an hour and a half to commute a scheduled 20 minute journey, I decided to delve deeper into the reasons for this delay – here’s an explanation. And no, as you guessed – overcrowding is not the reason….

Data Insights..

Spending significant time on the subway always gives one the opportunity to observe. The ad space in these trains are always full of interesting content given the eclectic mix of the audience, especially in a city like NYC. I found this humorous usage of pizza ordering trends by neighborhoods.


On that note – here’s the top 5 of late night pizza delivery ordering city. This data is only for orders done via Seamless – but nevertheless, an interesting data insight.

  1. Chicago
  2. NYC
  3. San Fransisco
  4. Los Angles
  5. Washington, DC


I was talking to some colleagues at our data practice and they mentioned how AI, data science, machine learning get fused together in one gigantic diaspora of jargon speak.  Coincidentally, the very next day read this article (the name “Data Science is dead” is very (intentionally) dramatic) – it brings out important differences between data science, big data, machine learning.

The World’s next Oligopoly

Readers would know that for the last couple of months – we have been closely following the developments with the Big Five (last week was the acquisition of GitHub). This week’s big news – Google has acquired Wayz.

I was recently asked by a colleague about my position on the subject of the frightful five. To clarify – I have no position bar my leanings towards going long on them on the stock market, and following the almost inevitable capture of the entire tech ecosystem.

Just ordered Scott Galloway’s book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Should be a fascinating read – and based on the book’s first chapter, I’m very motivated to change the tag line to the Four Horsemen of The (Tech) Apocalypse (in jest, but the story of the Big Four is worth following).


A follow up thought on the article on how data science will be dead in 5 years – how long before your job becomes commoditized? It’s a humbling thought and one worth spending time over. Your value add as a technologist, manager, consultant or any other field – how long is the shelf live for your current skills?


One of my team members – a rarity in that she is a woman in probably the most skewed profession (technology) and line (STEM) has constantly faced challenges dealing with the (lack of) gender diversity in our line of work. Make a mental note for the rest of the week.

In your everyday interaction model, was the diversity graph skewed? What are you doing to change it?


One of my earliest mentors ingrained a habit of adding everything to a calendar – it even included bill payments, introspection time and time to spend with your family and friends.

It’s now become part of my DNA –  and something I strongly recommend. Are you spending enough time on important activities rather than reactive urgent ones?

If not, I recommend create a month long calendar and following it – it may just help!


“Don’t let perfect get in the way of good” – first reaction? Is that your approach or the exact anti-thesis of that quote. How does agile thinking fit into it?

App of the week

I’m a sucker for free trials – signing up for wanton products and apps is a true vice in the digital era. After the umpteenth miss at an unwanted subscription, I finally have decided to do something about it.  I downloaded Truebill – it promises to keep track of all unwarranted subscriptions which sneak up on you. Do a run through of the credit card bill – it will have a few surprises.

Note to the CMO – In my opinion, the modern day consumer would truly respect a product which made the task of unsubscribing as easy as it’s most lucrative cousin. Introduce that link in your site – your clients may leave, but the last interaction will be a happy one.

And as always – Citius, Altius, Fortius!!


John Snow, Missing 4’s and War on Plastic

Another week, can you even believe we are half way through the year. I had set a reminder for myself today (30th June) to review some life goals – was happy to see significant progress on most of them.

There is something incredibly moving about crowds operating in unison. Mexican waves, lighters at concerts are great examples of the uplifting art form that large scale cohesion can produce. It’s probably the dramatic contrast of the everyday conflicts we see between people at large – to see them synergized is beautiful. I highly recommend you join the next opportunity to be part of “Crowd-Art”.

My good friend Warren invited me for a concert at the Madison Square Garden  this week at the Sapient suite. While the soulful crooning of Sam Smith was great, it was also fantastic to watch  the modern day version of lighters at concerts -apparently called lumies (sp?).


Interest Rates,Regulation and Technology…

If you have been following HTNW for the past few weeks, we continue to follow regulations/policies  and their (intended and un-intended) impact on the market and economy. We will continue to draw comparisons with pre-2008 and track the role technology will play.

I recently came across a great example of federal regulators using technology to track improper rounding. After using data science to study earnings reports, Fed regulators found the number 4 conspicuous by it’s absence in the tenth place of companies earnings report across the board. Essentially, anything with 5 in the tenths place can be rounded up ($5.5 becomes $6 while $5.4 goes to $5). This “rounding error” helps produce better EPS numbers. I was excited to see the role of regulatory tech in preserving checks and balances in the system.

With the interest rate, keep an eye on those credit card bills. But on the other hand, this might be a good time to open that second bank account – go get those incentives banks are offering to open accounts. Here’s a comparative analysis from Nerd Wallet.

Who blinks first?  For those of you following the stand off between US and China on tariffs, the news that the US back down from the harshest measures  should come as no surprise. Was it just goodwill or was it influenced “slightly” by the yuan devaluation (at it’s 6 month low).Devaluation of yuan increases competitiveness of exports, off-setting the tariff hikes.

This is a chess game worth following in the next few months.

Design Thinking (No, it’s not connected with technology)

Which toolkit makes it easier to detect missing parts and locating them easier?

Do we apply the same thoughtfulness to our work – making it easier for ourselves and our colleagues, and clients?



Frightful Five – The World’s Next Oligopoly

We have been tracking the world’s next oligopoly – a pervasive and and ubiquitous rule which will make OPEC look like perfect competition. Open any business publication and half the page is usually about the Frightful Five (Alphabet, Apple, Amazon,Microsoft, Facebook).

Here’s some food for thought on that topic –

June 19th Article in WSJ “CVS Adds Home Delivery With Help From Post Office”

June 23rd Article  in WSJ “Trump Looks to Privatize the Postal Service”

June 28th Article in WSJ – “Amazon drives deeper into delivery”

Great move by CVS to counter Amazon. But if Amazon (eventually) ends up owning the entire postal service network on (say) the East Coast, not sure how effective the CVS strategy will be. The rules of strategy are changing and how…

Blast from the Past

Often conversations with clients circle around emerging technology and start with data and visualization concepts. It’s interesting to explore body language and their interest levels perking up as we move away from data to AI, Machine Learning, RPA (the sexy stuff).

I’ve often had conversations with our Data Practice lead, Gavin Kaimowitz around the need to create consistent organizational data framework in order to leverage technology.  Increased interest from clients on the Sapient’s data visualization tool (Synapse) is a sign that the industry is increasingly focused on the view point that “Unless you see it – you can’t fix it” .

I thought it worthwhile to share this great story around data and visualization.

Circa 1854 – London is in the grip of an outbreak of cholera. Dr. John Snow (no connection to Winterfell – might be worth a check with starts plotting out all the individual cases on a map of London.

To cut a long story short, the visualization provides a pattern and eventually it is discovered that the outbreak is the result of a specific incident involving a a nearby cesspit where a baby’s nappy contaminated with cholera had been dumped. Are there such data problems (opportunities) in your organization and can visualization help solve these?

cholera map

Last week we spoke about the impact of liberal arts on technology. Morphing that idea into the corporate world – I believe that the best technology ideas are actually sitting outside the technology department. And data visualization will be one of the forces that will unlock that creativity.

Might be worthwhile spending the next few minutes to think about how well we understand the systems, processes, stewardship and structure of that lifeline of our business – data.

Musings on Leadership…

Last week included thoughts about challenging ourselves as leaders – pushing boundaries and not worrying about the occasional failure. Of course, writing about leadership and spartan discipline to that covenant are two very different things. For all of you following Tesla’s production deadline challenges, here’s an article on Elon Time.

A couple of thoughts – the first, that article is the answer to my question from last week. Do we fear failure too much as leaders (even at the cost of success)? And the article is a grim reminder of the price of failure as leaders. It got me thinking that one of the must-haves for leadership (also happens to be my favorite  word in the dictionary) – “F-O-R-T-I-T-U-D-E”.


The ability to push the limits and back yourself and your team’s belief is critical (we will circle back on the role of the team).  Even if it leads to many sleepless nights – below is the effect of the CEO being at the factory for a straight 72 hours.


My second thought. As a visionary leader, how do you balance vision (and passion) with pragmatism?  Are you listening to your team – do you respect their opinion? Hit pause – think about that for a second. Do you really respect them and their opinion or is it just a farce? This applies to a team leader, a business unit head, a CEO or even a President of a country..

If you don’t – change your team but better still, spend enough time to get to know them. And if you don’t know the guys you go in battle with – make sure your checklist includes a gigantic white flag.

Carrying on with thoughts on leadership and diversification, I recommend reading my friend Jeremy’s latest post on problem solving, diversification and risk taking. His posts are always good – this one in particular is a powerhouse.

…Nowhere in particular

I mentioned last week India’s drive against usage of plastic with multiple states working on banning plastic products. I read about another related initiative to clean up the existing backlog of debris – a great example where vision, design thinking, resource management are combined with social and environment goals. Here’s a must watch video

In short – plastic debris gets collected all over the country, shredded and processed in factories. The product is then used as raw material in enhancing the roadways system (something which the country needs desperately to keep up with the demands of industry). Oh, and did I mention it provides millions of man days of employment.

While it’s no silver bullet (there are challenges with the technology) – the government’s backing combined with reducing demand for plastic through effective policy and alternatives is a great start on the war with Plastics!!

App of the week:

Keep this handy this weekend when you go do your groceries. Wear those stains of multiple use with pride – each one is a notch on the war on plastics!

whole foods

Citius, Altius, Fortius!!

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!