Volcker 2.0, Boozy Coke & Left out lefties

A week spent mostly on the road. The week started in in NYC, spent time at Charleston, and back to NYC via DC. The screen below was the theme for the week.

charleston.png

While the wait was frustrating, it also gives an opportunity to connect with fellow passengers. One of them happened to be running operations for a large airport mentioned that there were over 100+ changes required (across gates, flight/cleaning/ground crew, catering etc.) every time a flight got delayed. On a related note, here is what is called a Misery Map across the country (the red indicates delayed flights).

misery Map

This week the focus shifts to the upcoming Volcker amendments which will have far reaching impact on the financial services market. We also look at aspects of Design Thinking and it’s presence everywhere. And the usual sections on Blast from the Past, and Quote of the week.

Fed Activity –  Volcker 2.0 a.k.a The Great Deregulation Show Begins…

The great deregulation show is all set to start. Next week the Fed sits to debate on Volcker 2.0 – specifically the two points of concession asked by the banks.a) A clearer definition of what is a prop trade & b) Change the de-facto negative presumption where banks need to provide prop trading did not happen to a scenario where there needs to be evidence of prop trading.

With a corporate lawyer (Clayton) at SEC,  a  business executive (Giancarlo) at CFTC, and now an-ex banker (McWilliams) at the helm at FDIC – a much lighter and simpler Volcker could be in place within the year.  (Source: The Financial Times).

On a related note, stronger than expected jobs data has raised the probability of the Fed going 4/4 on interest rate raise to 36%.


Mass exodus at the C-level continues at CALPERS – After the CIO, it’s the turn of the CFO to leaves Calpers. Other departures include the fixed income head and the PE managing director. After the bad rep Calpers got in 2016, one can’t help but feel nervous for the teachers, the firefighters and all the good guys with their pensions at stake. Here’s to hoping that there is no more bad news on Calpers.



Design Thinking – Everywhere…

If you one of the 5.45 AM on a Monday morning every week flyer, you will understand the frustrating experience getting a cup of coffee at the airport can be. Inevitably, the guy in front of you will order a Chai Latte with extra hot skimmed milk, and 2 pumps of caramel. One such order and the lines stall. So, when I saw the concept of Dunkin Express at Reagan Airport – I was excited by this great example of design thinking. The Dunkin express only sells coffee, iced coffee and cold brew and the lines moves at lightning speed!!!

dunkin.jpg

 

Spent the airport wait hours leafing through “Defined by Design: The Surprising Power of Hidden Gender, Age and Body Bias in Everyday Products and Places“. I was surprised to see how many of these design biases exist in everyday products. A special call out for what the book refers to as “Left-out Lefties”. I was astounded to read that on an average “lefties” are likely to live 9 years less than right-handed people due to increased health risks that they experience living and working in environments designed for right-handers. Environment design experiments for this week – spending the week as a “leftie”.



Data Science in Banking – The concept of CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value) has been around for a while now. But with the improvements in quality of data, and the rapid strides in data science  – it will be interesting to see the customer engagement strategy employed by firms across sectors. An interesting read on data science use cases for banking focused largely on CLTV and customer segmentation.


Blast from the Past

In the last couple of posts, we have been covering technology innovations from the past . We have also been on a little bit of a journey covering interesting facts about specific keys on the keyboard. We looked at the power of the hashtag and the “untyper-backspace” connection last week.

This week – here’s a great example of multi-tasking a.k.a Alt+Tab. Thomas Jefferson used this rotating book stand to consume information and cross reference these across windows books. If you found the rotating book stand fascinating, I would recommend a read around the 8 hottest tech trends in 1776.

Mutli-task

Via the senior Ghosh…

My dad has (enthusiastically) volunteered  to send me interesting pieces and references on technology.  As a leading technologist and a voracious reader – I’m excited to have him contribute. Here’s a fascinating article he forwarded – the rise of blogs and opinion pieces has seen an ever increasing set of opinions and predictions. Sometimes it’s fun to step back and go through the bloopers.

Here’s some classics –

2005: “There’s just not that many videos I want to watch” — Steve Chen, CTO and co-founder of YouTube expressing concerns about his company’s long term viability.

2006: “Everyone’s always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone. My answer is, ‘Probably never.‘” — David Pogue, The New York Times.


Lesson for the week

#1 – Learn resilience from the kids –  My son’s flag football team, the Cyclones suffered their first defeat of the season – unfortunately, the 19-20 defeat came during the finals with the other team making a 2-point conversion with 30 seconds to go. While watching a bunch of kids being in tears is never fun, I am astounded by the strength and resilience kids show. A cheeseburger, an ice cream sundae and a Caps win (yes, the Caps are actually ahead!!) – and my 10 year old was bouncing around – full of beans and ready to take on life. How many of us can shake off a major disappointment in a matter of hours?  When do we lose that ability to re-bound that quickly?

#2 – Don’t be Busy – We had a packed week trying to get a critical system into testing phase. It was an interesting experience watching some of the managers in our teams getting completely engulfed with work and trying to cover gaps in their teams. It got me thinking on the importance of creating a culture where the focus in on delegating outcomes and not activities.  Without that culture being pervasive in an organization, it will continue to be all-hands-to-the-deck every time something goes off schedule. Here’s a good read on the subject.




On a personal note – I am excited by the increase in my fitness levels since I moved to NYC.  The everyday commute, the constant pretense of walking when you are actually running and the hanging onto your allocated 3 inches of a steel rod in the metro (it’s half of that on the PATH trains during peak hours) does help your fitness levels immensely.


…Nowhere in Particular

  • Coke launches it’s first alcoholic drink – on the shelves now in Japan. Can’t wait to try a boozy coke.
  • Starbucks changes it’s “loose” policy of only allowing paying customers to use the bathroom. While the incident at Philadelphia was ghastly, it is encouraging to see a lot of good things came out of it.
  • GitHub is now owned by Microsoft – While one saw an acquisition happening with all the financial troubles at GitHub, can’t help but feel every new innovation, critical software is increasingly in the clutches of the Frightful Five.
  • If you are in NYC, go look up 570 Broome St, New York, NY 10013. This newly constructed building uses NASA technology to use UV rays to trigger off a chemical reaction that not only cleans the building but also air around it. Initial estimates indicate that one such building has the equivalent impact of removing 625 cars from the NYC street.

Movie Review of the Week – Alas, work schedules plotted and schemed against me. I still remain un-Solo. But it is interesting on how many people discuss the movie you have not seen on the NYC transit and loudly…..another week and watching the movie will be an exercise in futility…



Quote of the week

Reminds me to take that long overdue camping trip.

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Till next week…..Citius Altius Fortius…

Possunt quia posse videntur 

What a week!! The MBA Secondary was in town, met a bunch of old friends and had some engaging conversations around FinTech over beers. It’s fascinating to see the progress in terms of knowledge and perspective that the industry has made. This is a compliment to everyone involved and especially the great folks at MBA like Dan McPheeters (now at Fannie), Justin Wiseman, and Pete Mills. Guess those blockchain and AI drawings in 2016 over napkins at the FourCourts bar did help.

GDPR and Solo are at the theater– OK – I thought I would start with a GDPR joke (yes, there is such a thing). This one is an original (forewarning – not good – just original).

You get Jason-Bourned. You wake up – how do you find out if you are American or European?

Duhh…check your Gmail….if 98% of your emails have the word “privacy”, you’re European. On the other hand, if 98% of your email notifications are from Twitter and have the word “Trump..”….

Just so that we get a sense of how maddening this deluge of GDPR emails can be – I asked one of my friends in the UK for a screenshot of her phone.

GDPR-1

Note – Observe, these have already been moved to that great Database of Irrelevance – Trash…

I promised myself not to be carried away with the Here, There, and Nowhere in Particular tagline for the blog but next week I hope to have the Solo movie review – c’mon it’s only the coolest pilot in the whole galaxy (can’t believe you thought about Poe Dameron – shame!)

Treasury Yield Curve – We have been following the yield movements on the Treasury for the last month. The question that comes to mind is – does the modern global ecosystem of complex networks have too many exogenous factors for Keynsian concepts to work. Just like how ETFs and the light touch now rule the asset management space, is it time to bring a similar (light) touch approach to monetary policy.  A case in point – Japan; monetary policy changes have proved ineffective in bringing inflation down while artificially boosting stock prices.

Here’s the treasury yield curve for the month.  By the way, the decline over the last week can at least be clearly attributed – the Fed’s dovish statements. Worth a mention – the 3.11 on the chart is the highest it’s been since 2011. When was this highest ever – almost 19% in 1981!!

Rates

Tech Circa December, 1977 – While on the blast from past theme, I was thrilled to receive a December 1977 National Geographic magazine (an incredibly thoughtful gift  – since that’s the month this blogger came into existence). While the articles were fun to read, I thought it worthwhile to share a couple of ads. The first one is the BankAmericard migration to VISA (that’s the image on the right). A little financial history on VISA’s origination.

If you have been following this blog, you would remember my piece on the # on your keyboard and the hashtag revolution. Next up – the backspace. I found a fascinating reference to something called the Untyper – which allowed you to connect the “Untyper” cartridge and easily correct a spelling mistake (made presumably through the Typer). Bet you are loving that backspace now!!

combined.png

Can Siri, Echo, Duplex, Marcel and Erica share a Coke together – We at Publicis.Sapient are excited by the launch of the Marcel AI platform developed in partnership with Microsoft . Personally, I’m hoping at some stage to be involved in the testing of Marcel – it could be a game changer in terms of knowledge sharing  and foster greater effectiveness in the skills marketplace. And for an organization like ours with over 80,000 people, collaboration will key.  It was also interesting to read about BoA’s approach to their own AI powered bot – Erica. As a BoA customer, I intend to strike up a conversation with Erica soon.

On an fun note i am hoping to start a project with my son Abir this summer. Our plan is to MacGyver a conversation between a Siri, Echo and a couple of other tools. Should be a fun project – any ideas are welcome!!

“Possunt quia posse videntur”

That inscription on the back of Putney medals  (awarded to boat race winning Oxford blues) means “They can because they think they can”.  It’s truly inspirational and a big part of my philosophy to challenge boundaries each and every day.

I was fortunate to spend time with an incredibly talented group of entrepreneurs at a Tech start up event this week. I met entrepreneurs working on exciting applications of machine learning and AI – cab bookings, golf tee times, facial recognition software and fashion design. Meeting folks who are so incredibly passionate about technology and action their thoughts & beliefs always makes me wonder – are all of us at large organizations becoming too staid in our approach? An evening with these talented doers got me thinking.

And the theme continued at a blockchain session organized by Symmetry. I have always viewed blockchain as a people problem versus a technology problem. I heard a thought during a conversation which really resonated with me – the path to extracting the true value behind Blockchain will be a rocky road since it involves a massive re-allocation of power.  At the tech event, a young entrepreneur equated blockchain as a socialist revolution. While my whole fiscal belief system is based on free market and capitalism – I believe all of us involved in blockchain in any capacity should take great pride in ushering in probably the most important revolution of this century.

While on the topic of blockchain and bitcoins, we continue to closely follow regulatory approach to crypto-currencies. The CFTC just released an advisory around virtual currency derivatives contract. Worth reading.

Tech beyond boundaries – A big part of my mission behind this blog is to explore technology outside of the financial services and North America space.  I am fortunate enough to have a network which allows me to connect individually with talent across the world. Here’s a first attempt – this country has the following contributions to the tech space.

a.  Earliest blockchain adaptors – first country to allow online voting.

b. Developed initial code behind Skype and Kazaa

c. Holds the record for highest tech start ups per person

d. 95% file tax online – takes on an average 5 minutes

…the list is long and the answer is Estonia. Here’s a great article which talk about their success and the need for an extremist approach to to ditching legacy systems thinking and investing in education.

Perspective – A Tale of Two Cities

I have been following Stacey Abrams journey as she won the Georgia’s Democrats nomination for Governor – it’s a huge milestone for the whole country and we all wish her luck at the upcoming elections. However, I could not but reflect and salute the spirit of women like Hanan Abdulrahaman. Hanan is practicing hard and hopes to become the first Saudi woman to get a motorcycle license. Having spent time in Riyadh a decade and a half ago – I’m excited by the progress the country is making. Stacy and Hanan are both already winners – “possunt quia posse videntur” .

Go Caps – finally, we have a team from DC playing for the championship. Next week the Capitals take on the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup. Exciting times for a city which has been starved of sporting glory for so long!!

A special thanks to everyone who shared HTNW with their networks and provided feedback and comments.

Till next week…..Citius Altius Fortius…

Bitcoins, Aztec Contracts,and Legalized Gambling …

Last week focused on interest rate predictions, history of hashtag and AlterEgo headset. This week has been a very exciting one in terms of product launches, tech trends as well as significant legislation impacting data and technology. And hence, the effort of HTNW (that’s Here, There, Nowhere) on these trends.

 High Frequency Trading in Bitcoin – It’s always interesting  to follow the parallels between (more) conventional financial markets and it’s more glitzy crypto-currency cousin. And this week was a milestone with Coinbase announcing the launch of options catering to server co-location and launch of a low latency platform to lure high frequency traders and institutional investors. Other related offerings include custodial services to securely store large volumes of digital currency (incidentally, contrary to the entire concept of dapps, i.e. decentralized apps and value?).

There is definitely some truth in Coinbase’s claim that involving professional market makers will create a more efficient price discovery, deeper liquidity and tighter markets. On the other hand, it’s worth thinking about why multiple retail and more conservative institutional investors moved away from the financial market in the first place –  the dice being heavily loaded in favor of high frequency traders and other arbitrage seekers. For some of us just scratching the surface on the entire bitcoin, HFTs, bots paradigm – here’s an article which is a great read.

…and naturally, a corresponding budget cuts for regulators – If your reaction was What?? join the club…I came across a note that the budget for CFTC has been cut. I found it curious given the ever increasing scope for the regulators. A contact at the CFTC confirmed the news and also mentioned the CFTC budget has not increased in the last 10 years. Contrast it with the above note on Coinbase and all other tech advances across the last decade- that does not add up, right?

Connecting the dots between the above (bitcoin and regulators), for y’all planning that Bahamas trip based on your investments in Ethereum and Ripple, totally worth reading the transcript of Gary Gensler’s (ex-CFTC commissioner) speech at MIT. How far is the showdown between regulators and current bitcoin projects?

SoW on Codex – I have been lately dealing

Codex on SoW

with a lot of contract related work in the last week. I found it amusing that on a weekend trip to the Met,one of the first artifacts I came across – a codex outlining the agreement of the tribute to be paid by the Aztecs to the Spanish crown. A far cry from our dry, legal language we deal with.

It would be amiss of me not to share this fascinating sculpture by Huma Bhabha called “We Come in Peace”. What really resonated with me was not just the sculpture but blending in the world’s most recognizable skyline into the “One Day Giant Will Walk The Earth” concept.

We Come in Peace

Google Duplex – I’m unabashedly a Google fan, and it pains me that I still use an iPhone.  However, this is the week when I finally transition over from to the light side.  I was also thrilled to see the amazing presentation Sundar Pichai did on Google Duplex. Is it now only a matter of time before someone passes the Turing test? For the non-geeks – Turing test is a machine’s ability to display intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

Note to Google Duplex – “Start a research project to find out the latest Pixel phone deals in the New York/New Jersey area. Order it by end of this week. Oh, and I need it delivered on a weekend. Also, send happy birthday text messages to all my contacts for the rest of the year.”

The Supreme court pass a game changing (pun intended) decision to let states open up the gates for legalized betting. Here’s some interesting predictions from a data and technology space –

a. NFL, NHL and NBA launch data organizations which makes it mandatory to use their curated data for all predictions and analysis. They make billions….

b. Lobbyists play all sides pushing for legislation. Property prices in Van Ness and the exclusive DC neighborhoods sky rocket. They make billions….

c. Insurance companies launch swap insurance products against bad beds made at the start of the year. The Redskins and Wizards make late seasons runs when the fans have given up. They make billions….

d. EA Sports launches online betting options during their 2018 Madden Challenge. You can bet on the simulated games. They make billions….

e. IBM Watson’s next release centers around accurate predictions around results. They make billions…

Dear Readers – some/most of you will be contributing to these billions…Go Draft Kings!

On a more serious note, it will be interesting to follow on how this legislation shakes up things in the data and technology space.

Till next week….

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 14 Fed’s Agile Project, Hashtags and Union Station Orchestra…

The inspiration behind this blog is Quicken Loan’s Jeremy Potter, one of the smartest guys I have come across. In the last year, I have got used to waking up each Saturday to JDP’s “Saturday Cup of Joe” – what he calls a lending and tech(ish) newsletter. He recently completed 100 editions this April. Congrats, JDP!

This is a my own attempt to share information I come across in my interactions with the many super smart people I meet at and off-work. You will find my own thoughts and reflections sprinkled in the mix. I hope this is both useful and insightful.

Is the Fed response to the rate rise the best(worst?) example of Agile?  – This month’s job data report  on the lowest unemployment levels combined with inflation moving towards the magic 2% makes the June announcement of a rate increase a near certainty. Will the Fed go 4 of 4 on rate increases in the remaining meetings and risk recession? I regularly follow Jim Rickards and this interview raises some interesting questions on the balance between active monetary intervention and free market balancing forces. I said the Agile comment only half in jest but might be worth breaking the rest of the fiscal year into sprints and tracking how sprint goals, targets and showcases a.k.a Fed reports and numbers go. May just make sense to load the Fed calendar on the iPhone, right next to the NFL and World Cup Soccer.

Besting my 10 year old at Tech…my 10 year old, Abir is fascinated by gadget and technology in general. He also considers me as an O.T.G. (“Old Tech Guy”) – apparently the term used by the hip kids to describe people who think they know tech, but they don’t  – not really. I have taken this challenge up and my aim is to give him a cool tech fact he does not know each week. I am always fascinated by the interaction channels of the mind with the body – and this week came across AlterEgo. Essentially, the AlterEgo is a headset which translates thought and intent to speak into intructions for machines like Smart Phones and TV. Definitely worth a read…

Alter-Ego

 

Sweepstakes at 1512 (that’s the room # I work out of) – Given the onslaught of open source tools, gone are the boring names assigned to software products like Visual Age or Rational Rose. Instead, abbreviations and replaced by everyday objects . We have launched a weekly sweepstakes where someone picks a common every day object and we place bets on whether it’s an actual tool. This week – I scored a W with correctly predicting that Eggplant was a tool. It’s apparently a popular UI testing tool.

#Power-of-hashtag – Recently came across an article which spoke about the enhanced Facebook image recognition system.  The new system which links photos with hashtags as a means of fully supervised learning can apparently predict with 85% accuracy despite all the obvious noise.  It’s it fascinating that the little symbol sitting innocuously over the letter 3 on our keyboards has had such a far reaching impact in our lives.

facebook-before

facebook-After

 

The new system can not just recognize it’s a bird or tree but classify the type based on # from Instagram

Tech Triva of the week

Here is a picture of the #father-of-the-hashtag – #Chris Messina. #Chris Messina first proposed using #hashtag in #Twitter. This was an idea inspired-by the usage of #hastag in Internet Relay Chats.

Chris_Messina_-_2016

My thoughts – Are we often restricted in our thinking around the potential of data and it’s management by (implicitly) tying it to the ability (and limitations) of current technology.   Is there a general failure of imagination across the industry because we keep thinking #data-as-an-input instead of #technology-as-an-input (to data?)? Are there other such simple #hashtag ideas we are not thinking of simply because technology does not yet support them?

I have dinner later in the week with Hans Godfrey.  Hans is managing development of Publicis.Sapient’s Marcel, an industry-first AI platform to connect our 80,000 employees worldwide together. I intend to get his thoughts on the  #technology-as-an-input while designing data for an AI system. More to follow….

Quote of the week

I make a very deliberate attempt in my every action not to be cliched and it does not get more cliched that “Quote of the Week” but I will share this quote – because it strongly resonated with an experience this week at work. The quote comes from Edward De Bono (someone I have followed for years and people who know me well – I have an almost unhealthy obsession with lateral thinking puzzles).

OUR EXISTING TRADITIONAL THINKING HABITS INSIST THAT YOU MUST ATTACK SOMETHING AND SHOW IT TO BE BAD BEFORE YOU CAN SUGGEST A CHANGE. IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT SOMETHING IS EXCELLENT AND THEN TO ASK FOR CHANGE BECAUSE ALTHOUGH IT’S EXCELLENT, IT IS (STILL) NOT ENOUGH.

I found myself in a situation where I spent 15 minutes dissecting a process which worked well just to make suggestions on improving it. Thinking back, I only have admiration for whoever designed the workflow 8 years back.-It’s just that business needs have changed. I also happened to come across this quote later in the evening. My goal for next week is to not be critical for the sake of being critical. Sometimes it’s just an unnecessary and harmful precursor to change.

National Symphony Orchestration at Union Station???

NSO at Union Station

 

I recently moved to NYC from DC. While I’m excited by the prospect of living in NYC, DC will always be a special place. An event I regret missing was the free popup performance by the NSO at the iconic Union Station. My friend, Alex who is a regular at the Kennedy Center described it as a once in a lifetime event. I intend to attend the next one – watch this space for the next event.

Adi Ghosh

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Based in NYC, Here, There… is a blog by Adi Ghosh. The blog explores events and viewpoints focussed on the cross section of finance and tech.