Finance

The Price and Patience of Financial Innovation

In the tech world, there’s quite a bit of lip service paid to the concept of innovation, and dedication to that concept in the hopes of making the world a better place.

The HBO series Silicon Valley even parodied this universal talking point quite effectively. As the show highlighted, the realities of the tech world and its relationship with innovation aren’t as sunny as they would have us think.

More often, the term innovation is used as a talking point that can be applied to just about any product or service, regardless of its relevance.

In short, the word itself has been talked to death, which is unfortunate in the face of genuine innovations across many industries that are in fact changing the game and making people’s lives better in very tangible ways.

Sadly, many genuine instances of innovation fail to receive extensive media coverage. There are countless unsung heroes using tech in creative and effective ways to accomplish a huge array of pressing tasks.

Today we’ll be discussing one such innovator and his efforts to streamline processes across multiple sectors over the course of his long-standing career.

Aditya Lal’s Innovative Outlook

Aditya Lal is a certified Project Management and Portfolio Management specialist who has worked in both tech and finance, at times combining elements of both to create solutions for emerging problems.

In recent years, Lal has been working with North American banks, helping to implement necessary changes and adhere to new regulations from the FDIC.

Rather than trying to provide an overview of Lal’s entire career, this article will serve as a guideline for how a professional’s attitude can, at times, be just as important as their skillset and overall performance.

Working toward a shortsighted goal can be foolish, but working toward long-term solutions that improve customer experience– that’s just good business.

There’s no argument that banking is in desperate need of innovation, but when will that innovation come about, and what exactly will it look like?

Project Management

To start, let’s discuss the nuts and bolts of what it means to be a project manager. It’s the job of the project manager to keep an eye on the big picture at all times, and direct day-to-day efforts in pursuit of that ultimate goal accordingly.

If any of our readers have worked as managers in the past, then they’re probably already familiar with the wide range of management styles and philosophies out there today.

One popular style of management involves focusing on a specific set of skills, skills that are quite different from those utilized by members of their team. This approach holds that management and the actual work of a project are two separate areas of expertise.

To explain his own more involved approach, Lal used an apt sports metaphor. Sure, coaching and playing linebacker are two very different competencies, but the coach will be much better of if he or she has actually played the game before.

“If a project manager wants to be on the field with the rest of the players, the PM should have a good understanding of the business. Otherwise, in this era of cost-saving, project managers will become project coordinators with limited authority on the project.”

This involved approach can contribute to a sense of solidarity while also making sure that the project manager remains relevant and in-the-know at all times. More importantly, innovation just isn’t possible when the project manager isn’t fully aware of daily developments.

Regulation Response

FDIC regulations are a great example of innovation that is required by law. More recent federal regulations have been passed in hopes of protecting bank accounts of individuals across the country.

From the outside, it may appear that banks have been slow, or even hesitant, to put these new regulations into effect. Professionals on the inside tell a different story.

Lal has experience implementing FDIC 370, which improves recordkeeping and the dependability of insured accounts, even in the case of a bank’s failure amidst financial crisis.

On the surface, this seems to be a common-sense measure and one that could help prevent more serious nationwide financial woes. This is all true, but Lal elaborated a bit on the complexities of making this ideal a reality, especially when it comes to large banks.

“For simplicity, let’s assume that the bank has all the necessary resources such as budget, human resources, skillset, technology, data, etc. Different banks respond to new regulations differently. For example, a bank with 40 million accounts completed the FDIC 370 implementation by early 2019, while a larger bank has yet to start working on the same regulation as of quarter one, 2019.”

Here we dispel another myth about innovation, specifically the idea that it can and should happen as quickly as possible. While this kind of prompt implementation may sound like a no-brainer, rushing improvements has the potential to cause even more problems, making it counterintuitive to the spirit of innovation as a whole.

Better Banks

For the layman, the idea of improving banks and financial institutions is an important one, and yet many of us don’t know the first thing about making it happen.

As it turns out, a key factor for the improvement of our banks is information itself, data, as much of it as possible.

Big Data has become a primary discussion within the tech community. The more data an institution has, the better it can protect that data from nefarious forces. But the quality of that data is just as important.

For example, if you’re driving to a friend’s house and you’d like to arrive as quickly as possible, you need to know about every possible route you could take. However, some of those routes may be out of date. Some may not even exist anymore. More likely, there will be traffic on some streets but not others. You can only make the most informed decision once you have reliable, up-to-date information.

“Data Security is key for banking and financial institutions, and it’s made possible by quality data. Numerous factors can negatively affect data quality. A central system should be established to screen data.”

So how can banks manage this? Well, as Lal sees it, banks need to complete a major overhaul of their current systems.

“In order to surpass major obstacles, I strongly believe that financial institutions should take a pause and restructure their system landscape. They must revisit the current landscape, retire few and restructure rest. They must have strong a technology roadmap and strategy to seamlessly retire, restructure, and replace their centralized system.”

It’s a huge task and could take years to complete. Every step along the path needs to be safe and secure. When all is said and done, account holders (i.e. all of us) will be able to feel more confident in our banks, trusting our savings, and ultimately our futures, to their protection.

Transitioning Between Industries

For years, specialization has been the norm, in just about any form. The road to success required that each person stick to a single job type, a single skillset. This approach has been made irrelevant by a shifting gig economy that values adaptation above all else.

There are several disadvantages to this transition, but it also comes with many benefits. Specifically, it has reminded us that certain skills and attitudes can be successfully applied within many different industries.

Lal has translated his wealth of skills to a number of industries, and yet it took real human experience to fully transition to the world of banking and finance.

“I believe that experience is gained with people and not with industries or sectors. We can certainly gain knowledge about one industry and become experts, but experience always relates to people. When I worked with the banking sector, I had a hard time understanding the jargon my colleagues used. They slowed down so that I could grasp the terminology. In a very short amount of time, I was in the fold, and it was simply thanks to the support I received from my coworkers. That’s the kind of work experience that creates an innovative work environment.”

The truth is there’s no real difference between tech innovation and banking innovation. Innovation in the arts may somehow inform how companies interact with their customers.

Most important is the ability to work well with others and listen to new ideas with an open mind. When professionals like Lal continue to push forward into the future with patience and expertise, we all benefit.

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I'm a long time fan of tech innovation, especially its capacity to cross over into the realms of art and social justice. The paradigms are constantly changing, and we need to change with them.

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