Monday 30 September 2019

Sibos 2019 exceeds expectations

I’ve just spent a very interesting and informative few days at Sibos, the World’s pre-eminent (and largest) gathering of the banking and payments industry. For 4 days every Autumn, the Sibos community gathers to discuss the latest pressing issues and to exchange views on the future shape of the industry. Banking institutions from all over the globe are represented, along with service providers and technology partners. As a result, a fair number of deals are set in motion at Sibos every year.

SibosSibos actually stands for SWIFT International Banking Operations Seminar and the event is named after SWIFT, the global financial messaging platform that organises the gathering. However, over the years, Sibos has grown into a much broader church than just the banks and the event is now a major destination for many different stakeholders in the financial services ecosystem. Sibos was held in London for the first time this year, with the event last coming to the UK back in 1985, when Brighton played host. The 2019 conference and exhibition was housed within London’s vast ExCel convention centre, in the Canning Town area of London’s Docklands, East End. As a first-time visitor to the ExCel myself, I was somewhat staggered by its sheer scale.

As well as being impressed by the vast size of Sibos 2019, the event immediately answered one of the light-hearted challenges that I’ve been posing to app developers and members of the tech community, during many of my recent interactions. That is, to create an effective digital replacement for the physical exchange of business cards. This year’s Sibos id badge was equipped with a push button sensor that when pressed by both parties, automatically swapped contact card information via email.

TemenosPrior to attending Sibos, I recently spent a couple of days visiting HPE’s recycling plant in Erskine, Scotland  (see: HPE ticks all the boxes at Technology Renewal Centre) learning about the merits of the Circular Economy. I am therefore moved to praise the folks from Swiss based, global banking technology provider, Temenos. Whilst doing my rounds at Sibos, I visited the Temenos stand and discovered that all their furniture was made from recycled plastic recovered from the world’s oceans, whilst the free pens were made from recycled bank notes. At the end of the conference, all the contents will once again be recycled for future use. Well done Temenos. Even if the idea had as much to do with marketing as environmental altruism, every little helps!

Whilst at Sibos I attended an excellent financial crime event hosted by BAE Systems AI. The event featured a truly fantastic presentation from Carl Miller, Research Director at Demos who writes widely on the delta between technology and society, politics, the media and crime. Miller’s delivery style reminded me of Ben Wishaw’s interpretation of “Q” in the current James Bond films. However, it was his content that was most thought provoking and fear inducing, in light of Millerubiquitous, unseen threat posed by cyber criminals that he described. Based on Miller’s presentation, I will definitely be buying his book “The Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab” but I may never trust a robot vacuum cleaner again!

As well as the many the structured sessions provided at Sibos, a gathering of so many industry experts makes the event a great networking opportunity. It is surprising how much one can learn simply from impromptu conversations, as one makes ones way around the exhibition site. Following the BAE Systems event, I got chatting about cyber security with the head of trade finance at a major European bank. To demonstrate the scale of the challenge his organisation faces, he told me that his team investigates around 2,000 false positives every week, within one relatively small functional area of its operation alone. Each of these must be reviewed by “four pairs of eyes” before it can be cleared. Insights such as that help to emphasise why some cyber security vendors see reducing false positives as a bigger challenge than actually blocking eternal threats.

everisAs part of my Sibos activities, I also spent some time with the folks from NTT Data and their financial services consultancy everis. Despite its scale and industry footprint, I suspect that some within the banking industry may not be especially familiar with the NTT brand. Those that make the connection will discover that the company and its everis team comprises some great industry expertise and can also call upon some impressive financial services references. My conversation with Jorge Lesmes, Global Head of everis Blockchain Banking Practice, rather confirmed the impression I had previously from talking with CTOs and other vendors that, despite the relative lack of noise compared to a few years ago, there is a great deal of development around blockchain going on “behind closed doors”. As a result of my interaction with the everis folks, I was also invited to participate in a Japanese tea ceremony. Another first for me and a very calming “Zen-like” experience.

The final day of Sibos 2019 was billed as “Talent Thursday” and included some unique perspectives over lunch from the first ever STAR scholars (Sibos Talent Accelerator Route). This year’s STAR scholars were a group of 30 women, nominated by a number of global financial services organisations and drawn from 17 countries, including the UK, Sweden, South Africa, China and Australia. The aim of the programme is to help foster female talent and empower women by accelerating their career development, so that they can become future leaders in the financial services industry.

If the record number of attendees at this year's event is anything to go by then Sibos 2019 appears to have been a tremendous success. For my part, I found the conference, exhibition and associated activities to be an extremely fruitful and informative use of my time. I saw some old faces, spoke with many new friends and also learned a great deal. In 2020, Boston in the US will play host to the event between 5-8 October and I will look forward to renewing my acquaintance with the Sibos community.

Posted by Jon C Davies at '16:39' - Tagged: banking   Sibos  

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