Article | March 4, 2020
Machine learning has had fruitful applications in finance well before the advent of mobile banking apps, proficient chatbots, or search engines. Given the high volume, accurate historical records, and quantitative nature of the finance world, few industries are better suited for artificial intelligence. There are more uses cases of machine learning in finance than ever before, a trend perpetuated by more accessible computing power and more accessible machine learning tools (such as Google’s Tensorflow).
Article | November 24, 2020
1.Diversity is critical.
Human life endures and evolves due to the intertwining of different gene pools.
Innovation happens with fresh insightful connections between cultures, expertise and backgrounds.
Treating people equally and with respect, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual identity or age, among other differences, is not just ethically and morally correct, but it leads for better outcomes in society and business.
In many parts of the world, including the United States, there has been significant improvement in the life of women, minorities and LGBTQ communities if compared to a decade or two decades ago.
However, while much progress has been made, there are still significant challenges and obstacles as the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements among others clearly illuminate.
While all of us whether as individuals, communities or business continue to strive to ensure equal opportunity and a just society, we should not forget three other critical forms of diversity which may not have movements or focus on them, but are critical to truly build on the efforts and movements underway. These are 1) Diversity of Voices, 2) Diversity of Generations and 3) Diversity of Choices.
1. Diversity of Voices
A few months ago I wrote a piece called Diverse Faces are not the same as Diverse Voices.
Ensuring a diversity of faces is a necessary but insufficient step. Not only do companies need different faces around the table, but they also need diversity in thinking. We need to ensure that every person in a firm and around the table has a voice.
Most importantly, it is critical to have voices that can speak truth to power, question the status quo, call out potential issues and be heard without the risk of being punished.
If such voices were listened to, many companies, such as Wells Fargo and possibly Boeing, would not have suffered losses of reputation and market valuation. There were people who knew there were issues, but they either kept quiet or were silenced or ignored.
For true diversity it is key that people can call out the turd on the table when everyone else is celebrating what looks like a delicious brownie.
For years I have studied how to ensure such voices are nurtured and heard. There is a chapter in my book called “The Turd on the Table” which discusses my findings in detail but in the article noted above I summarize some key findings.
2. Diversity of Generations
These days in my multi-faceted second career of author, speaker/teacher and advisor, I journey (virtually rather than physically given the times we live in) more broadly across business, academia, politics, art, and science around the world than every before.
In just the arena of Business, I can find myself presenting to the Board of a FTSE 100/Fortune 500 company, advising a small start-up and then speaking about my book and sharing career learnings with either youthful students in a BBA or MBA program or more experienced individuals refreshing their expertise or re-thinking their careers while pursuing an Executive MBA.
While I share, teach and advise, I also am constantly learning and have come to believe that while many firms having smartly incorporated women and people of color and people with different forms of expertise on to their decision making councils, they remain relatively homogenous with regard to age. Almost everyone is within the same 16 year generation.
Established companies tend to have Board members in their 50’s and 60’s , while start-ups skew to the 20’s and 30’s. Established companies have young folks on what they call Challenger Boards presenting to real boards and Challenger companies have the occasional grey haired expert to serve as an advisor.
Why should a Fortune 500 Company not have accomplished individuals who are a generation or two younger on the main board? Why do start-ups believe that older people cannot be mentally or technically agile?
Regardless of what you may think of two very accomplished individuals in a Nancy Pelosi in her 70’s and an Alexandra Ocasio Cortez in her 30’s, I believe better decisions are made because of their different generational perspectives.
This generational divide is not just in Business but in Education, Arts and every where I look.
We should ask why ?
3. Diversity of Opinion and Choice.
In the recent election in the United States more people (70 Million) voted for Donald Trump than voted for Barack Obama ( 69.5 million) when he won his first landslide victory in 2008. The only person who garnered more votes is President-Elect Biden with 75 million votes and counting.
As someone who is friends and/or works with people who voted for each candidate and who respects and continues to respect and admire many of the voters on each side, I worry when some folks on each side paint the other as a caricature.
Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is an anti-mask, gun toting racist, science hating, selfish capitalist nor is everyone who voted for Joe Biden a tree hugging, de-fund the police, pacifist socialist.
In this polarized age weaponized by social media and algorithms of enragement it is very easy to paint things in black or white but that is not what humans are.
A person in two moods is often more different than two different people.
Rather than demonize we should seek to understand and find points of agreement which are many ( most folks on either side would rather live in the US than in other countries, most would hope to have a better world for their children etc.)
If people cannot choose and have their own opinions than most other forms of diversity don’t amount to a hill of beans.
People and life are complicated.
All we know is that we have opinions and belief and choices.
And like humans they are incomplete, imperfect, impermanent.
2. Learnings from Bitcoin
Five years ago in a blog post i wrote…
Bitcoin and Blockchain are likely to revolutionize money. It is likely to become the currency of the Internet since it addresses the lack of trust in financial institutions, speaks to the need of the unbanked and leverages network technology. It’s in the early innings and too much focus on the roller coasting price. With that being said I would recommend everyone buy a bitcoin (its now about 240 dollars as I write this) and begin to understand it. In the US, Coinbase is an ideal wallet. The book to read on this topic is The Age of Cryptocurrency by Vigna and Casey two Wall Street Journal Financial Journalists.
As I write this some five years later, a Bitcoin is trading around 16,000 dollars which is a 6400 percent return, magnitudes better than even if you had put the $250 in Netflix which is the best performing FAANG .( Bitcoin along the way soared to 19,891 dollars in December 2017 before crashing to the 3000’s a few months later but never being below 3000 dollars in the last three years.)
I am not a financial advisor and make no recommendations ( I made my recommendation 5 years ago, since 250 dollars was not a big amount of money to risk to understand and follow a technology and eco-system that might become big). I do wish to share two learnings from Bitcoin which everybody may want to keep in mind as they make decisions at work on whom they meet and what they pay attention to …
The Future Comes from the Slime and not the Heavens: Like Bitcoin, much that of the future comes from places no one is looking.
IBM did not take MS-Dos and Microsoft seriously. Microsoft did not understand what Larry Page and Sergey Brin had created in the PageRank algorithm and Google Search. Bezos turned out to be more than a book seller on the Internet. Again and again, Boards and Leaders pay attention to each other, to the famous, to the powerful and to what dominates the news.
David will not be found hanging out with the Goliaths.
Even today, I find it amazing how incestious and uniform thinking is in so many “councils of the powerful”. The same words…disruption…personalization…platforms…data… All of us trampling on well worn paths of widespread and obvious thinking.
Of course we have to work in an an omni-channel, digital first, platform dominated world with personalized data. Everybody better do so to compete and remain relevant. But then what? This is where the ball is. Where is the ball going ?
Pay attention to the non-obvious, the small and weird. Take meetings with folks you would not normally do even though they have no rolodexes or fame.
Remember that those behind Red Ropes may be roping themselves in rather than roping others out.
Experiment quickly with new companies and technologies instead of meeting after meeting which costs more than testing out the new.
Do not diddle.
Mindset Shifts: There comes a time when there is a mindset shift. When this happens ( it is has happened with Bitcoin, and recently with Tesla when all the "Gods of Finance” pooh poohed what they did not understand and soon will again with the reality of Climate Change and Gene Therapy), major new industries and opportunities are born and major forces of disruption and wealth creation happen.
Build a case for why you may be wrong.
Build a case for the opposite of what you think is true.
Shift your mind before it is shifted.
3. Looking for a Christmas Gift for your friends, your team or your company?
As many of you know, and many have been huge supporters of (Thank you!) a book I authored called “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” which was published globally early in the year by HarperCollins.
The book which has 12 chapters, each of which can be read in any order, provides tangible advice in four areas. 1) How to think about the future, 2) How to manage and adapt to change so it sucks less, 3) How to lead with soul and 4) How to upgrade your mental operating system.
The Economist Magazine said…”During the lockdown your columnist has worked his way through four weighty tomes by managers who argue that companies have a broader purpose than simply making a profit. The books were “Trailblazer” by Marc Benioff, “Green Swans” by John Elkington, “Restoring the Soul of Business” by Rishad Tobaccowala and “Share” by Chris Yates and Linda Jingfang Cai.
Perhaps the best of the books is Mr Tobaccowala’s. That is because the author, a senior adviser at Publicis Groupe, an advertising and communications firm, has a clear focus: how to ensure you can hire, then inspire, the right workers in the knowledge economy. “Employees who find work meaningful are highly productive, agile and committed,” he writes, adding that talented workers are in a more powerful bargaining position in the current economy. He also argues that companies can be too obsessed with data, and not enough with employee motivation: “The best businesses find ways to marry the math and the magic.”The book is clearly written and full of sensible and practical suggestions. “
The book has also made some Best Business Books of the Year list including form Strategy and Business which wrote
“Restoring the Soul of Business, I kept thinking as I read it, is part Ken Auletta (the New Yorker media critic who, as it happens, authored the foreword), part Deepak Chopra. As detailed and all-business as Tobaccowala is, and as soberly and expertly as he makes his case here, it would be unimaginable to ruminate, at book length no less, on a subject like the importance of humanity without sounding at times like something out of the Up with People program. (One chapter is titled “How to Lead with Soul.”)
Aside from its numerous how-to lists, the book is filled with helpful case studies of companies that have mastered the fusion of data-based marketing and business management with human relationships.
A smart and worldly man, Tobaccowala has produced a deeply informed book about brand marketing, data science, and humanity that is a remarkably lively read. Name another book about business (or any other subject) that in one breath urges the reader to acknowledge “the turd on the table” in the boardroom and references François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Joan Didion in the next.”
Read the full review here.
You can read more about the book including an essay from me on why you should read the book and different purchase options ( audible, kindle, ebook, book and even CD-ROM) everywhere in the world here….https://rishadtobaccowala.com/book
And for those who want to get more than 25 books or e-books reach out to me for both bulk pricing and Concierge handling from HarperCollins. If you want to upgrade and inspire your teams $10 to $20 is a great investment as a Christmas present…
Regardless, thank you for the 10 minutes every Sunday or whenever you give to reading this newsletter…
Article | April 20, 2020
Here are ten steps to defining a data strategy based on a data capability maturity assessment, for a Financial Institution, Identify and Simplify Maturity models, and customize the yardstick as well as benchmarks based on local study and future organization strategy. Conduct workshop with leaders and grassroots to sensitize the assessment and questionnaires.
Article | February 26, 2020
The fintech industry is one of the most visibly disruptive sectors since it can dramatically impact everyday consumers as well as the business of all sizes. It’s also potentially a highly regulated sector, with governments and regulators well aware of the need to both protect consumers and businesses, and to provide a fair, competitive environment for industry players.