Last Thursday (13th Sept) Andy Jervis chaired the latest Branch Meeting of the CISI, our professional Institute. The regular meetings are designed to keep members up to date on topical issues, and the three speakers who came along gave us plenty of food for thought!
Trevor Neil kicked off proceedings with a very interesting talk about the onward march of AI - artificial intelligence - and the implications for professional services firms and the financial industry.
Trevor explained that AI is not a thing of the future, it is here already. There are currently over 2,000 business startups in 70 countries that have raised over US$27 billion in new investment, and thousands of people are working hard on AI projects today.
He referred to recent research that suggests that younger people are more likely to trust a computer, with its implied objectivity, to give them advice than a real person. Given that such advice, with the benefits of scale, can be delivered for a fraction of the cost of engaging humans to do it, it's easy to see why major corporations are investing heavily in this area.
Trevor went on to give us an amazing demonstration of how computers can be used to interact with people in a seamless way by showing us a video clip from this years Google I/O Developers Conference, which you can watch below. If you had any doubts about the impact that these technologies will have on our lives in the years to come, you need to see it.
After the demonstration Trevor talked about the different areas of the financial world that are already being affected by developments in AI, including Customer Engagement, Fraud Detection, Regulation, Payments and Lending, and others. It's clear that all firms will need to be prepared to investigate and harness these tools if they are to remain viable over time. Although we are in the early stages of this 'new industrial revolution', it will arrive a lot faster than we thought possible.
Our second speaker was Rebecca Aston, Head of Ethics at the CISI, who discussed 'Integrity at Work'. The Institute has put ethical behaviour at the centre of its ethos, and members are required to complete a minimum number of hours studying this topic.
Understanding what constitutes ethical behaviour may seem obvious at first glance, but Rebecca demonstrated a number of workplace scenarios, based on real-life examples, that helped the audience appreciate the dilemmas that can arise, and the different ways of viewing them. She also referred to some of the recent high-profile cases of corporate behaviour that have been in the headlines, from VW 'dieselgate' to Donald Trump's staffing issues.
Rebecca had brought along voting devices that enabled her to conduct an audience poll in the meeting, and it was clear that members were split on the best resolutions to dilemmas that she had suggested. This led to an interesting debate on the rights and wrongs of the specific behaviours addressed. Rebecca's thought-provoking and engaging session helped to bring both the need for ethical behaviour and the application of it to the front of our minds.
The third speaker, Marlene Outrim, covered the subject 'Planning for Profit'. Marlene Outrim is an experienced Certified Financial Planner and founder of UNIQ Family Wealth, her own practice based in Cardiff. I've known and respected Marlene for many years as someone who fully embraces lifelong financial planning. Her commitment to sharing her enthusiasm has always been evident, not least through her being elected as a former President of the Institute of Financial Planning which merged with the CISI in 2015.
Marlene shared this huge experience and enthusiasm with the audience, explaining how her business is structured to provide an outstanding service to its clients whilst ensuring a good return for its owners. During her wide-ranging talk she addressed the importance of having a business plan, brand positioning, building a value proposition, creating an effective website, the role of the Financial Planner, the importance of processes, how to hire the right people and the six pillars of customer service among a host of other ideas.
As the meeting closed I spoke to Jake, a young member currently studying hard and building his career in a local practice. He told me how much he had enjoyed the meeting and the pages of notes that he was taking away with him. It was great to see that other members had gained as much from the speakers as I had.
Thanks to the members who attended and especially to the speakers, Trevor, Rebecca and Marlene, each of whom had travelled a considerable distance to be with us.
Written by Andy Jervis
Certified Financial Planner & Chairman of Chesterton House