Our thinking

Davos debates what technological change means for business and society

Will.I.Am was a guest speaker at a WEF dinner for CEOs debating the role of technology in our changing society

Technology is at the center of a lot of debates this year. But the emphasis is much more on the future of work and what technological change means for society. Will I Am was a guest speaker at a dinner for CEOs last night where he answered a question about a jobless society, saying he’s pretty sure that people who pray aren’t praying for a job in the afterlife, the question is not about whether we have a jobless society but rather whether we have a purposeless society.

At the Infosys Global FinTech Nightcap, which Brunswick co-hosted, Infosys talked about the work they are doing in the skills area, actively training and re-training the workforce, through their 12-week programmes, to meet the changing needs of the market.

The CEOs of two emerging market financial institutions spoke, thought-provokingly, about the fact that banking as we have known it is dying. Incumbent banks are increasingly seeking technology partnerships to help them accelerate the shift strategically and operationally. They see themselves in a race to take advantage of the change but arguably that the industry is too slow and many will see themselves as back office utilities, or worse, if they fail to adapt in time.

Many people and panels are actively avoiding the conversation on cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, but are actively discussing the underlying technology is seen as a real game changer for society.  Blockchain does not just have the potential to transform the global monetary system, but can help to improve our success fighting financial crime, bringing more people and companies into the financial system. In fact, listening to several financial institutions executives last night, the change is really fundamental. When you add up the underpinning technology shifts - the increasing effort to try and regulate Blockchain technology; the proliferation of mobile payments; P2P lending; Apple Pay - there is a swift and significant shift coming to how people transact and manage finances. On the data front, legislation such as GDPR as well as initiatives such as Open Banking have led to a shift in power - the power dynamic between consumers and financial institutions is seeing power being transferred to the consumer for the first time. The companies that recognise that and adapt will be rewarded, while those that defend their turf will be overtaken.