SAP Financial Services Forum Focus: Seth McGuire, Twitter

SAP Financial Services Forum Focus: Seth McGuire, Twitter

A former senior director of business development at Gnip, prior to its 2014 acquisition by Twitter, and a research and sales executive at the Corporate Executive Board, a DC-based consulting firm – now McGuire is a senior business development manager at Twitter, focused on data partnerships. He has been a guest speaker on social media and the markets on programs including CNBC's "Squawk Box," Bloomberg's "Money Moves" and Fox Business' "After the Bell."

McGuire will speak at the upcoming SAP Financial Services Forum, June 23-24, London where he will address the need for better data analytics to drive financial decisions and outline how data derived from Twitter can be used to make more informed trading choices and improve customer service.

Q: What does digital innovation mean to you?

A: When I think about digital innovation, I think about new ways for the world to interact – ways like social networks or mobile and app-based communications. These consumer interactions create new datasets – unstructured, raw data requiring deep aggregate analysis. These could be consumer text (Tweets, blogs), app behavior metrics (how users leverage mobile apps) or image-based analysis (understanding pictures and videos in a scalable way). Those new datasets require a different approach to how companies analyze large sets of aggregate data to understand their customers – different tools, different systems, different organizational mindsets.

Q: What are the main challenges and opportunities that the financial services world faces as adoption of digital technologies becomes greater?

A: Just “keeping pace” with change can be a huge challenge for an industry that is often controlled or regulated in ways that can leave the use of new technologies up in the air. Additionally, I think there are increasing organizational challenges in implementation of new technology because the CIO no longer solely owns it. That can be good and bad – some flexibility in ownership allows innovation across the organisation as well as more nuanced selection of vendors. However, it can also impact overall strategic alignment. The opportunity here is to create a more center-led approach that allows flexibility within set and centrally maintained core principles; companies that do that successfully will be leaders.

Q: How can customer-led innovation be better ingrained within financial institutions?

A: Knowing what customers want is vital to success of any business. The challenge has always been surfacing and identifying those customer insights without bias. Social data like Twitter allows a clear lens through which to view and understand the aggregate needs, desires and complaints of your customers – and your customers’ clients as well.
This is primarily due to the voluntary aspect of social platforms, as well as the scale of data that allows for deep aggregate analysis of customer segments. Once you have this data, it’s important to place it in the context of your business by joining with other key datasets (demographics, sales, customer data) and deriving insights from the interplay of that external and internal knowledge.

Q: How can banks, financial institutions and insurance companies respond to competition from major consumer tech firms and new players who offer innovative digital and mobile financial services products?

A: Traditional financial institutions have long-standing relationships with their customers that puts them in a unique situation to know what customers have always bought and preferred. Simply having that data (understanding customer products, understanding customer churn) is a huge competitive advantage for incumbents. But new players are more likely to embrace digital technologies that give a clearer and faster view of consumers’ opinions at this immediate moment. Traditional firms should not cede that battle just because they are behind, but should make big investments in leveraging the same digital data and technologies. Many banks and financial firms have also started accelerators or innovation labs to support these new FinTech companies in succeeding – in a way that helps the entire industry move forward.

Q: Looking at the agenda, what do you believe some of the key takeaways will be from the SAP Financial Services Forum, 2015?

A: I think the clearest takeaway will be a call to action for financial services firms to double-down on the investment they’re making in digital. A recurring theme in the agenda is change – words like transformation, creation, investment, exploration are popping out throughout the agenda. Companies, and especially these conference-goers, seem to have a real desire to build on digital technologies, but the agenda suggests that we’re only on the verge of true action. Hopefully the conference helps us all in taking those next, necessary steps!

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