Die IBank – so individuell wie jeder Bankkunde

„Banking as a Platform“ gewinnt an Bedeutung

(English version here)

VON PROF. DR. PATRICK SCHÜFFEL AM 

Kunden erwarten zunehmend maßgeschneiderte, individuelle Angebote. Produktindividualisierung und Mass-Customization liegen im Trend. Auch die Zukunft von Banken und Sparkassen hängt angesichts der Konkurrenz durch FinTechs davon ab.v

Moderne Fertigungstechnologien erlauben, was vor wenigen Jahrzehnten noch unvorstellbar war. Wenn wir wollen, können wir heute Produkte aus der Massenproduktion beziehen, die dennoch auf unsere individuellen Bedürfnisse zugeschnitten sind. Michael Dell machte lediglich den Anfang, als er damit anfing, in großem Maßstab PCs nach individuellen Anforderungen zusammenzubauen. Heute bestellen wir unsere maßgeschneiderten Turnschuhe bei Nike ID, tragen ein einzigartiges T-Shirt von Spreadshirt und essen M & M’s mit unserer eigenen Initialen. Der Trend zur Mass-Customization endet jedoch nicht im verarbeitenden Gewerbe. Im Gegenteil, bereits heute können wir die Auswirkungen der Mass Customization in der Finanzdienstleistungsbranche beobachten, beispielsweise dort, wo Robo-Advisor die Kundenportfolios der Retail-Kundschaft anpassen. Aber das ist nicht der Endpunkt der Evolution. Es ist nur der Anfang, der schlussendlich zu maßgeschneiderten Banken führen wird.

Die individuelle Bilanz eines Bankkunden

Ob man es mag oder nicht, jeder einzelne von uns besitzt seine eigene ganz persönliche Bilanz: Auf der Aktivseite besitzen wir flüssige Vermögenswerte wie das Bargeld, das wir in unseren Geldbeuteln herum tragen, das Geld auf unseren Giro- und Sparkonten sowie Geldmarktinstrumente. Unsere persönlichen Anlagen umfassen möglicherweise mittelfristige Schuldverschreibungen, Anleihen, Aktien, Investmentfonds, Rentenersparnisse und / oder alternative Anlagen. Schließlich können wir auch sehr illiquide Werte besitzen wie eigengenutzte Immobilien sowie Ferienhäuser oder sogar vermietetes Wohneigentum.

Persönliche Bilanz
Jeder einzelne Bankkunde besitzt seine eigene ganz persönliche Bilanz.

Auf der Passivseite verfügen wir ebenfalls über eine Vielzahl von Positionen. Die kurzfristigen Verbindlichkeiten können unbezahlte Rechnungen, Kreditkartenguthaben, fällige Steuern, kurzfristig fällige Raten- und Konsumentenkredite, Kfz-Darlehen, Studentenkredite, Hypotheken mit kurzen Restlaufzeiten usw. beinhalten. Langfristige Verbindlichkeiten können jegliche Verbraucher-, Auto- oder Studentenkredite umfassen, die nach einem Jahr fällig sind. Zu guter Letzt, können wir auch Hypotheken für unser primäres Wohneigentum Residenz und / oder Ferienwohnungen und / oder Mietobjekt aufgenommen haben.

So individuell wie wir als Menschen sind, so individuell sind auch unsere persönlichen Bilanzen. Doch was wir als Verbraucher gemeinsam haben, ist, dass wir freiwillig oder unfreiwillig diese Bilanzen bewirtschaften. Wir führen Treasury-Funktionen auf unseren persönlichen Bilanzen durch, indem wir Rechnungen und Raten bezahlen, Geld von einem Konto zum anderen übertragen, indem wir Investition in Aktien tätigen oder durch die Rückgabe von Investmentfondsanteilen etc.

Die FinTech Alternative

In der westlichen Welt unterhalten viele Verbraucher Beziehungen zu einer oder zwei Banken – oftmals Universalbanken -, die allen Bedürfnissen entsprechen, welche sich aus den besagten Treasury-Transaktionen ergeben. Dennoch erhält das Serviceangebote der Universalbanken zunehmend Konkurrenz von FinTech-Firmen, deren Anzahl und Vielfalt der FinTech-Angebote kontinuierlich steigt. Sie bieten typischerweise eine sehr schmale Bandbreite von Services an, sind dabei jedoch hochspezialisiert und meist mit einer besseren User-Experience und günstigeren Preisen verbunden.

Wenn ein Bankkunde beispielsweise kleinere Summen sparen möchte, bieten FinTech-Firmen wie Creditgate24, LendingClub oder Crowdcube Angebote zur Optimierung von liquiden Mitteln. Um langfristige Investitionen zu verwalten, kann man sich an Anbieter wie Wealthfront, Moneyfarm, Nutmeg, Addepar etc. wenden. Auch auf der Passivseite gibt es eine breite Palette von FinTech-Firmen, die sich den verschiedenen Passivposten widmen. So können die kurz- und mittelfristigen Verbindlichkeiten beispielsweise durch die Verwendung von Affirm, Borro, Lendable, Prosper etc. optimiert werden.

Um Geld von einem Akteur bzw. Konto zu einem anderen zu übertragen, kann der Verbraucher unter Dutzenden von Zahlungsdienstleistern wie TransferWise, LiquidPay, Paypal und dergleichen wählen. Für den Wertpapierhandel kann sich der Kunde sich an eToro oder Robinhood wenden. Sogar das Spenden von Geld wird mit FinTech-Anbietern wie Elefunds komfortabler und effizienter.

Diese neuen Arten von Finanzdienstleistern, die ihre Nischen auf den einzelnen Gliedern der Wertschöpfungskette von Universalbanken gefunden haben, versprechen in der Regel nicht nur ihren Kunden eine bessere Nutzererfahrung, sondern auch geringere Kosten. Was für die nahe Zukunft vorhersehbar ist, ist, dass die Kunden es nicht länger akzeptieren werden, durch den Lock-in Effekt mit ein oder zwei Banken dauerhaft verbunden zu sein, sondern dass sie eine ganze Palette von verschiedenen Finanzdienstleistern nutzen werden. Schließlich wird diese Entwicklung dazu führen, dass jeder Kunde seine eigene Bank, die IBank , wie ich sie nenne, zusammenstellen wird. IBank ist dabei im Sinne von „Ich Bank“ gemeint und nicht zu verwechseln mit den iBank-Angeboten von Barclays, der Bank von Georgia, Fransabank, BCU etc.

Der Zusammenbau der IBank

Die IBank umfasst eine Auswahl von Dienstleistungen, welche von bestimmten FinTech-Unternehmen angeboten werden, und die von den einzelnen Kunden handverlesen werden. Dies kann dynamisch und ad-hoc oder auf einer dauerhafteren Basis geschehen. Der Kunde – oder ein übergreifender Algorithmus, der für diesen Zweck erarbeitet wurde – könnte so zum Beispiel von Fall zu Fall entscheiden, welcher Zahlungsdienst für eine individuelle Überweisung der bestgeeignetste wäre. Ebenso könnte der Kunde oder das System entscheiden, welcher Hypothekenanbieter idealerweise gewählt werden soll, um eine Hypothek abzulösen.

Es ist wichtig zu verstehen, dass Kunden künftig von „Banken“ Gebrauch machen werden, die ebenso persönlich auf die Bedürfnisse des Kunden zugeschnitten sein werden, wie es die individuelle Bilanz der Verbrauchers erfordert. Die Herausforderung und gleichsam Chance in dieser künftigen Bankenwelt ist es, die Plattform zu liefern, welche diese Dienstleistungen von verschiedenen Anbietern nahtlos zusammenführt (Banking as a Platform). Diejenigen Anbieter, die es schaffen, eine übergreifende Struktur zusammenzustellen und zu pflegen, welche es vermag, die Vielfalt der Dienstleistungsangebote von FinTech-Anbietern reibungslos zu integrieren, werden eine vielversprechende Zukunft haben. Angesichts einer Finanzdienstleistungsbranche, die zunehmend atomisiert wird, ist dies sicherlich ein lohnenswerter Ausblick.

WIE VERÖFFENTLICHT AUF “DER BANK BLOG

The Concise Fintech Compendium

Do you sometimes feel lost in the Fintech jungle? Then this booklet may be the right guide for you:

More than 130 Fintech terms, acronyms and abbreviations explained in plain English.

Download your free copy here:
Schueffel (2017) The Concise FINTECH COMPENDIUM

Author: Schueffel, Patrick
Year: 2017
Title: The Concise Fintech Compendium
Place Published: Fribourg, Switzerland
Publisher: School of Management Fribourg, Switzland
Reference Type:  Book
ISBN: 9782940384440

 

 

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch

 

Asset Managers in the Fintech World – Doomed like Dinosaurs?

Excerpt from:

Tech Magazine
Special Edition 2017
p. 8 & 9

 

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch,www.heg-fr.ch

Do Fintech dogs exist? Yes! Switzerland has 500’000 of them!

Over the past years Fintech has transformed the way how the collection of dog taxes is being ensured in Switzerland. Modern technology, dogs, their owners, vets, the police, and tax authorities work hand in hand to safeguard the levying of dog dues. The result is a process that provides benefits to everyone involved.

For decades Switzerland has been known for its rather lenient approach to taxes. However, this certainly does not apply to dog taxes. Take, for instance, Zurich: 7’156 dogs peacefully coexist with the human population of the city. If you walk your dog on the streets of Zurich, you can be pretty sure to sooner or later bump into the taxman, or – to be more precise – into a dutiful policeman with a handheld RFID reader. Any dog kept in Switzerland must be examined, registered and chipped by a vet within three months from birth. The policeman checking your dog will then read out the data on the microchip which was subcutaneously implanted in your canine. A wireless connection is established from the RFID device to the AMICUS database in the Swiss capital Berne where all dogs of Switzerland are supposed to be registered. Should the dog be listed in the city of Zurich, the policeman can furthermore access the database of the municipality to verify in real-time whether you have already paid your dog dues. If not, you may be fined on the spot.

Benefits of a digital monitoring process

This system has three major advantages over the previously used dog tags that you put on the dog’s collar in order to prove that you paid your taxes: First, there is no more hassle with physical badges. Second, the system works highly efficient as it runs online and in real-time. And third, as it operates in real-time and as the chip serves as a unique identifier of the dog, it is virtually impossible to dupe the system.

Next to these advantages, there are several other advantages, such as the easy identification of the owner of a stray dog, even if the dog wears no collar. Moreover, dog trafficking from puppy mills abroad is severely hampered by this system. But most importantly, the vaccination record of the animal is also linked to the unique identifier of the dog’s microchip, so that meddling with vaccination histories is prevented.

Pervasive Fintech solution

The Fintech dogs of Switzerland are yet just another example how pervasive Fintech has become in the meantime. In this case it did not come as a revolutionary big bang, but it slowly moved into the everyday’s lives of all Swiss dog owners. It was painless process for all stakeholders (except for the dog who feels a sting when the chip is being implanted) and it yielded unprecedented efficiency and safety levels. Moreover, this example is not yet another Fintech showcase, but more specifically a RegTech and TaxTech example that provided all stakeholders with additional benefits.

Let us just hope that this system will not be taken to the extreme and that humans will be spared of getting a microchip implanted for tax purposes.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion Fribourg, Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch / www.heg-fr.ch

Eine deutschsprachige wissenschaftliche Definition des Begriffs “Fintech”

Kürzlich erschien in der englischsprachigen Fachzeitschrift Journal of Innovation Management mein Artikel zur Definition des Begriffs Fintech: Schueffel, P. (2016). Taming the Beast: A Scientific Definition of Fintech. Journal of Innovation Management, 4(4), 32-54.

Nach der Durchsicht von über 200 wissenschaftlichen Artikeln, die im Verlaufe der vergangenen 40 Jahre erschienen und in welchen das Wort Fintech benutzt wurde, hatte ich in diesem Artikel die folgende Definition des Begriffs Fintech abgeleitet:

“Fintech is a new financial industry that applies technology to improve financial activities” (Schueffel, 2016; p. 45)

Da der Artikel ausschließlich auf Englisch veröffentlicht wurde, erreichten mich zwischenzeitlich zahlreiche Anfragen, wie diese Definition ins Deutsche zu übersetzen sei. Gerne möchte ich diese Frage mit der folgenden deutschen Definition beantworten:

„Fintech ist eine neue Finanzindustrie, welche Technologie verwendet, um finanzielle Aktivitäten zu verbessern.“

Mit besten Grüssen

Patrick Schüffel

 

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance,
Haute école de gestion Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 4
CH-1700 Fribourg
patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch
www.heg-fr.ch

 

A Scientific Definition of Fintech

 

“Fintech is a new financial industry that applies technology to improve financial activities.” (Schueffel, 2016; p. 45)

This is the definition I derived after examining more than 200 scholarly articles that were published over a period of 40 years and which are referencing the word Fintech in one way or the other. Building on the commonalities of the definitions that found entry into those peer-reviewed journals I distilled the definition provided above.

I am proud that my work withstood the rigorous double-blind peer review process of the Journal of Innovation Management and was published these days.

As the Journal of Innovation Management is an open access journal you can retrieve the full text by using the following link:

http://www.open-jim.org/article/view/322

A big thank you goes out to the two anonymous
reviewers for their highly constructive comments and to the editors of the Journal of Innovation Management, Anne-Laure Mention, João José Pinto Ferreira and Marko Torkkeli!

Schueffel, P. (2016). Taming the Beast: A Scientific Definition of Fintech. Journal of Innovation Management, 4(4), 32-54.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch,www.heg-fr.ch

 

Why do seasoned private bankers not understand the Blockchain? It’s in their DNA, stupid!

Seasoned private bankers often do not grasp the idea of the Blockchain. It was not until I understood that I was using the wrong vocabulary that I could convey what the Blockchain was all about.

Have you even tried to explain the Blockchain concept to a seasoned private banker? Have you tried to describe the notion of a distributed ledger to this type of auditorium? And have you experienced the same result as I have over and over again: have you, too, just banged your head against a brick wall? I pondered the question why it was so much harder to explicate the concept to alleged banking experts than to first-year business students.

Use the right vocabulary

After numerous futile explanation attempts, it dawned on me. I was using the wrong vocabulary. Using the word ledger is counterproductive to the cause. When talking about a ledger, the traditional banker immediately translates that term into “bankbook” and that is the book in which the bank keeps all records of all customers adding and taking money from their bank accounts. It is thus the holy grail of private banking. Distributing the holy grail is inconceivable to many a private banker.

At that point it then hardly matters if you continue to explain that the users of the Blockchain are typically anonymized. It is almost futile to further explicate that, for instance, Bitcoin accounts are not tied to the identity of users and that anyone can create new and completely random Bitcoin accounts at any time, without the need to submit any personal information to any party. You have lost them already. Hence, what I found helpful in this situation is to refrain from using the term “ledger” altogether. Instead I call it distributed data base or distributed accounting system.

Give them a hands-on example

A friend of mine and design thinking pioneer, Michael Lewrick recently recommended me to do a hands-on exercise in particularly tough cases. Individually assign a random yet different number to every one of the ten bankers that are sitting in a room with you and have each of them note down their number and favourite colour on a separate sheet of paper. Have them pass on the paper to another participant and everyone repeats the exercise. Do so altogether ten times. In the end, everyone holds a list of 10 numbers and favourite colours in their hands. At this stage you can ask a) “What is Bob’s favourite colour?” – the others shouldn’t be able to tell as Bob’s identity has been anonymized. Yet you can also ask Bob, whether the correct colour is listed on his sheet – which should clearly be the case. And b) you can ask someone to now commit a “fraud”, i.e. to change the favourite colour of one participant – which should be nearly impossible unless the tasked fraudster does so on ten sheets of paper with the nine remaining group members agreeing. This exercise nicely explains some of the key features of the Blockchain and monies based thereon.

It’s worth trying

These two measures combined, using audience specific language and a hands-on exercise should therefore do the job. It certainly deserves a try. The Blockchain concept is too important as we could afford leaving private bankers behind. Happy explaining!

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch

The IBank

The personal balance sheet
The personal balance sheet

The number and diversity of Fintech offerings is soaring. As banking clients increasingly often enjoy not only a better user experience, but also cheaper rates at Fintech firms, their willingness to be locked-in with one or two universal banks diminishes. Henceforth clients will gradually assemble their own individual “banks”, comprising a range of offerings from different Fintech companies. Those firms which will be able to provide an overarching structure to seamlessly wrap the multitude of Fintech offerings will experience their heydays.

Modern production technology allows what would have been inconceivable only a few decades ago. If we want, we can have products of mass production tailored to our needs nowadays. Dell made only the beginning when first assembling PCs to our requests on a large scale. Today we order our tailored sneakers at Nike ID, wear a unique t-shirt from Spreadshirt and eat M&M’s sporting our very own initials. Yet, the trend of mass customization did not stop in the manufacturing sector. We can already observe its ramifications in the financial services industry where Robo-Advisors offer retail customers to tailor their client portfolios. But this is not the end point of the evolution. It is the mere beginning which will eventually lead to tailored banks.

The personal balance sheet

Like it or not, every single one of us carries his or her own very personal balance sheet: On the asset side, we have liquid asset positions such as the cash that we have in our wallets, the money on our current accounts, our savings accounts or money market instruments. Our personal investments may comprise medium term notes, bonds, stocks, mutual funds, pension savings and/or alternative Investments. Finally, we may possess highly illiquid real estate investments such as our primary residences, vacation homes or even property that we rent out.

On the liability side we may also have a variety of items. Current liabilities may include unpaid bills, credit card balances, taxes due, installment loans due in the short run, consumer loans, car loans, student loans, mortgages due within one year etc. Non-current liabilities may include any consumer, car or student loan that is due after one year. Last but not least, we may have mortgage debt for our primary residence and/or vacation homes and/or rental property.

Hence, as individual as we are as human beings, as individual are our personal balance sheets. Yet, what we do have in common is that we willingly or unwillingly manage these balance sheets. We carry out treasury functions on our personal balance sheets by paying bills and installments, transferring money from one account to another, by investing in shares or by redeeming mutual funds etc.

The Fintech Alternative

So far many consumers in the western world have ties to one or two banks, oftentimes universal banks, that cater to all of the needs resulting from these treasury transactions. Yet, the service offerings of universal banks are increasingly rivaled by Fintech firms that offer a narrow, yet highly specialized service or product.

If you have a little cash to spare, Fintech firms such as Creditgate24, LendingClub or Crowdcube, have offerings for optimizing liquid assets. To manage longer term investments one can turn to providers such Wealthfront, Moneyfarm, Nutmeg, Addepar etc. On the liability side, too, there is a vast array of Fintech companies jockeying for position. Current and medium term liabilities may be optimized by using Affirm, Borro, Lendable, Prosper etc.

In order to transfer money from one provider or account to another the consumer can chose among dozens of payment providers such as TransferWise, LiquidPay, Paypal and the likes. For trading purposes the client may want to turn to eToro or Robinhood. Even donating money becomes easier and less burdensome with Fintech providers such as Elefunds.

These new type of financial services providers that found their niches on specific links of the value chains of universal banks typically not only promise their clients a better user experience, but also lower costs. What is thus foreseeable for the near future is that clients will no longer accept to be locked-in with one or two banks, but that they will make use of a range of financial service providers. Eventually every user will assemble his or her very own bank, the IBank* as I call it.

Assembling the IBank

The IBank will comprise a selection of services provided by specific Fintech companies handpicked by the individual client. This can happen dynamically and on an ad-hoc basis or on a more permanent base. The client – or an overlaying algorithm for that matter – may decide on a case-by-case basis which payment service would be optimal for a specific transfer. On a more longer term basis one mortgage provider may be chosen until the renewal of the mortgage is due.

What is important to note, however, is that clients will make use of tailored “banks” which may be as personal as their individual balance sheet. The challenge and opportunity in this future banking world will be to provide the glue that seamlessly keeps together these services provided by different providers. Those providers who manage to assemble and maintain an overarching structure that smoothly integrates the multitude of service offering of Fintech providers will have a bright future in finance services world which is being ever more atomized.

*IBank like “I bank” – not to be mistaken with the iBank offerings by Barclays, The Bank of Georgia, Fransabank, BCU and so on.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch

The Plight of the Lemming Robo-Advisor

(c) Nature Picture Library / Alamy, all rights reserved
(c) Nature Picture Library / Alamy, all rights reserved

There is a popular misconception about Lemmings. It is said that they commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs when their population becomes too dense. However, this is quite far from the truth. Instead of committing suicide Lemmings will seek pastures new when their environment no longer serves their biological urges. As Lemmings can swim, they then may choose to cross a body of water in search of a new habitat. However, when doing so, many may drown as the fjords or rivers are too wide, thus stretching the Lemmings’ physical capabilities beyond their limits.

Financial markets and Lemmings

What is true, however, is that large populations of Lemmings move in one group, and it is this group migration that influences the moves of the individual Lemming. Once a significant share of the group has entered the water, the other Lemmings are likely to follow suit, inconsiderate of the potential fatality of their choice. Financial markets are not so different. Benchmarks are extensively being used and research in the field of behavioral Finance has yielded strong indications that herding behavior is rather pronounced. The broadly hailed Robo-Advisors of the Fintech age are likely to amplify this problem.

Mushrooming Robo-Advisors

Robo-Advisors are sprawling across the globe. A Robo-Advisor can be defined as a self-guided online wealth management service that provides automated investment advice at low costs and low account minimums employing portfolio management algorithms. Clearly, while there are exceptions, Robo-Advisors typically build client portfolios from ETFs, more specifically from equity ETFs. This model has worked fairly well as long as the stock markets were going up.

ETF monocropping

However, what will happen when the markets turn south? Most Robo-Advisors are not older than five years. Over the past five years the Euro Stoxx 50 went up 32%, the Dow Jones soared by 68%, and the S&P 500 grew by 78%. Against the backdrop of these well performing indices it requires no magic to put together a well performing client portfolio. Yet, in declining markets, the index-pegged Robos will just perform as poorly as their benchmarks.

No hedging functionalities

Evidently, the heyday of hedge funds are over. Clients are no longer willing to accept a 2/20 fee structure no matter the performance of their investment. Yet, as soon as markets move down for a prolonged period, many investors will start to liquidate ETF positions. These divestments will fuel another round of decline in indices. In this situation Robo-Advisors will be rather useless as they typically have no built-in hedge functionality. The herd of Lemming-Robos will just follow the rest of the market into deep waters.

Robo-Advisors must evolve

Not all is lost yet. Robo-Advisors need to make the next evolutionary step and get prepared for wider market downturns. Consequently, they should consider incorporating hedging functionalities into their offerings. Gambling on ever increasing stock markets is just too risky of a gamble. However, if the supply side, does not act, then the demand side should swing into action and diversify their ETF portfolios. Clients may therefore want to invest part of their assets into hedged investment structures of different provenance.

No matter the cause of the next financial market downturn, it is safe to say that it will happen. Lemming Robos which will not have enhanced their offerings by then, will not serve their clients well. A broad decline of equity indices may then lead to a true renaissance of the hedge fund industry. Human driven alpha generating strategies will then take back the lead from beta generating Robo-Advisors.

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, Professsor, Institute of Finance, Haute école de gestion, Fribourg Chemin du Musée 4, CH-1700 Fribourg, patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch,www.heg-fr.ch

Your New Trading Screen – In A Not So Distant Future

WoW_small

Open APIs and Gamification will revolutionize the look and feel of trading screens. This will happen sooner than you think.

For several years I had my desk on the twelfth floor of “Uetlihof” in Zurich or on Credit Suisse’s trading floor as non-locals call it. It was an exciting surrounding with traders sitting behind walls of six, eight, or even nine LCD screens and executing trades from early to late shift. During the day they went about their business, namely securities or FX trading. At night, however, many of the folks on that floor shared a different passion: they played the multiplayer online video game World of Warcraft. For that purpose some of my colleagues had even erected walls of LCD screens at home in order to indulge in this pastime. The mornings in the office often started with stories from last night’s adventures in the virtual world, most of the time even bevor the official morning brief.

I came to wonder what these colleagues were essentially doing during working hours and off hours. Wasn’t it sort of identical? To put it at its simplest, during working hours they were receiving information from their screens – most of which came from Bloomberg – they were processing this information in their brains and then they were acting upon it by executing orders or parts thereof or simply waiting. For taking action they used the Bloomberg provided user interface. At night they were sitting in front of their World of Warcraft screens which were displaying information provided by Blizzard Entertainment they were processing this information in their heads and then they were acting on it accordingly either by slaying a monster, injuring it or by avoiding it. To take action they used the Blizzard Entertainment provided graphical user interface (GUI).

The commonalities are striking, I thought. But here comes the major difference: during the day they were paid handsomely for their “work” by their employer. At night, however, they ran up quite some bills which they owed to Blizzard Entertainment for “playing”. In other words, for the people concerned similar actions resulted in an income during day and caused a cash outflow at night. So what justified this difference? What sets apart a Bloomberg screen from a World of Warcraft game from the user ‘s point of view? I figured it was nothing but the fun factor. Working with a Bloomberg screen was seen as work whilst playing World of Warcraft created joy. For a long time I pondered the question when someone would create a trading GUI of a World of Warcraft design and an underlying logic that would reflect the World of Warcraft narrative. I am convinced that this time is about to come. This is due to two trends: Gamification and Open APIs

Gamification

According to Wikipedia “Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts”. Furthermore Wikipedia tells us that Gamification regularly employs game design elements which are used in so called non-game contexts. By doing so it strives to improve user engagement and organizational productivity and ease of use among others. Highly successful business applications for Gamification can be found in as diverse areas as education (Kaplan University is boosting student grades by incorporating badges and challenges), recruiting (The U.S. Army is not only offering video games, but also deploying four transportable “Virtual Army Experience” units to shopping malls and attract new recruits and generally promote awareness of the U.S. Army), and personal training (Jillian Michaels motivates her clients to stay on track with her fitness programs by using gamification methods for a variety of fitness contests). But gamification has also made its way into the world of Finance. Mint.com, for instance, makes the rather cumbersome process of financial planning and book keeping more enjoyable by providing a range of goal trackers, visual breakdowns for better understanding of your spending habits and budget allocation etc. And I am convinced that we will see further applications in the world of Finance due to another trend: Open APIs.

Open APIs

Consulting Wikipedia once more, it tells us that an Open API is “a publicly available application programming interface that provides developers with programmatic access to a proprietary software application”. The attribute “open” results from the fact that “an open API is publicly available for all developers to access”. It thus permits developers who are not part of an organization’s workforce to access backend data upon which these developers can build their own applications. Famous APIs in the business world are geo location APIs which can be used to provide a use with his or her geographic location, search engine APIs which allows developers to integrate search logic into own products or services, or postcode APIs that provide end clients with correct postal codes etc. As the API is simply used to fetch backend information from the system of backend-owner, resp. the API publisher has no control over the end product that will we be built around this data. Hence, once a set of skilled developers have access to the backend trading data of a broker firm nothing could keep them from creating a trading GUI that resembles a video game.

Many online brokers around the world already offer adequate APIs for such an undertaking. In Switzerland Interactive Brokers, Swissquote, IG Bank, and also Saxo Bank provide this type of interface, just to name a few. Seeing the activities that are emerging around APIs and the increased transparency that is provided by banks, I am convinced that rather sooner than later we will see a trading screen that much more resembles a video game than a newspaper page. Whether this video game will then be of World of Warcraft-type or rather similar to an Atari version of Space Invaders, remains to be seen.

What will further happen if you directly connect human brains to computers to play the game or when you task AI algorithms to operate the gaming interface, is sufficient material for additional articles. In any case, the process of gamifying the finance industry in general and trading screens in particular promises yet another multimillion, if not billion, business opportunity for video game makers, trading system providers and Fintechs alike.

 

Dr. Patrick Schüffel, A.Dip.C., M.I.B., Dipl.-Kfm.
Professsor
Institute of Finance
Haute école de gestion Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 4
CH-1700 Fribourg
patrick.schueffel@hefr.ch, www.heg-fr.ch