Leaders from Financial Institutions Reflect on Transformations in Banking and Technology

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Jul 06, 2018
by Maryam Ghaddar
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Leaders from Financial Institutions Reflect on Transformations in Banking and Technology

Specialists from 18 countries consider the future landscape of financial services at this year’s Salzburg Global Forum on Finance in a Changing World, held at Schloss Leopoldskron, in Salzburg, Austria Participants from this year's program of the Salzburg Global Forum on Finance in a Changing World

Stephen Hawking once said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” When we look at the future, change is inevitable. In the field of finance and economics, this could be a cause for concern, but it could also be a cause for celebration. At this year’s Salzburg Global Forum on Finance in a Changing World, senior leaders and rising specialists sat down to consider the rapid transformation of the finance sector.    

Around 70 participants from 18 countries gathered earlier this month at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria, for a three-day program titled The Promise and Perils of Technology: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cybercrime and FinTech. Topics centered around the risks of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” on banking policies and trust, as well as the implications on economies and societies at large.

Reflecting on the meeting, Tatsiana Lintouskaya, a program director at Salzburg Global Seminar, said, “We had a great group of participants and a perfect set of topics around technological transformation in financial services. The program offered both a high-level view of technology-driven opportunities and risks and concrete insights on specific issues to inform and aid senior industry leaders and policy-makers in advancing their work and shaping a future in which technologies improve the world for all.”

On the first day of the program, participants considered the importance of data and the economic characteristics of artificial intelligence (AI). They considered the relationship between machine learning and data, as well as aspects of competition, research and development, and the labor market with respect to robots and job losses.

A fireside conversation on the impact of technology transformation on economies and societies prompted participants to consider how the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ will reshape societies, economies, and industries, the amount of technological change societies can absorb without unwanted social disruption, and how policy-makers can shape and channel technological forces.

The Forum included several panel discussions dealing with the financial landscape and opportunities in the new technology era. These panels underpinned financial institutions in transformation and the cultural and structural internal challenges they face. Participants held informal debates on how policymakers and regulators should respond to the rapid technological innovation and complexity of financial institutions, particularly where the current legal frameworks are concerned. They also addressed the emerging cyber and data security threats to the financial system.

In addition to these lively panel discussions, participants also broke into five in-depth working groups to discuss varying degrees of technology with regards to the finance sector. On the last day of the Forum, the groups convened as one to report on their findings and exchange perspectives.

The first group considered the possibilities cloud computing offered to accelerate the digital transformation of the banking sector. The group’s members agreed cloud computing is critical to the banking infrastructure and acknowledged the need to deal with cyber risks. Their collaborative next steps involved bringing supervisors together to adopt cloud computing to ensure financial stability and find a balance between corporate governance and technical risk.

The future of the workforce in financial services has often been cause for concern when considering advances in technology. What skills are missing in the industry? How can financial services position themselves in the labor market? What are the policy implications? These are questions which the second group posed during their discussions. Their main takeaways included a plan to change the skills profile of the existing workforce and set up proper rules that clearly state the need for tech-savvy employees and a more tech-friendly work environment.

Trust, flexibility, and inclusivity are significant factors in implementing standards for intelligence sharing, as indicated by the third group. They deliberated on a global approach to fighting cybercrime and identified multinational and operational models of coordination in organizations.

The fourth group discussed the data infrastructure needed in the new technology era and questioned who will own the data, who should use it and how? Their conclusions centered on consent, control, and traceability of data.

This offered a smooth segue to the fifth and final group’s topic: transparency of artificial intelligence and robotics in finance. They emphasized AI is capable of reconstituting people in areas such as race, age, and gender. The biggest challenge is engineering AI systems to deliver in non-discriminatory ways. Humans, as members explained, are the least transparent, but in-depth dialogue and trust are essential for enabling positive technological change.


The Salzburg Global Forum on Finance in a Changing World convenes an internationally representative group of leaders from financial services firms, supervisory and regulatory authorities, and consultancies, auditors, law firms and other professional service providers in a small and intimate setting. The annual gathering at Schloss Leopoldskron offers private and public sector leaders an opportunity for in-depth, off-the-record conversations on the issues affecting the future of global markets. For more info please click here.