There are many financial services organizations who talk about innovation and technology, but only a few actually takes steps to explore all that newer technology can offer.
One financial firm, BNY Mellon, has recently opened up an innovation center in Silicon Valley to complement existing innovation centers in Jersey City, New Jersey; and Pune and Chennai in India.
The new facility will focus on big data tools and data sciences, cloud technology, mobile offerings, and decision science/analytics, according to Michael Gardner, managing director and head of the company's Silicon Valley facility. "We are looking to apply data to real business practices in financial services," Gardner said during an interview with Wall Street & Technology at the Palo Alto facility. "We are looking to do more than just apply data science in the [web] consumer space," where a lot of focus is on gaining page views or clicks. "We are looking at groundbreaking ways to apply data." For instance, Gardner describes many existing big data initiatives to be very narrowly focused, such as increases click throughs or enhancing sales opportunities. Banks, however, have much more robust data on customers and transactions, but haven't yet tapped into the potential that data science has in financial services.
BNY Mellon has existing projects focusing on data analytics, but it is looking to enhance existing analytics capabilities by bringing in fresh perspectives from Silicon Valley. "When you look at data analytics, it isn't like BNY Mellon doesn't know about [big data]," Gardner said. "But there are people in Silicon Valley who are two to three years ahead" of where many enterprises are with data analytics, he says. "That is why we are here. Silicon Valley has a great pool of talent."
Gardner says that the BNY Mellon Innovation Center in Palo Alto will have approximately 20 developers by the end of this year and almost 100 by the end of 2015. In order to compete for talent with Silicon Valley behemoths such as PayPal, eBay, Apple and Google, Gardner says BNY Mellon is partnering with universities, such as University of California, Berkeley, and is also offering potential employees something different than what is found at many technology organizations. "Berkeley just started two new data science programs," Gardner noted. "There are world class students here and data science is really just an emerging field. It has a long way to go."
Also, Gardner said the potential uses for BNY Mellon's data repository gets many developers excited. "Developers want to work on something that matters," he added. "We let them know the impact they could have on real business opportunities. Engineers want to have an impact and they want their code to be valued. Once people understand that BNY Mellon's private cloud almost powers one quarter of the global economy, they start to get excited."
Having a presence in Silicon Valley will help BNY Mellon as it looks for talent. "There is a global shortage of technology talent," Gardner said. "It's not as if Silicon Valley has a monopoly on innovation and talent. At the same time, you can't mandate that a company be innovative. That doesn't work. Every company is struggling to find good talent. It certainly doesn't hurt BNY Mellon to be here. It helps."
Gardner was most recently was with Apigee Inc., where he led research and development, support, security, and cloud operations. Previously, he held executive-level engineering posts at various startups and public companies in Silicon Valley, including LiveOps and eBay. He will lead BNY Mellon's efforts to foster collaborative innovation that leverages advanced and prototype technology to develop new offerings, improve customer service and reduce time-to-market.
"BNY Mellon already is known for being a foremost provider of technology solutions and infrastructure for the world's capital markets," Gardner said in a statement. "Through our connection to this community of open collaboration, we can further our promise of technological excellence by bringing new technologies with practical and proven business uses to market more quickly."Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio