LONDON -- LeadersIn Tech Summit 2018 -- Top global business leaders from Alibaba, Wells Fargo, Mastercard and other major companies delivered a strong and consistent message to attendees at this year's LeadersIn Tech Summit -- data is the key to innovation for the next decade.
The business leaders were speaking during a panel session entitled "Innovation 2025: What Keeps Business Leaders Awake at Night?", moderated by Russ Shaw of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates. Participants included: Ann Cairns, President, International at Mastercard; David Lloyd, Managing Director UK and Nordics at Alibaba; Bipin Sahni, Executive Vice President, Head of Innovation and R&D, Innovation Group at Wells Fargo; Colin Rhys, VP, Middle East and Asia for Virgin Hyperloop One; and Oliver Smith, Senior Reporter at Forbes Europe.
Shaw first asked the panel members what kept them up at night, invoking the name of the session. Lloyd said that it was the "hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers which weren't yet connected to Alibaba, and the challenge of how to connect them," adding that he thought this would be via "offline means" rather than e-commerce. Cairns made a similar point, saying that there "was no point of having the 'Internet of everything' when there's no 'Internet of everyone,'" with the challenge for Mastercard being how to integrate payment systems even more tightly into the company's 2 billion customer base globally.
Smith, meanwhile, said he was excited by how the next generation of millennials and post millennials interact with money, and how digital technology is changing that. Colin Rhys from Virgin Hyperloop One was intrigued by creating and defining next-generation transport, saying that this would enable productivity on a global scale due to the increased speed and efficiency of systems like the Hyperloop technology. Finally, Sahni from Wells Fargo said that he was concerned by data and how banks use this data, saying this data needs to be used to "improve the customer experience at all costs."
To start the session proper, Shaw asked the panel members what impact deep tech would have on the future of work. Sahni continued the theme on data, saying that was where the value of machine learning and AI would be found, which in turn would change how businesses operated. "Ah, but it'll be job shifts, not job losses," Smith quipped quickly, saying that retail and factory jobs were going to disappear, but these would be replaced by more digital jobs, which is why "reskilling classes are crucial," he noted. Cairns agreed with this, using the example from her childhood of the Newcastle coalmines, when "90% of the workforce lost their jobs overnight".
Rhys then introduced a term that was new to many of the audience -- "metal collar," referring to robotics and automation jobs. The Virgin Hyperloop One transport system currently being constructed in the Middle East is using a largely automated workforce, which means the aim is for 1km of Hyperloop track to be built each week once construction is fully active. This puts many of the blue-collar UAE workers out a job, but Rhys said that after examining the value of the Hyperloop together with the UAE government, the productivity gains and revenue value was greater than the workers being made redundant.
Customer service was another of the topics touched upon. Lloyd used his experience from Alibaba to describe the advances made in retail and customer service: Hema is a "high tech supermarket" in China, in which cash isn't accepted and users can only shop on their phone while in the store. However, the store is loaded with employees, because the store not only acts as a traditional, (albeit high tech) retail outlet, but also as a warehouse. This means those local to the store can order an item on their phone and receive it in no less than 30 minutes, sourced and provided by the store's employees.
Shaw then changed tack, asking how fintech startups such as Monzo and Revolut have disrupted the financial services market. Cairns, whose Mastercard company provides the payment stack for many of these challenger banks, said these new digital-only offerings are the way forward, and Smith affirmed this by saying "young people want the best individual offering, whether that be Monzo for its domestic digital bank offering or Revolut for its product abroad."
Lloyd added to this, saying that while in the UK different apps, such as Deliveroo or Uber, integrate with products like Google or Apple Pay, in China "everything is handled through the payment app" -- in Lloyd's case, Alipay, Alibaba's payment service -- "from ordering a taxi to paying in a restaurant." Lloyd noted that, when buying flowers while in China recently, the street seller only accepted Alipay and didn't take cash at all -- a stark contrast to most of Europe.
Finally, Shaw asked the panel members what they were most excited about in the next decade. If the overall theme and differentiator for innovation wasn't already clear, the panel members reaffirmed this: data, with all five saying that it was what mattered in the next decade when it comes to innovation.
— Phil Oakley, Site Editor, TechX365