Goldman Sachs and “The Digitization of Finance”

Goldman Sach’s co-head of technology, Don Duet, was recently featured on a company sponsored podcast titled “The Digitization of Finance.”

The topics were broad, the resolutions ephemeral. But what is most important is that industry juggernauts are coming around to meaningful recognition regarding tech adoption. In Duet’s half-hour interview he addressed both the macro and micro aspects of the finance industry embracing (or forced adoption) of the unebbing tide of technology.

He began by framing the conversation with a brief discussion on the “escalating and vast change” within technology coupled with “literacy and comfort [with tech]” by the finance community. He noted that the change that Millenials were once clearly driving has been embraced by most within finance. A salient point within the context of the glacial pace of tech adoption that has become synonymous with finance.

In Duet’s half-hour interview he addressed both the macro and micro aspects of the finance industry embracing (or forced adoption) of the unebbing tide of technology. He began by framing the conversation with a brief discussion on the “escalating and vast change” within technology coupled with “literacy and comfort [with tech]” by the finance community.

He noted that the change that Millenials were once clearly driving has been embraced by most within finance. A salient point within the context of the glacial pace of tech adoption that has become synonymous with the finance industry. He noted that although the industry as a whole has been slow, technology is now baked into the DNA of Goldman.

Duet then transitioned into a conversation about the importance of open-source tech architecture. He also states that this is the “Goldman Sachs approach to enterprise solutions.” Within open-source systems, says Duet, is the opportunity to enable “cheaper, faster lower cost solutions.” Absolutely Mr. Duet.

He also said a bunch of other stuff that one may expect the co-head of technology for such a historied financial institution to say on a company sponsored podcast. You know words and phrases like “continous innovation,” “optimized workflow,” “transformation,” et cetera. However, he did address head on three of the arguably most interesting trends in finance: Symphony, blockchain, and attracting young tech talent.

Symphony is a monster connectivity play between, quite literally, any company that matters at all in finance. This is important for a number of reasons, but most notably the infrastructure it facilitates. Symphony “transforms the way users communicate effectively and securely with a single workflow application.” These institutions have built a big, secure, dedicated pipeline between them. What they choose to pipe through remains to be seen. Remember Symphony because we will hear about in the not to distant future.

Duet also addresses blockchain. He says many of things that late adopters do about the technology’s basic usability (mitigating settlement latency, improving understanding regarding the chain of custody of transactions, and whatnot). The most important aspect of his nod to blockchain was his acknowledgement of the rapidly increasing awareness and excitement around the technology. With the palpable anticipation that Digital Asset Holdings has been creating around blockchain and its ubiquitous uses for finance, Duet’s comment makes sense.

And finally, Duet comments on attracting young tech talent to Goldman Sachs. He makes the transition from machine learning and “information as an asset” class to young talent. This is intentional. The underlying message is clear: tech is here to stay and will rule most industries. Finance is no different. Duet says that he feels Goldman will be able to attract and hold on to talent because tech is embedded in the GS core competency, further, young talent will have the opportunity to be in leadership roles.

While Duet is a company man and played the part, he made some extraordinarily important points. One was, in and of itself, addressing these trends. This should be the takeaway. Don Duet is a very powerful man working for one of the most powerful institutions on the planet. As with most tech items that adhere to the adoption curve, it is the responsibility of the technology itself to establish use cases that compel the “old guard” to action.

When Goldman Sachs speaks, everyone listens. Lots of activity and excitement are floating around financial technology…and it should be. While some of these types of corporate communications are a little stiff, we must realize that this is what a sea change looks and feels like. This type of acknowledgement and validation is akin to the realization of candlemakers that electricity was here to stay.