The Mobile Revolution Set to Hit Financial Services


By John Manwaring, Head of Mobile and Search, Financial & Risk, Thomson Reuters

2015 is looking set to be the year when wearables will start a revolution in how we use technology in our daily lives.  Last year saw a number of developments in the sector, most notably the launch of Google’s Android Wear and Samsung’s Gear S.  Now, with the launch of the Apple Watch imminent, it’s not too fanciful to say that wearable devices have already begun to change the way we interact with the world around us, and reshape our expectation of what technology can – and should – be doing for us.

While devices like smartwatches are generally thought of as recreational, as consumers come to adopt them in their daily lives they will inevitably start to impact the way we work too.  From tablets to smartphones, mobile technology has already become so ingrained in our daily lives that we are coming to expect there to be a seamless link between how we use technology at home and in the office, and in particular how we receive information through the working day.

At the same time, our working lives themselves are changing.  The days of nine to five, of clocking in and out of the office every day, are fast disappearing as we expect more flexibility and autonomy.  The financial services industry is no exception to this, and the technology used by financial markets practitioners should change to match. Technology is increasingly being relied upon to deliver information intelligently, where and when it matters most.

John Manwaring, Thomson Reuters

John Manwaring, Thomson Reuters

The financial services industry is an arena where the immediacy and availability of data is critical. The fact that financial markets are so fast-paced and event-driven means that being able to keep up-to-date with developments and market-moving news wherever you are offers a distinct advantage, and so this industry can benefit more than most from innovative and creative use of mobile technologies.

The financial desktop is a case in point.  This has already had an impressive evolution, from the days of a simple screen for displaying stock prices to today’s advanced data and analytics systems that allow you to analyse everything from how the weather is affecting deliveries of crude oil to what impact Twitter is having on your portfolio.  But the information financial professionals need to do their job has grown exponentially; it also never stops.  Keeping on top of this is a complex job, especially if the tool you use to do so is static, anchored to your desk.

This is where mobile technology comes in.  Simple market data has been available for a while on smartphones and tablet-optimised financial desktop applications.  The growing acceptance and sophistication of wearable technology, however, has increased the range and variety of devices through which consumers expect to receive information.

In fact, for financial professionals across the industry, the nascent wearables market represents an entirely new channel through which to access critical information: as we all know, in the financial markets, timely access to information is paramount. In an increasingly connected world being able to acquire and act upon information in seconds, not minutes, makes the difference between profit and loss.

And like any other consumer, financial professionals want to keep up with the latest technology trends – especially if it means they can become more effective at their job, meaning their employers and clients are satisfied too.  Harnessing the potential of all the different types of mobile device available, understanding how they best fit into the workflow and rhythms of daily life, will transform the experience of financial professionals as we enter a new age of working with technology.

Smartwatches can now deliver easily digestible content and data wherever you are, meaning that checking up on the movement of your portfolios first thing in the morning is as straightforward as checking the time.  Increasingly, linked devices mean that more detailed analysis can then be carried out on the way into the office on smartphone or tablet, so that before you’re even at your desk and logged into your desktop, you’re ready to start the day.

This combination of different devices can be powerful.  For instance, you could set alerts to tell you when a news story or research document on a particular stock is published, which flow through instantly to your wrist.  From there, you could sync that content to your tablet or desktop to come back to and analyse later.  Or if you wanted, you could access additional quote data on your watch and dig deeper into what’s happening there and then. It’s this ability to be alerted quickly to new information that helps professionals really make sense of the markets and react quickly and confidently, turning market information into actionable insight.

Similarly, you could check the markets on your smartwatch at a glance, just like you do to tell the time.  The use of data visualisation tools can help here, with a heatmap of instruments tailored to your asset class interests letting you immediately see what’s going on.  News stories, too, can be put into easily digestible format on a smartwatch, giving you the choice to read up on what’s happening straightaway, or to sync it and peruse at your leisure on another device.

You can be in meetings, out at lunch or simply stepping out to grab a coffee without missing a beat on what’s going on in the areas that matter to you.  The ability to share updates, messages and information – so well ingrained in social networking –  can happen wherever you are as well.  The experience of using technology should be no different whether you’re at home, in the office or on the move.

Mobile technology is evolving at a rapid pace and many industries are starting to take advantage of the improvements in working practices it offers.  The financial services industry stands to benefit more than most from this evolution.  Both firms and service providers should embrace the opportunities available from adapting their technology and working habits to fit the new era that constant innovation in this area is creating.

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