An interview with Minerva Tantoco


FST Media: What role will mobile applications play in improving relationships with clients?

Tantoco: Mobile devices are more personal than computers. We notice more quickly when a phone has gone missing than our wallets. This is a much deeper relationship opportunity than with other devices. We are already seeing that mobile applications are delivering convenience to clients for anywhere, anytime access to news and account information. The current apps provide everything from account balances and research to foreign exchange services to building custom products for mobile phones and tablets.

FST Media: How are you leveraging big data and analytics to meet customer demand for personalised UBS products?

Tantoco: Analysing large data sets from the combination of internal and external information presents a great source of personalised services that can keep us and our clients ahead of the curve. We have begun to explore ways to serve our clients by making these analytics services available to our advisers so that we can provide superior client service. Interpreting the mountains of news, market data, transactions, and social media trends can be daunting just to keep up. Somehow turning all that into insights for personalised information based on portfolios, news, and sentiment can be of enormous value.

FST Media: Which emerging trend or innovation is currently flying under the radar that you feel is destined to make a significant impact on the financial services industry?

Tantoco: Wearable computing is still in its infancy, but increasingly the information and communication modes we see in our phones will be embedded into watches and glasses, perhaps other wearable devices. These can be combined with biometrics such as voice authentication to offer security technologies that would be more secure than what we have today. This is flying under the radar but has a lot of potential.

FST Media: What are the obstacles preventing banks from addressing the threat of Apple, Google and Facebook?

Tantoco: The challenge for traditional banks will be to assure that compliance and regulatory requirements are met, while new business models and competition pop up from technology sectors. In addition, new entrants do not have to contend with legacy systems and existing platforms, but neither do they have the experience as the incumbents. It is going to be an interesting and exciting industry for years to come.

FST Media: What are your priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?

Tantoco: From an innovation perspective, the four key areas are mobile, social, big data, and cloud. And the fifth key area is the cumulative effect of the combination of these four. Each of these major trends are intertwined and should not be treated in isolation. Social media is being accelerated and transformed by mobile. Mobile is impacting business and personal interactions, which both in turn are generating huge stores of data which can be mined and analysed. Much of this is enabled by applications in the cloud which can be accessed by any device and connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). It is important to track and start to predict how these will impact our clients’ day-to-day decision-making and transactions, and how the workplace will change as these trends mature to the ‘new normal’.

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Tantoco: The emphasis here is on ‘applied’ innovation – in other words, to think in terms of a business-led driver for the innovation, such as revenue, new clients, new markets, rather than let the technology drive the innovation. Start with aligning to the business strategy and then match the technology to support it. At the same time, be on the lookout for game changers such as non-banking players offering financial services, which are on the rise in the financial technology sector. Disrupt yourself or someone else will.

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?

Tantoco: When I started out years ago in software development and emerging technology, I expected there to be many more women in technology by now.

Beyond participating in successive waves of innovation such as artificial intelligence, electronic publishing, online advertising, mobile strategy, big data and social media.

I am proud of my achievements as a woman role model. I hope my legacy is to be one of the visible women in technology with a software startup, CTO title, and four US patents, but my passion is for my legacy to be that I encouraged the next generation of women to create and drive this exciting technology revolution. We need both men and women to drive this change and this is just the start.

This interview first appeared in FST Media’s annual magazine The Who’s Who of Financial Services Asia Pacific, which launched at the Technology & Innovation – the Future of Banking & Financial Services conference in Melbourne on 4th June, 2014.