I had the good fortune of spending 3 days at the CEB Financial Services Technology Summit in Boston last week. The event took place from Wednesday to Friday, which gratefully meant it was after the Boston Marathon and before PAX East, a video game conference that also brings in tens of thousands of people.

This was my fourth consecutive year attending the conference so my registration process and access to the required information was familiar. While very simple, the event registration is an example of onboarding – the primary concern for financial services firms, as stated during one of the CEB conference sessions. Many firms still have a largely manual, heavily paper based onboarding process that has now become a part of the digital revolution. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that customers have become accustomed to the simplicity of getting what they want online and expect that same experience when dealing with their bank. This applies across the board, whether it is a retail customer, a high net worth individual dealing with their wealth management advisor or the person doing the work on behalf of their business to address the commercial or corporate banking needs.

When a group of people who don’t see each other often get together there are bound to be broad smiles and friendly handshakes. I saw a lot of this and exchanged pleasantries with many myself but I felt the event was more serious than in years past. I attribute this largely to another area of focus being covered rather extensively, dealing with regulatory compliance. This is not a new topic, compliance has been a primary concern for years, but the sense of urgency was immeasurably greater. What intrigued me, and gave me confidence in the direction forward, was that financial services firms were talking about compliance from the perspective of the customer. How they can use customer information collected for compliance purposes, even during the onboarding process, to better service customers while respecting the laws on data sharing.

This brings me to what I believe was the prevailing theme, data. How are firms dealing with all that data? There has been a clear advancement in thinking on the subject from this year over last. The consideration isn’t “I have a big data project” but rather “How do I make my data more actionable”. How do I share data across the enterprise to achieve a comprehensive view not only for the firm to better service the customer, suggesting the next best offer for instance, but to allow the firm to better share information with the customer so that they can service themselves.

As there were many very informative sessions, it’s not possible to cover everything in one blog post so I will reserve the right to revisit this down the road. In the meantime, if there is anything you would like to add or comment on, I look forward to engaging with you.