Thanks Professor Brian Cox for inspiring me!

My Father once told me there are two things you never discuss in public – Politics and Religion.  I am going to break from this advice for this post as I want to share an experience I had earlier this week.

Level39 at Canary Wharf is a technology hub for up and coming Fin Tech and Smart Tech startups and investors. I was lucky enough to attend an event they ran on Wednesday night which was a talk by Professor Brian Cox. For those who don’t know Professor Cox, check out the link I have connected. To sum it up – he is one of those amazing people who is so committed to his industry, that he has learned the art of being able to explain extremely complex scientific concepts, to a person with an extremely NON scientific brain – like me!

Professor Cox went into detail about the possibility of life on other planets, an explanation of the Large Hadron Collider activity that he works on, and an attempt at explaining how much we know about what may have happened before the big bang. Whilst all of this was fascinating and his talk was extremely entertaining, it was the last 5 minutes of question time that made me sit up in my seat.

There were some interesting questions from a few people who were obviously quite involved in the scientific community, and Professor Cox managed, to not only answer their questions, but also explain the questions for the lay-people in the room (again, such as myself!).  The final question of the night was one that at first made me cringe. It was more a comment than a question and it was an opinion on the need to believe in God especially with all the fighting currently going on in the world.

Now the reason this comment made me cringe was not because I have a strong opinion for or against God (or a God’s) presence in the world at the moment. It was because I had made a terrible assumption that if you are pro-science then you must be against religion. I thought this question might raise the heat in the room and put Professor Cox under pressure, to get into a verbal stoush about God vs Science.

Stupid of me to make assumptions, because not only was the response Professor Cox gave brilliant, but he really proved me wrong! Without paraphrasing, his response was to say that he does not particularly know what we do with the information that Science uncovers, but he does know that it is the job of all of us to do something with it. That the world needs art, literature, psychology, philosophy and theology to help understand what it is that we can do with the information that scientists make sense of.

Professor Cox went on further to explain that scientists take small concepts, and explore and prove or disprove theories in incremental steps. They do not propose to know all the answers and believe that their industries job is a lifelong journey of small steps.

I thought this answer was graceful, informative and it set the challenge for everyone regardless of your belief system to take action and play your part in using the information which scientists help to discover, to make a difference.

If I am going to break my dad’s rule I may as well do it well. One thing that Professor Cox pointed out in his talk was the small amount which politicians in the UK allocate to scientific research in their annual budget. Part of the discussion was to inform the audience that scientific research is important and that one of the ways in which he along with social entrepreneur Lord Andrew Mawson are raising this awareness, is through the Science Summer School, set up via the St Pauls Way Transformation project.

Before the talk I was not overly interested in science other than to read through the occasional head line items in major press. However I was wrong – because science and the work these scientists are doing, is innovation but in a different field. After the talk I want to say thank you to Professor Brian Cox for opening my eyes and inspiring me to find out what I can do to support the scientific community, and the journey they have undertaken on behalf of all of us.

I would urge you to have a look at some of the links I have included on this page as well as Professor Cox’ website

You might just be inspired too…

London Fin Tech leading the way

There is some serious disruption happening in the London Tech scene at the moment, and financial services seems to be a core focus for a lot of this disruption. With the increasing popularity of micro-finance, alternative currencies like bitcoin and stellar , as well as P2P and B2B lending, there are plenty of options for startup technology companies looking to get involved.

The larger financial institutions also face increased competition from challenger organisations; like Aldermore, Shawbrook and even Tesco who have set up their own bank and have around 7 million customer accounts.

In the race towards growth and dominance, the challenger banks have two major advantages; firstly they do not share the legacy issues of contributing to the financial crisis, in the way the major banks did. Secondly, and probably more importantly, they do not have the legacy technology footprint the major banks have.

The age old saying of what goes up must come down is true, and for most part this is a sweeping explanation for the role which major financial institutions all around the world played in the recent global financial crisis. For this reason, issues relating to the cause of the crisis may be forgiven over time, however, sleeping at the wheel when it comes to technology advancement will not be forgiven.

A recent McKinsey&Co publication stated; that due to a lack of spending and delayed digitization of retail banking processes, most European banks “have relatively shallow digital offerings focused on enabling basic customer transactions”.

My personal opinion and one of the major factors in my decision to recently move from Australia to London, is that the UK FinTech scene is such a buzz at the moment because there is so much pressure on the oldest financial hub in the world, to lead the way into the new banking and finance era. Innovation support from heavily backed organisations like Innovate Finance are being set up to promote the evolution of the financial services sector into a technology driven industry, as opposed to the relationship and manual process driven industry of decades gone by.

The internet movement has created connectivity, more personalised service, and overall transparency. These are all much needed factors in financial services. To see the combination of consumer demand and startup technologists focusing their efforts on disrupting the control held by so few, will be a very interesting development to watch.