I was in New York City this week to speak at the annual Technology Management event of the Securities Industry
& Financial Markets Association (SIFMA)
. I think this must be like going to the auto show in Detroit: it’s the town’s big business, and the crowd was both huge and highly motivated.

(My charts from my workshop session, in PDF form, are available here)

I only recently learned that the top six financial firms in New York employ more people than all the city’s schools and airports combined. And that’s just six companies: I don’t know if anyone could claim to know how many such firms there are within the city limits.

Those city limits, though, are increasingly a perimeter under cyberattack: I’ve also learned, for example, that European financial firms doubled their share of global initial public offerings between 2001 and 2006, while observers such as SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins have warned that "a boiler room in Berlin or a pump-and-dump scheme out of Parma" are now effectively local to the U.S. consumer financial market.

This growing and chaotic competition takes place even as the wave of baby-boomer retirement begins: we’ll soon see urgent demand for expert advice in managing the largest transfers of private wealth and the longest periods of investment-financed lifestyles that any economy has ever seen.

For established providers of financial services, this situation presents both opportunities and challenges.

  • High-touch customer-facing applications will be strategic tools for meeting the scale and the self-service expectations of the exploding multi-national base of affluent potential clients.
  • Rapid time-to-market in deploying in-house tools to support new service offerings will make the difference between gaining market share or merely fighting to minimize its loss.
  • Minimal loss of time or use of capital to build new infrastructure will keep resources available for differentiating projects and yield substantial competitive advantage.

Whether you’re an in-house business unit manager or developer, or a software entrepreneur, there’s never been a better time to enter this market — nor a better time to think about taking an on-demand path toward conceiving and delivering your idea.

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