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Paul Walker, Global Advisory Board Member, Motive Partners

Paul Walker Headshot.jpg

Please give us a bit of background on yourself, and how your organization plays a leadership role in the financial technology space.

I am a Senior Advisor to Motive Partners specializing in capital markets and emerging technologies. I have a background in physics and have had a long career leading development and analytics teams in finance and risk management. I am fascinated with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, particularly with its implementation into businesses, advising several companies in the space.

Motive Partners is a next-generation investment platform focused on financial technology with a hybrid model that combines investors, operators, innovators, and technologists. It has assembled an incredible group of like-minded people together that, like myself, have the same vision for the future of financial services infrastructure in an ever more digitized world. Their operating model, a blend of Partners and patient capital, that covers all stages of growth to support this vision, makes it unique, and I am excited at what the future holds for the industry.

Today my focus is split between advising FinTech and AI businesses and philanthropic activities with organizations that provide opportunity and social capital to young adults through access to education, science, and critical reasoning. Prior to this, I spent 16 years at Goldman Sachs, most recently as their Co-Head of Technology.

How has the fintech industry evolved since the financial crisis?

The financial crisis has allowed a new collection of capital, a new set of problems, and a new set of companies to participate in the financial services industry. As regulation opens banking, consumers become more connected, and large financial services players work to optimize their margins, we've seen companies emerge to provide critical products and services to financial services participants.

Obviously, the increase in connectivity and computing power has allowed a lot of this change. Several new technologies, including well-defined web standards, amazing open source software for data and data processing, and fundamental theoretical advances in Artificial Intelligence, allow companies to create incredibly useful products more quickly and easily, with more willing customers, and with easier access to customers, capital, and infrastructure.

 What will finance look like ten years from now? What will change? What will remain the same?

My first answer to this question would involve doing a survey of every answer to this question that experts gave in 2006 about 2016, and I think we all have a pretty good idea about how that exercise would go. 10 years is a very long time. But some things will remain constant. Corporations and individuals will require access to capital; financial services providers will need to risk and liquidity manage that capital provisioning; regulators will care deeply about the manner in which they do it; and, as a result, financial services will still be an important part of our economy and our society.

I think the biggest change I see, though, is that more and more financial services applications, by virtue of digitization, will be able to use advanced AI and Learning techniques to provide better and safer services to all customers.

Today we see AI making strides in cyber-security, risk management, fraud detection, determining expected customer demand, and in many other areas. When I look at the advances in the academic and research community in the AI space, I see more and more capabilities being developed. Advances in areas such as natural language and reinforcement learning are happening at a breakneck speed. Transferring those advances into the commercial and financial world will be transformative for organizations who can collect data and make data-driven decisions that lead to a substantial commercial disadvantage for those which can't.

What will you be discussing at The Economist's Finance Disrupted Conference?

I'll be participating in a "debate" as to whether AI, Blockchain or Quantum Computing is the most transformative technology of the next ten years, and I'll be taking the AI position. Clearly, I'm passionate about the impact of data science, AI, and Learning on our business processes in finance, and I hope to share some of the theoretical and commercial reasons for that passion, while also contrasting the technology with the (fascinating and highly impactful) opportunities presented by Blockchain and Quantum Computing.