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Download the Building a Smarter Financial System Podcast (mp3)

It can’t be a good sign that complex financial topics have begun to dominate dinner-table conversations. But the dire situation in which we find our economies extend far beyond the inner circles of the finance elite.

In this episode of the Building a Smarter Planet podcast series, we focus on the financial services industry and interview Stephen Hsu, professor of physics at the University of Oregon, Jeanne Capachin, an analyst at Financial Insights, Carl Abrams, financial services business manager within IBM Research, and Keith Saxton, global director in IBM’s financial markets industry.

In the podcast, we try and probe our experts to understand more clearly some of the causes of the current financial crisis and get some ideas on how we can build a system smarter than the one we have today.

During the course of the interviews, it became clear to me that there’s consensus on a number of areas:

First, it’s clear that the current regulatory environment isn’t well equipped to appropriately manage risk in an incredibly complex interconnected financial system. This leads to big questions around how to coordinate regulations that extend beyond country borders, as well as what powers, authorities and policies should be in place to avert future calamities.

Second, transparency – everybody’s favorite word – is easier said than done. We need more transparency across many parts of the system – particularly the shadow banking system – but we also need better tools to actually understand the data that is being reported. In fact, the intelligent analysis of data is perhaps the biggest gap in the system today.

Third, while it’s certainly true technology has played a role in increasing the complexity of the system, there’s no getting around the fact that technology will play a huge role in getting us out of it. Technology that helps to make sense of complexity, that detects growing concentrations of unknown risk, and that interprets and analyzes massive piles of unstructured data in real time, holds the key to a smarter system in the future.

And fourth, despite restructuring of regulations, transparency and technology, human behavior also needs to change to make the system smarter. Consumers and shareholders need to understand their financial institutions better before they will begin to have trust in the system. And incentive structures throughout the financial services industry need to be realigned with the long-term benefits of the institutions, and economies in which they operate.

But those are just some of the thoughts of the experts on this podcast. As you look at the system around us, how would you build a smarter financial system?

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