Gillian Tett: Beware techies talking gobbledegook

January 4, 2014

In her latest column, Gillian Tett’s shines a spotlight on the role of IT specialists in the universe of finance. Risk management requires information -> Information is produced through technical systems -> Systems are built by IT specialists. Bingo!

Investment bankers, traders, financial theorists, hedge fund managers, and so on are all alluring figures whom we love to study. But none of them fully defines the anthropos – the kind of human being – that creates the financial system.

Finance is enabled by a growing network of faceless information systems providers who design and build the infrastructures in which financial activities exists. (You can’t trade in a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin without invisible nerds like Satochi!)

As Gillian underscores, however, in major financial institutions the relationship between finance and IT is fraught with tension. The members of these groups do not speak the same languages and do not automatically share objectives.

The deeper message is that the stakes of  finance are being negotiated at the point where managers, users and regulators meet with a gaggle of IT companies and consultants. Glitch or no glitch, how these groups interact and what they agree to implement, has a profound impact on outcomes.

Gillian’s conclusion speaks volumes to researchers interested in our current financial moment:

we need to ask challenging questions, admit that we do not understand “gobbledegook” and demand answers. And that applies whether you are a humble journalist, a consumer or a CEO – or even the US president.

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