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How technology is forging the foundation for more efficient, transparent and secure financial markets

Financial markets were among the first to adopt new technologies, and that has certainly been true of the derivatives markets, which were early adopters of electronic trading. Going forward, new capabilities will transform the way industry participants communicate, analyze, and trade. 

I sat down with Google Cloud’s Phil Moyer and former SEC Commissioner, Troy Paredes, for a fireside chat at FIA Boca 2022 to discuss the future of markets and policy, the new technologies that are already paving the way for greater speed and transparency, and how cloud can help promote greater resiliency, performance, and security to enable the long-term vision for the market. The following is a summary of our discussion.

The current state of cloud technology

When it comes to technology adoption, we’re seeing the market and participants adopt cloud technologies, and increasingly, machine learning (ML) on a wider scale. Cloud technology allows for easier, faster, and much more secure experimentation with large datasets and ML.

A recent study by Coalition Greenwich showed that more than 93% of trading venues, exchanges, and data providers are in some way providing services on the cloud. The same study, among others, revealed that about 72% of the financial industry across the buy side and sell side, are already working on cloud initiatives.

Data-driven decision-making and risk management have always been, and continue to remain, the cornerstones of the financial markets. Over time, technology innovation has facilitated access to better insights from data, and therefore, better decision-making and the ability to manage risk. That expectation is now mainstream, and will continue to grow in sophistication. 

The multi-phased technology trajectory

The movement of exchanges to the cloud will occur in a “crawl-walk-run” fashion, with low-hanging fruits the first to be picked in the near term while bigger, paradigmatic changes will occur over the medium and long term. Some organizations are starting all three stages simultaneously, understanding that each will move at an independent cadence.

The “crawl” phase is one in which foundations are built, starting with organizations moving data to the cloud and experimenting with some degree of analytics. It’s one of the most important phases because it’s where the opportunity to increase transparency and risk management takes shape. 

In moving to the cloud, the infrastructure – which in the past relied on a combination of people, processes, and some technology – becomes the code that runs applications. This early phase is key to empowering organizations to shift to a cloud-based, agile-first operating model that makes it easier and more seamless to launch new products in the future.

Establishing the cloud operating model simplifies the “walk” and “run” phases where compliance is more automated, latency-sensitive applications are more readily available, and the next generation of exchanges, market participants, and regulators is better prepared to meet future challenges.

The “walk” phase is where much of the innovation happens. Exchanges are making significant progress in leveraging foundational data decisions in the “crawl” phase and innovations in the cloud to improve settlement, clearing, risk management, collateral management, and compliance, and launch new products. 

And finally, the “run” phase is where organizations will start to move the latency-sensitive markets to the cloud, as the markets increasingly will demand low-latency and high performance along with transparency and analytics to solve historical obstacles to market access. 

Opportunities for both regulators and market participants

Any time significant technological change takes place, regulators explore its implications, particularly with respect to their ability to meet their regulatory objectives. 

Increasingly, we are seeing technological change driving more opportunities for regulators and market participants alike. Such changes may also allow better protection of the marketplace, with greater integrity and transparency.

Over time, regulatory regimes – rules, regulations, statutes, interpretations, and guidance – will also adjust to new technologies, both benefiting the marketplace and advancing regulatory goals.

As one example, the cloud is increasing the ability to meet compliance obligations by allowing compliance to be built into transactions. Moreover, predicated on the vision of real-time regulatory reporting, and given the pace of technological change in the marketplace over the last several years, various regulators have been using more advanced analytics. This trend will continue to help them more effectively and efficiently meet their objectives, and monitor and meet the expectations they have for the entire market.

Machine learning’s role in the financial markets

Google Cloud’s head of AI and Industry Solutions, Andrew Moore, said that ML will be doing three key things for us in the next 10 years: giving us meaning, providing concierge services, and serving as a guardian. Extracting information that is critical to investor decision-making is extremely important. With more data than ever, ML increases the ability to process it while also becoming more accessible in the cloud and better supporting regulatory objectives.

The technology will likely manifest in trading and anti-money laundering activities as they relate market functions, as well as managing a wide variety of risks – supporting the interests of both investors and regulators in terms of decision-making, surveillance, and protections.

Rather than taking individuals out of the equation, the digitization of markets, assets, and guard rails combined with ML will allow people to focus their expertise in different ways to achieve key objectives. 

Building the market foundation for the future

The goals of operational resiliency, security, and privacy will continue to be critical for building the market foundation for both participants and regulators. While technology promises to create advantages in concrete, tangible ways, it will be important to scrutinize potential risks and concerns. 

Priority one for technology providers is to build an environment of trustless security, including encryption at motion and encryption at rest, ensuring that markets are operationally resilient while instilling confidence for any exchange that runs on top of that infrastructure.

Throughout time, liquidity has been the outcome of improved access, transparency, and security. Technology providers are responding by sharing both the responsibility for, and fate of, the markets of the future to build an efficient, faster, and more transparent and secure financial industry. 

You can learn more about our approach in our newest white paper, Building the financial markets foundation for the future.

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