I have been in Toronto since Saturday night and I will be here until Friday all for a little event called SIBOS. For those outside the banking (or maybe more accurately payments) industry it is quite simply the biggest banking conference in the world. This years sprawling venue is the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto. It is huge. The south side of the centre is mostly underground so there are no windows. As if to hide the goings on from the world outside. The bottom floor is made up of glossy trade stands from most of the major banks of the world and quite a few tech vendors as well. There are dozens of conference rooms and meeting spaces as well as the massive plenary room which must seat a few thousand. It is a dizzying scale and I am lead to believe there are over 7000 attendees (apparently there were 8000 in Amsterdam last year).
The venue is so large that it is split by the railway tracks to Union Station. That split could also be a lazy metaphor for the conference. I am not here for the giant tradeshow / business festival of Sibos but the more intimate and future thinking track known as Innotribe.
Innotribe has brought together some of the worlds greatest thinkers and doers on some topics that I, and the team I work with, are very interested in. After two days we have covered in some depth: How social and the associated technologies are changing business, digital identity and it’s many facets and BIG DATA looking at how the cost of CPU and storage means we can capture and aggregate more than ever, can we see new patterns or business models in this ocean of 0’s and 1’s.
The format of the first two days has been speakers imparting their knowledge and insights, followed by deep dive sessions on the topics where it gets a bit more interactive and hands on through a series of exercises. The line up of speakers has been excellent. From players in the new world of banking and finance like Howard Lindzon the CEO of StockTwits to geek gods such as Doc Searles one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto and the driving force behind, the much cooler than it sounds, Vendor Relationship Management (VRM). The people in the Innotribe space are a real who’s who of the social / tech / banking 2.0 world.
The only slight downside for me are that the deep dive sessions following the talks have been a bit hit and miss. The Big Data session being a great example. Jeff Jonas ran an entertaining session on the group building jigsaw puzzles and what it shows about putting the pieces of data together. This was shortly followed by a pretty dull / vague session trying to represent swift economic growth data in some sort of context. Clearly I like jigsaw puzzles more than numbers and spreadsheets (roll on Playful 2011).
I would also like to see a bit more Q&A with the speakers and though I am not a massive fan of panel debates I am actually missing them at this event because I am keen to see some of these great minds go at it, so to speak. That being said the first two days have been fantastic and have been a bit of a whirlwind. I am trying to get my head around some of the more out there stuff eg Swift Digital Asset grid, more on that in another post, and meeting many, many interesting and frighteningly smart people all mixed in with some good old fashioned jet lag (I type this on my iPad at 4am).
On the first day I switched from the opening Innotribe sessions to the other side of the conference to see a plenary session for the SIBOS track. It was by the CEO of Gartner, Peter Sondegaard, and it was very jarring to see some of the things I had worked on over the last few years ‘Gartnerified’ and presented as confusing graph and visualisations of many arrows and sections that tried to point towards the future of money. It highlighted to me the difficulty in transitioning the thinking of the likes of Innotribe to the world of normal banking and I do wonder if by the time these things are Gartnerified it will be too late for the banks. Time will tell. Now this post is out of my head I hope I can get the hell back to sleep.