In my meetings with clients at banks, brokerages, and FinTechs, the common thread is that the financial services industry is undergoing fundamental shifts. Regulation is taking up tremendous amounts of time and expense. Promising electronic ledger technologies have the potential to redefine trust in transactions.

While much of the financial services industry is either attacking or under attack, nothing in recent months comes close to reaching the volume and depth of discussions as the desire to create more engaging, frictionless client experiences. Unfortunately, traditional development methods don’t move fast enough to effect change with the speed and scale that’s required.

Of course it’s not just financial services feeling the need for more innovation and compelling business models. The transportation business has been roiled by the likes of Uber and Lyft. AirBNB has disrupted the hospitality industry. And Netflix has forever transformed the way video content is delivered.

While each of these examples has important differences, they also have a very important similarity – they have taken something that is complex, and made it simple and consumable for their customers. That’s the challenge I see for the financial services industry. Yet change alone isn’t enough. It requires agile, mobile, cognitive development.

That’s why IBM is introducing the IBM Cloud for Financial Services at IBM Interconnect in Las Vegas next week.

Watson, as you probably know, was IBM’s cognitive computing system that defeated the all-time greatest champions on the televised quiz show, Jeopardy, in 2011. It also was the dawn of the cognitive computing era.

A cognitive computing system is based on four key principles:

  • It learns and improves with each new piece of information
  • It builds speed and scale by using machine learning to handle complex, repetitive tasks
  • It uses subject matter experts to collate and curate human intelligence, for rapid reuse and decision support
  • It interacts using natural language, context, and reason

Since its victory on Jeopardy, IBM has been training Watson to become expert is several fields, including cancer research and education.

IBM Cloud for Financial Services is a cloud-based, innovation platform for banks and FinTechs, anchored in helping address the fundamental shifts I described. It provides developers with a rich set of APIs, microservices, and security from IBM and many of our partners. These can allow developers of financial services experiences to move at startup speed with much less friction.

I like to think of the IBM Cloud for Financial Services as a hub for moving key applications such as risk, compliance, anti-money laundering, and “know your customer” out of the back office and into the hands of developers to leverage for the entirety of their customers’ experiences. There also are APIs for Hyperledger, an open source version of blockchain distributed ledger technologies hosted by The Linux Foundation. Hyperledger has the backing of dozens of leaders in areas such as finance, banking, supply chain, and manufacturing.

IBM Cloud for Financial Services will be easily accessible via IBM developerWorks, IBM Bluemix, and beginning March 20. The IBM APIs and microservices initially are free for developers. (Some partner contributions may be free as well.)

Learn more about IBM Cloud for Financial Services at developerWorks, and start building for free!

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