In Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s brilliant film, “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once“, as Michelle Yeoh’s conciseness jumps universes, she’s confronted by a version of her husband who tells her, “When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I learned to survive through everything.” As someone who’s career has focussed on software and system quality, I couldn’t help but feel something similar when returning from my trip to Amsterdam last month to attend SIBO
This was my first time attending SIBOS, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the conference, it’s been THE financial services event since the 70’s and attended by every firm you could think of in banking and #FinTech. If there’s a multiverse, SIBOS is the white-hot core of where we are now and a preview of where we’re heading, and if 2022’s event was any indication, things are getting more complicated at an alarmingly faster pace and hardly anyone is thinking about how any of this is going to get tested.
I attended multiple sessions on how artificial intelligence, crypto, CBDC, and open banking are driving new and interconnected services, and a few even mentioned the “plumbing” for this to happen. Disappointingly, I didn’t hear any talk about stability, quality, or the risks of trying make all this work on existing infrastructure let alone how all this would impact society (other than how great it was all going to be…).
To be fair, I did watch a brilliant panel discussion on “The Future of Money” moderated by Leda Glyptis featuring Eileen Burbridge, Liz Lumley, and Matthiew Favas that was deeply grounded in reality. The panel spoke at length about the need for compassion and inclusion in financial services and the ethical implications of all the change being foisted upon the multiverse.
Unfortunately, that sentiment was not shared throughout the rest of the conference, and I sensed a detachment from reality from the financial environment we are in and the implications for the future. Software and system quality need to be front and centre in these plans and the ethical concerns must be considered BEFORE we start building the “solutions”. My concern, based on my experience, is that when projects face financial headwinds the first thing they cut is testing at the expense of quality and to the detriment to the most vulnerable in our communities.
A real-time example of that financial trade off in the face of difficulty appeared in every talk I attended on ESG referencing the recent decline in investment in environmental, social, and corporate governance funds. There are loads of challenges facing ESG around standardisation, “greenwashing” and accelerating the rate of change to keep pace with climate and societal pressures, but we cannot a deprioritise investment in those initiatives in the face of tightening budgets. My fear is that as these economic realities hit FinTechs, they won’t alter or delay their plans but plough ahead and, in some cases, double down on scope and timelines before the money dries up.
From experience, I can tell you that integration of new technology into legacy banking systems is a frequently an underestimated task and often decommissioning never happens causing complexity risk to increase. Open banking can also carry high risks of fraud, money laundering, and other types of financial crime and have to be considered when testing working in an open API environment. Sharing personal data and banking records, although rightly considered by the standards being implemented, adds to the functional and security requirements when connecting these systems in the real world beyond difficult to model test environments.
Software testing is hard, and releasing quality systems is even more difficult, but the consequences of getting it wrong these days have never been greater. Software is pervasive in our lives and only increasing in depth and breadth and innovation and efficiency are essential to democratizing finance and a building a more just society. It is long past the time that the quality and ethical implications of the systems we build take priority over the functional possibility of constructing everything, everywhere, all at once.