A Closer Look at Block Chain Technology

John Shea, CIO, Eaton Vance
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John Shea, CIO, Eaton Vance

John Shea, CIO, Eaton Vance

As the CIO of Eaton Vance, I’d be compelled to say that the role of a CIO has advanced over the years. Fortunately, I started off in financial services and got some first-hand experience on software development and was able to inculcate system administration skills rather early in my career. When I started in this industry at Massachusetts Financial Services (MFS) in the mid 90’s, the role of the CIO was filled by the former head of Mutual Fund Services; he was a businessman who headed the unit and drove the customer service focus. Of course, back in the day, there was an evident lack of variety in technology. In the mid90s, unless you were an engineer, computer skills were not required since they could not be applied in the business. But the world is now a changed place, where CIOs would be much more successful with technical experience. For instance, dealing with cyber security—an increasingly popular subject—would require strong technical expertise. Gone are the days when the CIO of a companywas nothing but a mere pure play businessman— even though this quality is still admirable in CIOs. Looking back at the development of fellow peers and my personal growth in the industry, I think we have climbed up the ladder of success as technical persons, rather than business persons. Having said that, I believe it’s safe to say that the journey for IT has been truly transformational while considering not only the technology aspects, but also profound business outcomes.  

Block chain: from Mere Buzzword to Matter of Discussion in Boardroom Meetings

The more popularity block chain gained, the more confusion arose between two terminologies—bitcoin and block chain. With time however, consumers started becoming more accustomed to the idea of their distinction. Block chain is a distributed ledger, which can be accessed from numerous geographic locations, is write-only type, encrypted in nature and has identity management surrounding it. Making use of this distributed ledger, organizations can have trusted accurate transactions on either side of a business deal. As a manager, I anticipate that we are going to be served by our block chain technology service providers and realize that a certain amount of experimentation needs to be performed within our organization, in order to get comfortable with its usage. We will be customers to this service because at the end of the day, business at Eaton Vance is comprised of asset management. Even though there is an ample amount of technology enablement to the asset management business, as an organization, we would much rather buy than build this technology from our service providers.

  The most important attribute of the block chain technology is that it extends a distributed platform, which means high availability, easy accessibility, and no single point of failure   

Use Cases wherein Block Chain Impacts the Organization

Block chain is a great ledger for post-trade settlement, but I believe there are some use cases where its utilization is not as effective. Consider pre-trade; block chain does not appear to be a vehicle for legitimate raw trading. In fact, there are trading platforms and technologies with the inclusion of varying algorithmic trading capabilities in the market already. In these specific cases, I don’t see how block chain would be an effective solution for real-time transactional systems. This ledger is suitable for post-trade use cases. For instance, consider bank loan settlements. Unlike trading and equity, the time for a bank loan to settle is variable. Utilizing a technology such as block chain could reduce the settlement cycle by a large factor, or at the least provide certainty that can help asset managers to reduce potential settlement risks.

Some Insights on Personal Technological Acumen

As an ex-Navy Nuclear Submarine Officer, one of the foundations of Navy Nuclear power was training. Talking about jobs in technology, one of the great things is that there is no constant. It is always evolving; becoming better. Even so, training—both informally and collaboratively—is a continual process. At Eaton Vance, we believe in experimenting with emerging technologies and spending quality time to find solutions that will provide immediate business value. Hence, training is a vital part of our organization. For example, we incorporate the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, which helps align our core technology and infrastructure with the business. So all trainees get ITIL v3 certified, just to ensure that all employees are on the same page with regard to fundamental principles. Another example—which is specific to developers– would be agile certification.

The Future of Block chain

Block chain definitely has some attractive upcoming traits. Considering it is a regular ledger system, the information is most likely stored in databases, which is stored in one place, for the most part. The most important attribute of the block chain technology is that it extends a distributed platform, which means high availability, easy accessibility, and no single point of failure. Additionally, access to the record of history of transactions at all times that is secured with proper implementation makes it all the more convenient. These I believe, are some of the attributes that we as customers would hope to receive from this technology.

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