Finance's tech revolution risks being stymied by wary bosses

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(Bloomberg) -- The technical revolution in finance is being stymied because computer experts lack influence in boardrooms and their bosses don’t understand their work and are reluctant to fund it, according to a survey.

Eighty-six percent of respondents to the Excelian Luxoft Financial Services survey said they’ve recently championed a major digital project that failed because it didn’t get past the board. IT executives in the U.K. are particularly frustrated, with 85 percent complaining that senior managers don’t understand tech well enough, compared with 76 percent in Germany.

“It’s harder than ever working as an IT executive in a financial institution,” Roman Trakhtenberg, group managing director and global head of the unit, said in the survey published Thursday. They “want to be the gateway to the innovation” but are instead “stuck dealing with internal legacy systems and imminent cyber-risks, and are not getting the support they need to implement real change.”

The unit of the Luxoft Holding Inc. software-development and IT company commissioned the poll of more than 200 tech executives working in banks and money managers in the U.K., Germany, Austria and its home country Switzerland.

Technological innovation is one of the hottest topics in the finance industry, with the rapid growth of quant funds and machine learning stoking a debate about how far computers will eventually replace humans. Yet while techniques are being welcomed by firms seeking to boost profits and cut costs, sometimes the bankers themselves don’t understand how they work.

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This lack of understanding is holding back financial firms, whose IT departments are often prevented from innovating with technologies such as artificial intelligence and Blockchain, Excelian Luxoft said. There’s a human cost, too, with 22 percent of the tech decision-makers saying a lack of support from senior executives was keeping them awake at night.

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