Why I Keep a Punch Card in My Office

Jennifer Lewis Priestley, Ph.D.FLOCK Notes Leave a Comment

At one point, the lowly punch card was “advanced technology”. In 1889, the U.S. government used paper punch cards for the first time to conduct the national Census, saving the U.S. Treasury about $5 million in the costs of handling data for 62 million people. And lest we forget, the Apollo 11 mission landed the first men on the moon using punch card technology.

In Financial Services, punch cards were the standard technology for recording payments well into the 1970s. Fast forward 50 years – Gartner reported that last year banking and investment firms spent over $600 billion on data-centric technology, with emphasis on AI, operational automation, and privacy-enhancing platforms.

Like most of our sector, FLOCK Specialty Finance has invested significant resources in our own technology platform. Like all good investors in AI, we have anthropomorphized ours by giving it a name – FAAzE. FAAzE is enabling automation of previously human-intensive tasks, allowing us to scale in ways we could not have envisioned only a year ago, and importantly allowing our team to focus on addressing more complex issues beyond repetitive tasks. The increased visibility to account-level and transaction-level detail has created opportunities for more modeling, forecasting, sensitivity analysis, and uncovering patterns in our business that were previously unseeable.

And yet… we are keenly aware in 50 years we will look back on our current technology with the dismissal that is now shown for the punch card. We appreciate the fact that the $600 billion our industry spent last year will result in the punch card of 2073. With that context, at FLOCK, we are continually seeking to understand the capabilities (and tradeoffs) of new and emerging technology with a deep appreciation and understanding of where we came from, and with a disciplined team who has the orientation and receptivity to learn and integrate whatever comes next.

For more information about FLOCK Specialty Finance, contact Jennifer Lewis Priestley, CDO (jpriestley@flockfinance.com)

1 https://slate.com/technology/2021/06/caleb-scharf-ascent-of-information-punch-cards.html
2 https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2022-05-24-gartner-identifies-three-technology-trends-gaining-tr

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