Obama’s former CTO talks on Technology in Trading: an interview with Harper Reed, speaker at The Trading Show 2015

Harper Reed, exclusive, big data, social media, speaker interview, The Trading Show 2015, trading

Chicago’s ‘digital wizard’ offers his insight on big data, social media and trading. 

Harper Reed is a tech-pioneer. Most famously, he worked as CTO on ‘Obama For America’, Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and is currently helping to build Modest Inc, a project which could potentially define the future of commerce. His specialties are big data, social media and crowdsourcing. He has also been hailed as ‘probably one of the coolest guys ever’ (although that is on his own website).

First and foremost, Harper Reed is an engineer who builds paradigm-shifting technology – the trends and technologies that he instigates are applicable to a number of industries. Trading, as an industry, is being revolutionised rapidly by new trends and technologies, and there is plenty that traders around the world can learn from Harper’s insights.

Harper Reed has previously talked at Terrapinn’s Customer Festival, and he didn’t disappoint. I interviewed him over the phone, to find out what subjects he’ll be talking on at The Trading Show 2015, and to ask him how big data and social media should be utilised by traders and brokers:

ME: What topics will you be focusing on when you talk at The Trading Show next year?

HARPER: I don’t actually know yet. I try to acknowledge that, between now and March [when The Trading Show is taking place], anything can happen, so I refuse to tell anyone my secrets.

With that said, there’s a very good change that I will be talking about big data. How can we use big data in a way that most benefits us, and how can it help us achieve our goals? Of course, in trading, technology is just half of the game – people are 100% of the game. So, I’ll probably be talking on how companies can build successful teams too.

ME: Given your professional experience, do you think you’ll be talking about social media at all?

HARPER: Yes, I do think I’ll be touching on social media. I didn’t mention that because I thought that it was already a given! But I suppose that’s not necessarily the case with trading.

ME: Yes, although social media is becoming more important to trading for activities like sentiment analysis.

Yes, sentiment analysis – very, very cool.

The thing with social media is, there’s so many different aspects to it, but it’s only a channel, not necessarily the main focus. For instance, from a marketing standpoint, the approach we take to Facebook is largely the same approach that we take to Twitter.

One thing I find very interesting is that you can take a large group of young people, who are very interested in Facebook and Twitter. You provide them with dashboards so they can learn from their data what’s successful and not successful, and you’ve got a pretty good thing going! But, where people mess up is that they don’t always hook the data up with the people who know social – they keep them and the people who really understand big data separate. You can conduct sentiment analysis, but what actions do you take as a result? People need to understand both in order to know what actions to take.

ME: How do you think traders should be utilising social media sites and the huge quantities of data that they provide?

HARPER: There’s one thing you need to focus on here – that is, what is the goal of the trader? I think that the goal of most traders is to be ahead of the curve. However, being ahead of the curve, it’s almost like predicting the weather – it’s very difficult to do. You need a good strategy. I have found that, in many cases, social media can be the guide to help you find out whether your strategy is going to work – that helps you ‘predict the weather.’ It’s hard to do, but social media can always help with that.

ME: What do you think will be the biggest new technology or trend to shape the trading world over the next decade?

HARPER: Hm. That’s a very hard question. I do think that data will be huge for the future of trading, but so will the speed that companies react to that data. Firms keep having to increase the speed of the technology they are using so that their trades are the fastest; they’re also focusing more and more on how to get closer to the point of origin for trades. So, the speed of the technology will be incredibly important, as will knowing how to take advantage of the data you have access to.

ME: You’ve spoken at Terrapinn events before – given that experience, what do you think will make The Trading Show stand out from other similar events?

Well, I do go to a lot of conferences. I’ve noticed that Terrapinn do a very good job of making events consistent, and most importantly consistent in experience. And that’s the key, consistency – the lack of it can be very frustrating at events like these.

I know that I can always expect Terrapinn to do the right thing, regardless of the industry or topic. Last year’s Customer Festival [the last Terrapinn event that Harper Reed spoke at] was great because it allowed the retailers who are otherwise basically forgotten about to engage with data and technology. If Terrapinn do with The Trading Show what they did for the Customer Festival, then it’s going to be a great event. But I don’t like to prognosticate. We’ll see!

There you have it. At Terrapinn, we do know how to put on a great event, regardless of the industry. We’re experienced at it.

At The Trading Show 2015 London, our aim is to inspire delegates like yourself and then give you as much opportunity as possible to discuss new trading ideas with your peers and enjoy yourself while doing it. New innovations, risk management strategies and other hot topics will all be focused upon. We hope to see you there!

Book your place before 31 October and save £1400 – that’s over 50% off the actual price. 

the trading show, 2015, london

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