Member Spotlight: Dave Dowsett

Silicon Foundry’s expanding network of Corporate Members are driving transformation at some of the world’s most respected global brands — from leaders in mobility, mining and telecom, to beauty, retail, energy, financial services and beyond.

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Dave Dowsett is the Global Head of Emerging Technology, AI, Scenario Planning and Intentional Innovation at Invesco, a firm that manages over $1T in assets for clients across 25 countries and is comprised of over 8000 global employees. In this role, he leads the development and execution of the emerging technology products and fintech engagements.

In addition to his role at Invesco, Dave also sits on the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneurship and Innovation Advisory Board, serves as a board member for the startup KeyPlease, and he mentors startups through Engage, a venture fund and accelerator program that has invested in over 46 startups in and around Georgia.

Tell us about your career path — the progression and the detours that led you to where you are now.

I am fortunate to have lived and worked across the globe, from being born and raised in Durbin, South Africa to living across Europe and North America working alongside global C-suite and board level executives. My work travels have also afforded me the opportunity to experience unexpected locations such as Tunisia and Israel.

I have also always carried an entrepreneurial mindset. I started my own business during my school years, building personal computers (PCs) and offering support contracts. I grew this venture to an entity with assets and employees scaled out to install satellite systems across the KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa and won several contracts with major banks and organizations to install and maintain PCs and satellite communication systems before my 21st birthday.

In my early 20’s, I was attracted to the city scene and pace of London, so I moved to the UK, where I focused on the technology industry and took up a contract with the multinational CPG giant Unilever to move one of their subsidiary businesses, Birds Eye Walls, from a decentralized, onsite hands-on technology support resources to a remote, centralized contact center.

From Unilever, I moved to the telecommunications industry to a business called Global Crossing, where I was in charge of rapidly scaling the European presence and subsequently driving the integration of an acquisition of a much larger company called Racal communications. I really enjoyed my time with Global Crossing, until the company unfortunately declared bankruptcy, which forced a career change into M&A-related technology integrations and spinouts with a small California-based company that made satellite components, where my previous experience in South Africa and a mutual desire for rapid growth clinched the position for me. It was this role that drove my desire to move to the US.

Prior to joining Invesco, I was with Fidelity International for over 16 years, starting in a position to disrupt their technology infrastructure organization. The role was quite fun, and my career really took off from there where I led Data Center migrations, build outs and decommissions from network up the stack through applications. I also led the build out of both our Delhi Onshore business, as well as our Northern Africa onshore business in Tunis for Technology support operations. After over a year in Tunis, they had an uprising, and we were forced to evacuate and shut down our initial presence and abandon subsequent plans to hire thousands of locals. That was a disheartening period for me, as I really enjoyed working with the Tunisians. After my time in Tunisia and running a major Technology separation initiative between the Fidelity International and Fidelity US business, I was asked to run the Digital Transformation and Fintech Transformation programs for the international business. This role involved preparing Fidelity to compete with fintechs through transforming legacy solutions and removing customer friction points to compete more effectively with startups, which is where I learned the foundations for the role I do today at Invesco.

All of this to say that I am really proud of where I’ve landed with my background and experience, despite not having completed a formal university education. I now serve as the Global Head of Emerging Technology, AI, Scenario Planning and Intentional Innovation teams at Invesco. In this role, I help identify and solve real business problems with emerging technologies that have been researched through the scenario planning and strategic intelligence function of my team. We then execute upon the identified problems an intentional innovation lens and emerging technology engineering. My entrepreneurial background still serves me well because many of the things we do are new, and we’re working on issues that people thought were previously unsolvable. We push other teams to dig deep to define what the real problems are and encourage creativity as we creatively define the solutions. It requires a mindset where we have to be comfortable in the unknown and pivot when required. It also demands a continuous drive and passion from the initial research through building actual products that are to be consumed by our business, always keeping in sight the ultimate client impact and measurable impact to Invesco.

My path and current position also allow me to give back to my local venture and startup community in Atlanta. I’m an active member in our local innovation ecosystem, serving on the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneurship and Innovation Advisory Board. In this role, we try to elevate Atlanta’s position as a viable and attractive location for fintech companies. By the way, for anyone who isn’t aware, Atlanta is a great place to start a business for a multitude of reasons! I also serve as a board member for a startup called KeyPlease and mentor startups that move through the Engage startup program, which includes different startups across multiple industries that participate in an accelerator program and have the opportunity to access additional capital through the venture fund.

As Invesco’s Global Head of Emerging Technology Strategy, Data Science, Scenario Planning and Intentional Innovation, what are your priorities and goals for the organization, and, if relevant, how have you pivoted on those given the pandemic?

Our priorities and goals are about identifying and solving real tangible business problems with forward thinking technical solutions and emerging technology. The pandemic hasn’t changed that focus, but it has definitely increased the focus; in that appetite and pace of adoption throughout the organization (and the industry) and measurable digital transformations are needed now more than ever. For my team, we’re doubling down on measures of success and staying metrics and data-driven to help drive efficiency gains across all domains of the business (e.g. investments and our sales and distribution functions). Additionally, as we make this transition as an organization, we’re seeing internal teams need our expertise more and more to help navigate through disruptive change in their own teams and new expectations.

As a part of reaching our goals successfully, a big area of focus for my team is scaling what we created and call our #NextStep intentional innovation framework. The framework was developed to ensure we are laser focused on what we work on and why, establish paths to enterprise wide production and ensure the emerging technology capabilities we build are getting maximum adoption, which helps us address areas of efficiency in terms of capability gaps.

Another area where we continue to focus and augment are our relationships with external ecosystems to ensure we’re keeping ahead of trends and monitoring scenarios that serve as strategic triggers or markers on when we think is the right time to act. That’s how Silicon Foundry fits into the landscape for us. They serve as a partner to help us identify observations we may not know, any blind spots in non-competing industries and how our competitors and peers are implementing certain strategies and emerging technologies. As a part of our innovation ecosystem, we also have relationships with other institutions across venture capital, academia and the startup incubators around the world to enhance our global view of innovation and where we might need to acquire or build solutions to ensure we keep ahead.

What does digital transformation mean to you, and how are you approaching the subsequent changes within Invesco?

For me and my team, digital transformation means three things:

  1. Understanding our changing client needs and preferences in the digital space. That includes being mindful of new target audiences of investors, like millennials and Gen Z, making financial services and digital advice more accessible for retail clients and offering better and more intuitive digital experiences for institutional clients, all of which keep the benefits of emerging technology at the forefront of how we can provide value to our end clients. Once you understand the client, it’s how you digitally enable the solutions to ensure a seamless, frictionless end-to-end experience.
  2. Secondly, you need to have the right pathways to production in place to enable these efforts to scale quickly and efficiently. You need open architecture systems to allow for data access and interoperability of systems to facilitate fast innovation and strong and clear measurable frameworks to take a concept to the enterprise at speed and scale, which alludes back to our #NextStep framework.
  3. Lastly, but by no means least, you need to prepare the workforce with the necessary skill sets to stay competitive in the future. For Invesco in particular, it means business and technology understanding each other’s domains extremely well. In all industries now, there is such a blurred line between business and technology, and in finance, the fintechs get it, and legacy companies now need to understand the same. It’s important that we embed the skills of the future throughout the organization. An example of this is a program my team is spearheading, which is leveling up data science and python skills across the business for individuals to self-teach, build algorithms and push these into production for open source collaboration to help anyone who wants access to be able to do their jobs with greater effectiveness and with minimal assistance.

Given the major platform shifts and technological advancements caused by COVID-19, what do you predict your role will look like next year and beyond?

Some of the things we were exploring before the pandemic are now accelerating due to COVID-19; so it’s not so much that things will change, so much as there might be more dedicated focus in both our investments and distribution spaces. For example, we’re already involved in providing emerging technology, data science and intentional innovation in the investment space, and we will stay the course on investment innovation with recognition that COVID-19 is fundamentally changing certain asset classes, and it’s more important than ever before to give our investment teams the tools and capabilities that will augment humans to make higher confidence decisions in their analysis.

On the distribution and client experience side, since COVID-19 is accelerating digital experiences, we anticipate there will be more dedicated focus on applying innovation to certain digital touch-points throughout the client journey. We’re already seeing teams internally realigning on priorities and testing technologies in hopes of incubating them and eventually exposing them directly to our clients in the coming years. While our clients will have direct and indirect access to some of these experiences, our goal is to help realize internal efficiencies and more customized client experiences using technologies such as machine learning and automation.

Additionally, we’re also actively exploring new distribution channels through digital currency. However, specifically as it relates to crypto assets, the biggest obstacle has been regulatory, something we think COVID-19 may also help to accelerate especially in North America, which seems to be lagging behind other regions.

Which emerging technology are you personally most excited about?

Definitely artificial intelligence and, specifically, the machine learning aspect of the discipline. It still excites me to be able to dive deep into vast sums of data that are beyond the scope of human interpretation and then, subsequently, find insight and meaning (with less human bias) to make a forecast and inform decisions that are observable and measurable. I like to explore the possibility that if a particular model didn’t exist, would that human have made the same decision? And that’s a paradigm I’m truly excited about, using machines to help humans perform better.

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