The President and CEO of US stock exchange Nasdaq, Adena Friedman, has stated that its Lithuanian team has exceeded expectations since it joined the company’s international network. And she believes Lithuania can become a truly global leader in the future.
Speaking at the LOGIN conference in Vilnius last week, Ms Friedman, who is listed as the 31st most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, acknowledged that Lithuania was initially appealing for its low labour costs. Yet Nasdaq have gained much more from their Vilnius team than they originally expected. “Today, Vilnius is a centre of professionalism for us,” Ms Friedman explained.
“A great talent pool”
“We have been operating in Lithuania for several years now, and we like it here very much. I often ask myself – what makes this country special?”, Ms Friedman told the conference.
One noticeable value Lithuania has been able to offer Nasdaq is talent. In the last three years, Nasdaq Vilnius’ team has grown from 30 to 300. “This place has a great talent pool. At first we thought Lithuania was a centre of low cost, but today Vilnius is a centre of professionalism for us,” Ms Friedman said.
She also disagreed with the view that large international companies choose Lithuania only as a location for less important projects and functions: “We’ve just started building a new digital payment system and Vilnius is at the centre of this project. This city is going to be an ever more important player for us.”
A FinTech future
Nasdaq sees its future in the financial technology sector. The company employs an increasing number of data scientists who work with FinTech systems. And it is predicted that in the coming years, these systems will really shake up traditional banking and financial systems.
“So far we use them in two ways,” explained Ms Friedman. “We use smart technology for monitoring the markets – we look for various illegal activities, and also for trends which allow us to predict changes in the behaviour of market players.”
Yet this is only the beginning, says Ms Friedman. Nasdaq’s CEO is convinced that within 5-10 years the world will witness a real breakthrough in machine intelligence.
Nasdaq consciously refuses to use the term “artificial intelligence,” opting for “machine intelligence” instead. “Artificial sounds like something unreal,” Ms Friedman pointed out. “But in fact we are just teaching the machines to learn, and then they do it themselves. The programming is performed by individuals, but from then everything is done by machines. For this reason we chose the term ‘machine intelligence,’” Ms Friedman explained.
The time for small countries
According to Ms Friedman, new technologies in the financial sector are opening the door for small countries to become real leaders.
“Virtual currency is an area in which small countries can become big achievers. I really believe that the Baltic States can become global leaders in this area”, Ms Friedman said.
And she made a point of praising the Lithuanian government for its proactive approach. “Unlike in the US and other European countries, where the authorities are very careful and conservative, here the government is willing to cooperate with businesses in order to achieve breakthroughs.”
While useful for small countries, new technologies are equally useful for small companies and start-ups. “We don’t want to be just creating a machine intelligence system for 15 years, we want it to be part of our business,” Ms Friedman noted.
This approach creates an excellent opportunity for small, innovative companies to connect their products with various sectors. “Small companies like these can attract extremely talented people. We don’t want to poach them, but we really want to work with them,” Ms Friedman said.
Today, Nasdaq even has a separate company responsible for monitoring the start-up scene and finding potential projects or companies which are likely to contribute to the overall activities of the company.
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