Set in beautiful Kelowna, BC, the CFLA conference was jam-packed with presentations, networking and socializing. Kelowna is in the Okanogan Valley region of British Columbia surrounded by lakes and mountains. The area is a recreational playground and also known for its plentiful fruit orchards and decadent wineries.

Dr. Sherry Cooper kicked things off with an economic forecast highlighting the health of the economy and accompanying low unemployment rates. She also focused on the debt financed bubble in Canada. The Canadian government has started to increase interest rates to stem the growth in debt. In an effort to be even more conservative, there is a policy under debate in Canada where the consumer would have to pass a tolerance test of a 2% rate hike as an incremental qualification criteria. Obviously lenders are starting to look at other high-growth industries to offset the impact from the current regulatory intervention. Leasing is a very likely candidate – especially for the big banks who have accumulated a very large exposure to mortgage today.

Have you read studies about the 7 million men in the US between the ages of 25-34 that are unemployed? Look it up, it’s a very interesting socio-economic development that will prove to be a real drain on the US economy if it continues to proliferate.

Billy Beane from the Oakland A’s (Moneyball) shared his context from the direction that sports has gone as it relates to selection criteria for their athletes. Gone are the days of using your gut to make a call on who should be in today’s lineup. If the data says your big slugger performs poorly in the conditions you’re facing today, the manager should be looking to replace him with the player with better indicators. Employers in other industries are finding success applying similar theories with tools such as the Predictive Index when evaluating candidate suitability for the role they’re filling.

Jason Baffone from IBM’s Analytics group broke down what it takes to develop a cognitive organization including the introduction of Watson in 2011. Watson is changing the landscape of how data is mined and analyzed. For example, song writers can use Watson to look back at the last 40 years of song lyrics across the internet to pick out the common lyrics from the biggest hits and incorporate these into new songs to improve the probability of creating a hit themselves. Machine learning is going to revolutionize data analytics. Consider where a doctor will be able to submit a list of a patient’s symptoms and have an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan returned in seconds based on a review of hundreds of thousands of global research papers in the database or on the internet.

Once completely excited about the prospects of a thriving economy and the wealth of data we’ll have access to, it was up to Chris Mathers to provide the reality check – criminals want our data too. Chris is a crime, terrorism and security expert and had some eye-opening experiences to share about how vital it is to be aware of who has access to our systems, how much more creative hackers are getting and the importance of knowing exactly who you are doing business with. If you haven’t seen Snowden, it might be worth investing the two hours – it’s not as far-fetched as you think. The cost of a breach can be catastrophic and a pragmatic approach to security needs to be ingrained in our culture.

The next ten years are going to be the most transformational the industry has ever seen. It’s going to be an exciting ride but not one for the faint of heart!

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