Are boards fishing for digital talent in shallow pools?


In pursuit of strategies to survive the relentless digitisation of financial services, are the pools in which boards fish for talent too shallow?
Major financial institutions began to truly grasp the magnitude of change required years after the iPad was introduced. Awareness comes not through regulatory mandate, but from customer behaviour and expectations which now evolve uncomfortably swiftly. Successful adaptation to this unpredictable environment requires a new mindset, new partners and new tactics. The mindset is now relatively easy to obtain. Finding the right people and partners is a conundrum.


The levels of activity, innovation and investment around FinTech indicate the value at stake. All participants – established and emerging – face huge challenges and opportunity. The incumbents must continue to manage their existing businesses whilst preparing (for) the future model. The challengers must achieve scale whilst maintaining security and trust.


The future is now a moving target. Digital introduces too many variables for existing strategic models to manage. With consumer behaviour and expectations evolving at such a pace, a target state is hard to define beyond a few fundamentals.

In the absence of clearly defined goals to aim for, existing strategy and delivery regimes may struggle to adapt and perform effectively.
The very organisational structures, partnerships and cultures which emerged successfully through years of oligopolistic stability prove entirely unsuitable in today’s dynamic environment.

Larger financial institutions still derive too much comfort from their ability thus far to withstand attacks on multiple fronts – the increased cost of regulatory compliance, the arrival of numerous, diverse challengers. This apparent success is temporary. Survival to date is a function of  scale – with today’s performance being reviewed through yesterday’s lens.

Historically acceptable measures of success – market share, revenue/FTE, RoRWA – cannot reliably predict the incumbents’ ability to adapt.

The huge infrastructure created and maintained by the large banks and payments providers should – in theory – be of significant advantage. The sheer complexity of the financial system once provided an almost insurmountable barrier to entry. Now, however, ongoing maintenance of the existing infrastructure is now impossibly expensive. Regulatory compliance absorbs most – if not all – available discretionary investment. Capacity which could otherwise be deployed to adapt the infrastructure to a new digital future.

The once advantageous barrier to entry now acts as an inflexible barrier to change for the incumbent.


We face an uncertain future with technology enabling global changes with astonishing impact. The rise of the collaborative economy, the shift away from physical-first to digital-only. Changes in the meaning of work, the role of education. Evolution of the shape of a career, the nature of retirement. Society is expecting – and digital is enabling – an entirely different future from the one the current financial systems can support.

A strategy that hopes to largely protect the status quo with mere incremental digitisation of balance sheet/customer relationship will fail.

Instead, the very nature of the relationship between institution and marketplace needs reconsideration.

“We need banking, we don’t need banks.” was said some time ago, but the definition of what ‘banking’ will even be remains an ill-defined target.

A viable strategy for an unforeseeable future is one which enables multiple possibilities.

Responsible participation in the global financial system requires providers defend the core fundamentals of security and stability.

Historically successful incumbents have long-embedded those principles into their organisational DNA and built ludicrously complex infrastructures to milk value from the system. But future success requires something fundamentally different – a new layer – transparent and free of friction – which adds value to the end user. An authentic, digitally-enabling proposition which adapts with customers to support their evolving goals on their terms.


As I mentioned in this recent post, I believe the momentum around ‘FinTech’ has already had an immeasurably positive impact by changing the nature and velocity of strategic discussions inside incumbents.

It’s worthwhile considering exactly what “FinTech” means:

“That new world is supporting, displacing and disintermediating the old world finance with technology.  It is recreating the world of finance with technology.  It is creating a 21st century world of finance based upon technology.  That to me is fintech.”  - Chris Skinner

New entrants like TransferWise and The Currency Cloud continue to raise the (unbundled) bar for how customer experience should be defined.

Simple, Moven, Fidor and others continue to provide living case studies on the merits of an entirely customer-centric approach to delivering finance.

The ongoing fascination with Bitcoin and blockchain technologies is reshaping  agendas inside institutions and with their regulators and stakeholders.


If you work in an incumbent – particularly as an enabler/partner – it can be uncomfortable to admit your own strategy or business relationship needs improvement. Over many years, you have crafted a reputation for reliable delivery. But the context has been changed radically by the end user and your stakeholders now deserve something more. It’s time to find new partners, new viewpoints, new tactics.

But if it’s true there are now enough influencers at some of the incumbents with the right mindset to truly begin to adapt, do they have the right teams and partners?

The boards of the major incumbents have started asking some of the right questions. They’ve exhausted internal searches and now look outside for digital solutions. Yet the briefs they are giving the search firms may be too narrow. I understand from the biggest firms that boards are still seeking lower-risk, lateral hires – people who already carry these business cards elsewhere.

  • The retail ‘Digital lead’ at a large UK clearer has apparently himself interviewed over 500 candidates in pursuit of the ‘right’ digital change agents;
  • A major payments provider searches for digital payments specialists with specific cards and payments experience. However their non-solicitation agreement with their leading competitors essentially dehydrates an already shallow pool in which the search firms can fish.

The FinTech community can obviously provide a natural source of talent and partnership. This can benefit challengers and incumbents alike. Rather than pursuing pure disintermediation, challengers may achieve scale faster and greater impact if they work with rather than strictly against the incumbents.

The accelerators – and particularly their mentor communities – can also act as mediators and translators – identifying commercially viable ways to share the practical benefits of the FinTech revolution back into the latent infrastructure (and vice versa).

But this type of partnership approach requires fundamental change inside and throughout the incumbents – it will be fascinating to see which ones adapt.


I believe the successful teams of today need a wide range of capabilities – in a combination not often seen in finance.

  • Commerciality
  • Technical capability
  • Data savviness
  • Design
  • Curiosity
  • Vision
  • Adaptability
  • Resilience
  • Humility
  • Empathy

In a forthcoming post I’ll expand on each of these and why I think they’re critical. Obviously there are many more and I’d appreciate comments on any I’ve missed.

There is much cause for optimism in the FS industry for providers and consumers. But until we consider parallel industries and build multi-disciplinary teams filled with passion and hope, the pools in which we fish in may prove too shallow.


Photo credit 

FinTech glass half full; change story barely half written.

A tweet grabbed my attention the other day:

In FinTech, Andy McLean is one of those guys who is just getting out there and changing things. Proactivity like this always needs to be respected and the ideas raised in his tweet were interesting. 

Another FinTech veteran – Brad van Leeuwen – later picked up the same point and endorsed it.

The idea resonated with me not least because I’ve worked at two very large and complex financial incumbents. Whilst there, I found myself seduced by the idea of drawing a line under the existing model and starting afresh. I wasn’t alone – perhaps it’s a natural reaction for all frustrated change agents who have insufficient confidence in their organisation’s capability to adapt.

But in addition to spending more time with FinTech challengers I’ve also recently met with enough incumbents who seem desperately willing to adapt to the future. I feel the past few years of FinTech activity has raised awareness of the need for change at a senior level. We may indeed have passed a tipping point and I believe more hope than ever may yet lie inside the existing industry.

For people like me who are unwilling (or unable) to give up entirely on the old world, there may be almost as much cause for excitement as there is about the new FinTech and digital-only ventures.

I tweeted as much.

My point was that, whilst I agree it’s certainly difficult to change the incumbent position, it’s not something we can collectively afford to overlook. Whilst I truly believe we need to splice new thinking, skills and execution capabilities into the incumbents, I can’t subscribe to the model where everyone needs to be tossed out.

Change is difficult and Brad asked the most important question: 

To introduce change, you need to have – and share – a clear vision for people to get behind. You must identify and convert the sceptics – quickly and convincingly.

At many incumbents, you’ll easily find a rich seam of people who have never worked anywhere else. These people are institutionally conditioned to a particular way of doing things. They have decades of experience – collectively they have centuries of corporate muscle memory and organisational scar tissue. To work with these people to help change such long-held beliefs is a significant undertaking.

A few years back, employee engagement surveys seemed to be everywhere. They’re still in favour at many organisations who subscribe to the principle of engaged teams being more productive.

Whenever I would review employee engagement reports, I was most frustrated by the middle (amber) section – the one which separated the fully engaged (green) employees from apparently fully disengaged (red) ones. This is where you find the coasters. They hide in plain sight, sharing their evident frustration with everything, yet unable to offer tangible suggestions about what could be changed. Many managers gladly celebrate increasing green scores and panic about red – ignoring entirely the amber zone which could well be widening in front of their eyes.

I’ve always looked at this differently. Reds don’t hold back when they’re taking the surveys. They have specific issues and they know what they are. They’re searching for someone who will listen. As a manager, this is a great position to be in,  because armed with the knowledge of what’s wrong you can actively do something about it. (You may choose not to, but at least it was a conscious decision.)

If you address the tangible concerns of the reds, they can quickly convert to being the brightest green. From disengaged to fully engaged – skipping straight past amber. They’re often influential and naturally loyal to the brand. By addressing their issues, you’ve created ardent advocates of your strategy and supporters of your leadership. They appreciate that you’ve taken the time to listen to them and respect them. This is what engagement looks like and what creates powerful platforms for adaptive change and execution.

Andy put me on the spot – looking for relevant evidence that this type of industry change was achievable.

I didn’t have a tweet-friendly answer, so clarified my position – that whilst I have myself been seduced by the idea of the clean slate, powered by goodwill and balance sheet – I don’t think it’s responsible of us to leave the mess [some of us] created behind. To do so will leave a distracting drain on resources and social goodwill unresolved.

Apparently this doesn’t seem – on face at least – to be an unreasonable position.

But I don’t believe that punishing the incumbents is an effective strategy.

I’m delighted about the huge amount of buzz and excitement being generated around FinTech. There are grass roots startups actually getting out there and doing things the banks should have done years ago. But if you’ve ever been excluded from the cool kids gang, you know what it feels like to be left outside. You may rationalise to yourself that you’re happy where you are, but what you really want deep down inside is an invitation to play. You may, like Groucho Marx, refuse to be part of any group that would have you, but if you’re invited, at least you’ve got the chance to forge new partnerships, ask for help, think and do things differently.

There is an enormous amount of opportunity and, I truly believe, great cause for optimism. What there is not, is an easy route to getting this done. New mindsets, investment and methods of execution are all required.

I’ve got a number of follow-up posts coming on where my optimism comes from.

Travelling with digital companions

It’s 2am and hotter than you could have possibly imagined. After interminable delays on the apron at Heathrow, you’ve now cleared customs in a far away land. You weave a path through the arrivals hall, until you find an ATM.

Insert card, look over shoulder, enter PIN, wipe brow, request cash, drum fingers. Nothing. No money, no context,  no way out.

Exhausted and without local currency, you call your bank’s international contact number to investigate. Whilst navigating through the phone tree, it slowly dawns on you what’s happened.

And you dread what’s coming next.

You’re about to be gently, yet firmly, scolded.

You forgot to pre-advise the bank of your travel plans.

Before you travel

They’ve frozen your card to protect your account.

The protection should be welcomed, but right now you just want your money, your hotel room and your bed.

It’s a terrible situation to be in and when it happens, it places strain on the banking relationship. The load is shared between the customer – who has to deal with the mess overseas incurring roaming charges, local FX charges etc. – and the bank who have to manage the call centre to deal with the issue and minimise the destruction of goodwill.

So I was delighted this morning to see Lloyds Bank Digital team announcing the release of their new travel notification service under the ‘digitalbank’ hashtag.

It’s hard to miss the digital activites at Lloyds. The job boards have been filled with digital roles in LBG. They’ve even put hundreds of these people in a new campus I call ‘The Digiplex’. They’re smart and connected people with proven backgrounds in strategy and execution.

Ever present at the FinTech activities around town they’re also having fun hosting their own interesting events. I was particularly intrigued by the 3-day event “Google @ LBG” in 2014.

LBG 3 day Google event

Google @ LBG

With so much activity public, it’s clear Lloyds have many fundamentals for a convincing digital transformation in place:

  • raised internal awareness of need to digitise financial services;
  • talented, passionate people with diverse backgrounds;
  • executive support for iterative deployments beyond sandboxing;
  • 3rd party partnerships to promote best practice in UX and digital design.

I haven’t seen the new travel notification digital service, but when I read the description, I felt something might be missing:

Lloyds Bank has launched a notification service which allows online and mobile banking customers to inform it when they will be out of the country

Customers can use the service by logging into online or mobile banking and adding their travel dates and destination on their profile page.

The innovation here appears to be taking an analogue/non-mobile customer journey and putting it in the digital space.

The onus remains on the customer to contact the bank, detail the travel destination and dates.

There are some benefits like the fact the notification can be done at a time convenient to the customer. But it’s still re-keying data.

Enabling customers to provide us with this information in real time means they can do it where and when it’s convenient for them, even if that is 2am in a departure lounge,” said Adrian Bryant, director of digital at Lloyds Bank.

It’s impressive that the digital ‘unlocking’ effect is instantaneous, so they can do it in the departure lounge. But they’re expected to use their phone.
Which will be with them. At the airport or other international transit hub.

This looks like a great first step – identifying (and addressing) the pain point felt by hundreds of thousands of customers who’ve had their cards blocked abroad – not just by Lloyds.

It’s easy to see why this was green-lighted internally as digitisation of the exchange should help reduce load on call centres and false positive fraud alerts.

But I’d like to see much much more – from Lloyds and from other banks.

As an Android user, I’ve become largely reliant on the virtually omniscient operating experience. Predictive search is now astonishing – it’s rare I need enter more than three characters when searching for information on a person.

Inbox from Google has redesigned my approach to email; my calendar is now aesthetically pleasing, value-added and reliable.

Google evaluate my email, call history, location and search history for relevant invitations, payments, deadlines and travel details. They tell me what I need to leave to get to my next meeting on time. They basically now are near perfect with telling me what I need to know before I know I need it.

We’ve gone a long way beyond Clippy offering to help write letters in MS Office.

At the end of Google @ LBG, what were the takeaways?
What are Android going to work on in partnership with LBG?
What API/SDK framework can be used for customers who want to opt-in for a geo-location payments authentication programme?
When can link Google Now (and iOS notification centre) with bank mobile apps to suggest relevant and timely actions?

If the mobile device is carrying data about an upcoming trip (and if the device itself is later in that location and proven to be with the customer), we can find a way to share [just] that data with the banking app.

We can use digital to eliminate so much friction from the relationship. Connect customers with their goals more efficiently and responsibly and share the benefits between bank and customer equally.

Looks like you're travelling abroad. Would you like access to your funds whilst there?
Looks like you’re travelling abroad. Would you like access to your funds whilst there?


I’d love to read comments about examples of where this may already work well.

Kudos to Claire, Adrian and all at Lloyds for shipping this. I look forward to the next update.

Data – nail it before you scale it

A great number of interesting posts coming out of this year’s #Websummit. One that caught my eye came out from a session with Ryan Smith the CEO of @Qualtrics.

Smith was talking with Robert Shrimsley of the FT about taking his business Qualtrics from “Basement to a Billion” and the need to focus on the right data – at the right time – not on Big Data for the sake of it.


Ryan Smith talks at WebSummit with Ryan Shrimsley about taking his business from a basement to a billion.It’s interesting that the conversation was with the FT because they are sitting atop a goldmine of data – about readers, about their consumption habits and – as part of Pearson – information about who these people want to become.

So it’s interesting that I should have just received a marketing email from the FT. It was encouraging me to sign up to their latest timely alert service FirstFT.

FT email existing subscribers a marketing email pushing their new FirstFT service.

FirstFT doesn’t just look good, it is good. I know. I’ve been signed up for the last two weeks.

A long supporter of the FT, FT Alphaville and even their failed initiatives such as FT Tilt, I registered on Day 1. In fact, when I signed up, I sent the FT some feedback suggesting they consider making the signup CTA button more obvious to encourage greater conversion.

Which they did:

<blockquoteclass=”twitter-tweet” data-conversation=”none” lang=”en”>

@aliceemross @cmogle your wish is our command

— Andrew Jack (@AJack) October 27, 2014

It’s frustrating when companies with huge, valuable datasets misfire like this. Don’t frustrate your customers by calling them to an action they’ve already done.

LinkedIn do this – on the rare occasions when I’ve ‘congratulated’ someone on their new position, I seem to get an email from LinkedIn 2 days later asking me to do just that.

After responding to the prompt to 'congratulate' someone on getting a new job (or merely not getting fired for another year), you later get an email encouraging you to do exactly the same thing.
After responding to the prompt to ‘congratulate’ someone on getting a new job (or merely not getting fired for another year), you later get an email encouraging you to do exactly the same thing.

PayPal seem to do something similar with their “Review your recent transactions” mails.
PayPal Fail

They send these out when there have been no recent transactions.

Instead of making me question whether my identity and money is safe in your databases, why not use that opportunity to tell me where I could have used your service – convert the lack of recent activity into a stream of future revenue.

Being able to capture datasets as deep and valuable as this is a great privilege. Whether you’re in your basement or atop a billion-dollar company, don’t destroy value by misusing them.

Liberating the customer

Digital is revolutionising your industry.

It’s changing expectations of everyone involved – your staff, your regulators and, most significantly of all, your customers.

The only thing certain about this digital evolution is that it is not going away. It’s not even slowing down. Indeed the pace of change is accelerating.

Momentum is being built, platforms are being established and losers are already being eliminated from the marketplace.

It’s barely four full years since the first iPad was released, yet already many companies are reasonably expecting to manage their entire organisation on a handheld device.

The next generation of consumer will not be merely mobile-first, they will be truly mobile-only.

Earning the right to be relevant in this market requires a new mindset. A digital-first, dynamic approach where architecting for multiple possibilities is the default position.

Adapting to this new normal – shaping it with a truly customer centric approach is necessary not merely to capture available margins, but rather to capture any business at all.

Not making your business available and accessible for customers in this digital marketplace is corporate suicide.

There is a widening divergence between historically acceptable measures of corporate performance – both relative and absolute – and measures of success and customer engagement going forwards.

Supply constraint and currently restricted choice in your market should not be confused with customer satisfaction.

Apparently low rates of customer attrition and once-palatable levels of discernible market share can not and should not be relied upon as predictors of future performance.

Linear extrapolation of historic trends can not accommodate the imminent paradigm shift.

Motivated customers, digitally enabled, digitally liberated will play a greater role in determining your future success than ever before.

Adapt to their needs quickly and authentically.

Be prepared to challenge everything that made your business successful in times of modest, incremental change.

Discover new partners, recruit from different pools of talent, rip up your organisational charts and start over – with the customer at the heart of your business. Where they belong.

In your hands

Casey Gerald, Harvard MBA graduate and co-founder of MBAs Across America gave a truly remarkable commencement address to his graduating class in May 2014.

If you wanted to change the world in the 20th century, you went to law school. To change the world now, he went to business school.

“As we leave this place for the last time, some as Baker Scholars and some by the seat of our pants, we take up the work of not just making a living but of making a life. For if all we have learned here are Four Ps, and Five Forces and Six Sigma, we will prove William Faulkner right, that we labor under a curse, that we live not for love but for lust, for defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, for victories without hope, and worst of all without pity or compassion, that our griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars, that we live not from the heart but from the glands.

“No, my friends, we have more work to do, hard work, frightening work, uncertain work and unending work, work that may test us, work that may defeat us, work for which we may not get the credit but work for which the whole world depends. The time is short and the odds are long but I believe that we are ready nonetheless, with the love of those who raised us, with the lessons of those who taught us, with the strength of those who stand beside us as we face what lies ahead. I say let us begin.”

Posting this here as I believe we’ll see great things from this fellow. His oration is confidently Clinton-esque, but more importantly, he seems to focus on things that will make a lasting, meaningful difference.

The new ‘bottom line’ in business is the impact you have on your community and the world around you — no amount of profit can make up for purpose.

Design runs deep

Irene Au – design leader at Google, Yahoo!, Udacity, and Netscape – now partner at Khosla Ventures published this exposition on what design is.


It’s written for CEOs – in particular those who may not  fully recognise their role in design and its critical impact on customer experience.

She introduces a perspective which should resonate particularly well with CEOs who are still adding digital façades to their existing businesses:

When we think about design, we often think about how a product looks. As makers of technology we might also understand deeply that design is not just about how a product looks but how it works: components that enable people to use your product, and how it all fits together. All that cascades from your company’s strategy, values, and principles, and the scope of the problem you choose to tackle. All of that manifests itself in the design of the experiences you offer.


Design runs deep

Today, it’s rare to find a business that doesn’t claim a ‘customer first’ mindset or ‘customer-centric’ philosophy.

The principle that the design of customer experiences reflects the company values seems intuitive and obvious.

So why then are catastrophic user experiences so common?

Why do so many corporate façades present as a fraternity of silos with clumsy connectivity and evidently little consideration of the customer and their goals?

Why is it still possible for a company to deploy a customer experience that efficiently highlights exactly how far away from truly being well-connected and customer-considered they are?

Au concludes that the design that faces the customer offers a lens through to the inner state of the company.

Just as a person’s posture can reflect his or her inner state, so does your product’s design reflect the state of your company. I’ve seen org charts, power struggles, and agendas manifest through design. I’ve seen the absence of strategy, values, principles, and a clear point of view manifest through design.

You need to think about design from the inside-out. You can’t fix your design without fixing these deep issues and this is why every CEO is a designer, whether they recognize it or not.

If your expectation is that your design team can work around or patch over your company’s organizational issues, power struggles, and agendas, or lack of strategy, clear values, principles, or point of view, you’re shunning your responsibility in making design great for your users.

Product design and solutions delivery should enable customers to focus on achieving their goals, not navigating your corporate hierarchy.

A true customer-first, digitally-enabled approach mandates your teams to focus on delivering a core experience that adds frictionless value to the customer.

Design isn’t an afterthought. It runs deep and reveals a great deal about you and your team.

Take a look at your business from your customer’s perspective. Like what you see?

Different leagues

So you woke up today to find you didn’t do as well as hoped/expected/needed in some client survey.

How does that feel?

Fine? Not great? Terrible?

How long will that feeling last for?

Only as long as you let it.

You’re home now. With people you trust. People who believe in you.

Ask yourself: does it really matter?

If it feels bad today, it’s only because you’ve allowed someone else to make you feel that way.

Someone did relatively better than you.
You hate losing.
You feel they beat you.
They won.
But at what cost?

Was it worth it?

Does it even matter?

On Monday, when you pick up the phone, trying to win business, striving to be relevant to your customers, will your loss (or their win) make any difference at all?

A difference to the client, to your shareholders, to you?

It’s unimaginative (at best – irresponsible at worst) to rely on some arbitrary award to give you the confidence to go out into the world and add value.

Be relentlessly purposeful and confident in your intent.

Find ways to find meaning in your business.

That’s sustainable.



Stand up for your principles. Even when nobody else will.

That’s how you stand out.

That’s how you get to be proud of what you’ve done.

Of who you are and who you will become.

Last laugh

A story about an interaction with Steve Jobs is making the rounds at the moment (posthumously).

It’s being fêted as hilarious, but I think it’s anything but.

Not because of Jobs and what he said. Far from it.

Indeed, I think he was one of too few leaders consistently forthright about their thinking around customer experience.

The quote attributed to Jobs (when an Intel exec told him they were going to make it easier for enterprise customers to integrate Apple computers) is:

“Why would I do anything to help the orifice that is the CIO? I’m going to make something so compelling for consumers that CIOs will just have to figure out how to deal with it.”

Putting Jobs’ posturing to one side, I believe it’s too easy for companies to effectively think – and act – in a similar way.
I don’t believe they do it deliberately like Jobs.
Rather they may do it unwittingly.

Customer-centric businesses must genuinely keep their customer – and what they are trying to achieve – at the very heart of their business model. If you don’t do this consistently, your “customer first” principles may quickly find themselves crowded out by inside-out thinking.

Customer Company

You can’t reasonably expect to be successful if you design friction into your customer experience.

Jobs was delighted to avoid enterprise integration and was satisfied with Apple’s forecast growth.
He was right – his premium offering appealed to individual influencers enough that many CIO’s took lots of pressure from them to enable Apple products.

Do you have that luxury?

The purpose of your business isn’t to sell products and services, it’s to create and maintain a customer.
Drucker’s principle is eternal and by authentically following it your proposition should be sustainable.

If your business strategy introduces any friction into engagements with your customers, it’s only a matter of time before the friction frustrates them and they seek an alternative.

This frustration may be instant. Whilst (ironically) further friction may exist which delays your customer from switching their business, without change the switch away from you is inevitable.

Take a look at your business from the perspective of your customer.
Look back at yourself and see if there is anything that frustrates or fatigues you.
If you find anything, you must fix it. Fast.

People only think the story about Steve Jobs is ‘hilarious’ because he won.

If you lose, it will be a tragedy and that’s no laughing matter.

Customer, then infrastructure

IBM own a genius global brand initiative called Smarter Planet. You have surely seen it. It’s genius in a Keyser Söze way:
Who doesn’t want to be (feel/act/become/be considered) smarter?

Under this Brand umbrella, the IBM Smarter Banking proposition is:

The way our planet manages its money needs to get a whole lot smarter – and now it can.

It’s impossible to argue with that (or at least it’s fruitless – I know there are many organisations that will still try).

Customer behaviours have evolved and are evolving incredibly quickly. The pace at which they adopt new technology appears beyond the reach of many incumbent financial institutions. This has triggered the gross (good) proliferation of FinTech startups who truly want to make the world a better place (and aren’t planning to wait around for the incumbents).

The IBM Banking team have a broadcast Twitter account.
They tirelessly tweet links about Banking – unsurprisingly from a technology perspective.
It’s hard to tell who they’re engaging with (they haven’t responded to a single Twitter user within >90 days).

Tonight this tweet arrested my attention:

It’s the sort of tweet I zero in on – in pursuit of signs we’re approaching the Tipping Point. The point where trusted enterprise sales whisperers not only ‘get’ that something needs to be done, but believe they have something tangible to sell.

So I click.

The linked article (1,100 words) promises great riches: banks that ‘crack the code’ of better customer experience…

…will position themselves to seize phenomenal opportunities to engage with customers

I’m hooked.

Here are some highlights:

Banks have made interaction with customers too complicated and frustrating.

Can’t argue with that.  It’s tricky to find a customer of an incumbent financial institution that is truly delighted by their experience.

Banks have focused too much on product, subjecting customers to multiple-step processes to complete transactions and to switch between multiple products.

Spot on. Processes designed from the product-out have too rarely considered the impact on a single customer needing to consume more than one at once.

Banks must leverage… mobility, big data, real-time analytics and omnichannel capabilities.

No article on future of banking would be complete without mentioning these.

Customers realize they have multiple banking options, often selecting different institutions for different services.

Indeed they do. More importantly, the customer of tomorrow doesn’t have to realise this – they’ll expect/know no other way.

Banks have done a poor job of keeping up with evolving customer needs and technology.

Past tense, present tense, worryingly close to being future tense.

Banks are now spending 35-40 percent of their expenditure on governance, risk and compliance. This coupled with high maintenance costs on legacy applications, makes it very difficult for banks to find the money to make these changes.

This estimate may be a huge lowball. Run The Bank (RTB) vs. Change The Bank (CTB) for large matrix organisations is often > 70/30. The current programme of regulatory compliance is paralysing many existing organisations.

Banks organized by product line are myopic to business opportunities and complicate transactions for customers

Exactly. Perverse though it is, this situation still persists at a huge number of companies. Even if it has been ‘solved’ on the org chart, the cultural impediments to a truly customer-centric business purpose may take a generation to overcome.

It will take several years for banks to implement the necessary changes to become customer-centric.

Wait. What? Why?

better experience; higher revenues

OK, I’ve teased this out to help a little.

Because that’s 1,100 words – without once mentioning customer value.

Now I may be being a little disingenuous. The blog is published on a site called “BANK SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGY”. (That’s a multi-billion dollar URL right there.)

But ask yourself. In your organisation – however novel and agile (or however incumbent and threatened) where are you making your technology stack decisions?

What comes first – the technology architecture or the customer need?

Not quite sure?

Think it’s a close call?

No. It’s really not. It’s binary.

Customer-centric; Digitally Enabled.

You either live, breath and sleep customer centricity or you don’t get it at all.

Start (and finish) every meeting thinking about your customer.

Encourage your organisation – from its very edge to its very heart – to think like a customer – and then act.

If you’re not doing this by default – not out of desperation, but desire, well, I don’t even want to know you.

Don’t build your customer centric; enabled-by-digital organisation out from an infrastructural perspective.

Starting with the customer is sustainable.

Customer first. Then (and only then) infrastructure.