The Absolute Ultimate Guide of Who’s Who in FinTech – the 2015 Edition

I wrote this a year and a half ago: https://nextbank.org/2014/08/12/whoswho – maybe a list, to me, more of a must-read on Twitter and why. Back then, in the infancy of the FinTech expert inflation, it was pretty comprehensive if intensely personal in categorization. Some people have asked me to do an update. This is still very subjective so save the “what about X?!?” and “you must add Y” protests, please. Re-reading the last piece I was very happy to see most of these names are still around and working hard. This is ultimately why we’re progressing in FinTech, if they had vanished our collective bubble may have burst by now.

The differences from the last Titans list are small. In fact it’s easier this year. Check who’s in the @FinTechMafia, add Ron Shevlin @rshevlin and Jim Bruene @netbanker and you have it.

I’d remove JJ Hornblass @hornblass not because you should not read him or he is not a titan but because you should read from the overly modest Philip Ryan @philipgryan and their brand account at @bankinnovation as well to hear their whole perspective and it is undoubtedly mandatory FinTech read.

I’d also remove Rob Finday @robfindlay as you’ll find little from him on Twitter but you should catch all he does to move the industry – events but more importantly, more insightful curation than all of us put together, on the Next Bank group on Facebook.

Most of the other categories stay the same as I wrote in the initial article. The Europeans are the same, except we should move Aden Davies @aden_76 up from his Why have they shut up as he’s bound to get vocal these days free from his corporate shakels and they should be joined by the previously missed Roberto Ferrari @ferrarirobtweet, Neira Jones @neirajones, Brad van Leeuwen @bradvanL and the extraordinary Daryl Wilkinson @DarylAndHobbes who are amazing, shape the industry in meaningful ways and were a glaring omission on my part the first time around, forgive me FinTech.

The Americans still rock (the only omission there was the blissfully sarcastic John Waupsh @waupsh), the A-Packers are working hard, the Silent Influencers changed significantly but not in a Twitter-prone way, etc. The one category we need to look at is the New Kids on the Block.

Last year’s list does not hold here – Simon Taylor @sytaylor has moved up in the world and became Mr. Blockchain so a true Titan, Harriet Wakelam @Hwakelam has left banking and is revolutionizing insurance instead and is too much of a name in UX to be in the New Kids category and the same stands for the now classic Yann Ranchere @tek_fin and the man with most knowledge and charisma rapport in FinTech – James Moed @jamesmoed so I think we should use this category to list all the new fresh faces most of which were not even on Twitter or at least surely not on my FinTech radar 18 months ago:

Mariano Belinky @belimad 

John Eagan @iamjohneagan

Gemma Godfrey @GCGodfrey

Jason Bates @JasonBates

Pascal Bouvier @pascalbouvier 

Chris Gledhill @cgledhill

Tom Blomfield @t_blom

Devie Mohan @devie_mohan

Ghela Boskovich @Ghela_Boskovich

Oliver Bussmann @obussmann 

Huy Nguyen Trieu @Huynguyentrieu

Philippe Gelis @Pgelis

Eileen Burbidge @eileentso

David Gudjonsson @DGatHandpoint 

Andy McLean @HappyDaysInBali

Russ Shaw @RussShaw1

Spiros Margaris @SpirosMargaris

Susanne Chishti @SusanneChishti

claire cockerton @clairecockerton

All I’ll say about this section is that some of these people have been an immense win for the industry and having them around enriched the dialogue to no end while some have loads to learn.

Anyone not on either the initial or the updated list – that’s sometimes a blessing, just ask the previously missed ones.

Happy new year everybody, let’s make 2016 supercalifragelisticexpialidociously-FinTechy!

The Real FinTech Unicorn – the BB&H Banker

I promised a follow up on Banking Superheroes in my “Why Blockchain doesn’t matter” post. I’ve essentially written about them before. It’s Experience Supermen. It’s bankers, the names of some no industry ballad mentions, who have done marvels where they were.

Banks who care about becoming healthy and sturdy organisations with a chance at staying competitive ask me about them. This is an amazing sign. A few weeks ago I spent the day with all the heads of HR or a major bank and they wanted to know who these superheroes were, what they were like and where to get more of them for their own organisations. What better signal of wanting to change the “banking old guard” we all like to moan about?

Getting to know these men may not provide a matrix, they have different backgrounds and skill sets beyond their ability to understand both business and technology intimately but there is something they all have in common above that, the fact that they have an immense amount of BB&H which –evidently- stands for “Courage, Brains and Heart”.

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“B” for “Courage”

I used to add “Vision” to that list and while it’s majorly important to have focus and a clear picture of where to go, realistically most bankers have that, given a blank canvas, all the power and the money in the world, most (possibly non-board-level) bank executives would all paint the picture of a marvellous digital banking future in theoretical propositions giving the Challenger Banks in the UK a run for their money, but their ability to even suggest that leave alone execute it within the constraints of the mammoth incumbent bank requires BB&H.

Some would argue I should mention here the Chris Gledhill’s and Anne Boden’s and the other names of ex bankers who have plenty of BB&H since they had the courage to take the plunge, leave the bank and set up these new banks and to those critics I can only promise I’ll revisit this in a year or two once they had the chance to prove their propositions because no one ever said this was fair and bravery was easy.

The bankers I have in mind are still inside the belly of the beast.

One of the ideas I’ve toyed with was to get these great men to give me an interview, answer some questions so that you get to know them like I’ve had the privilege of getting to know them over the last few years but then I realised that superheroes or not they are still all bankers so questions such as “Have you always understood the enormity of the task before you or just fell into it?” or “How many times have you wanted to shake each board member individually when they glossed over your ideas and reverted to business as usual questions?” or even “Why aren’t you CEO of this bank?” may well be better suited over a glass of wine than a pubic forum.

Some of their names you know – Michael Harte has re-built CBA then was snatched by Barclays. Michal Panowicz is the architect behind the most advanced European digital banking proposition with mBank and is building great things for Nordea now. Roberto Ferrari made a bank into a brand and if you read me before you know I need not say more in terms of how important an achievement that is.

Some other Banking Superheroes have very modest –if any- public profiles but we know internally in the industry that while they are still working at making big changes and the public hasn’t felt them yet, they are poised to do great things. We know ING has one, Barclays has one too, DBS has a couple, Santander is lucky and has a few, and I have to confess I have a mental list of who’s likeliest to become one in all UK banks and some of the international ones as well.

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Bank CEOs and talent stakeholders should all have a list like that and be on the look out for the next BB&H endowed Banking Superhero because when the time comes to replace the old banking guard and when incumbent banks will face their “do or die” change moment they’ll act as sleeper cells of awesomeness and can surprise us and keep them from extinction. And that time is near.

It’s easy to lump all bankers together and hold their collective feet over the fire of how they’ve failed us as consumers because they have, but if you meet an innovation manager with sadness in their eyes or a head of digital with worry lines etched all over their face or even the odd CxO who sighs heavily and looks longingly in the direction of the latest possible FinTech Unicorn at some Christmas party, remember they are fighting an immense battle against machines too large to describe or even comprehend and once they find their BB&H mojo again, they can turn this sinking ship around so spare a hug or a pint for the next Banking Superhero this festive season.