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.

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