Recently I’ve had to turn down a couple of interviews and requests to be involved in write-ups or speak because the theme started to severely irk me – the “future of banking”.
It’s not even close to Christmas and everyone wants a run down of the trends, of what we think is coming next, of the next shinny ETH. It’s like picking a new fondant from the box while placing a half-eaten one back in.
Here’s a trend evolution analysis if we must have one. Last year at this time it seemed our world was finally waking up to design. There was lots of buzz over what it can do so that it helps banks quickly take hold of a crucial part of the defense against being obsolete – the relationship with the consumer. That of course involved looking at the proposition and at least sketching a new one. I hear less and less about that. We moved on to the next thing. That is a trend and it’s not a good one.
Now, I’m as much of a SciFi fan as the rest of us and I get it’s infinitely more fun to spend 3 hours imagining in detail what the battle between humans and machines will be like than 30 minutes describing what a current account today.
Our collective imagination in the industry can’t help but shiver with the anticipation of an imaginary future where a chatbot will read our mind and extend our wealth while we build or implement one for the sole purpose of firing the 236 people who only ever tell a client what their balance is over the phone.
I’ve said this many times – ours is an industry like no other. We need to know a lot but can do little. We need to run at the dizzifying speed of technology in theory while crawling at the frustrating speed of banking systems and culture in practice. It creates vast amounts of tension in all of us involved whether we think of it or not.
In a way, this obsession with trends we seem to have as of late, this appetite for completely new propositions coming into the market are a form of escapism from this tension. As long as we keep thinking about the next best thing we can’t be accused of being stuck in the difficult now.
This doesn’t apply to bankers only. While they have painful and real constraints that shackle them to the art of the immediate possible, on the other side of the equation, in start-up world valuations sore every day on futuristic approaches to a business proposition. No one sells a business model anymore, everyone turned into Phillip K. Dick and paints a picture of how electric sheep will access the blockchained banking matrix.
It’s tempting to explain this by referring to how society is moving at the speed of light in every aspect but the difference there, is the gap between status quo and the next best thing is being bridged with every sizeable change science or technology brings in all other industries, whereas in FinTech the gap only grows wider.
Ours is an industry where the gap between what the consumer wants and what the consumer gets is so wide, it doesn’t bear thinking about what they are forced to make do with “now”, so we take refuge into thinking what we could give them “later”. Except, unless we stop wasting time escaping reality and become brutally honest about what is there “today”, what systems or mentalities need to change, that “later” won’t be “tomorrow” but “too late”.