A word to “FinTech Thought Leaders”

Dear new FinTech Thought Leader/Commentator,

(Note: this is only written for those who actually contribute, create and participate and not just amplify. Retweeting, adding a picture and hashtagging may be useful self promotion but it’s valueless and doesn’t register at all as a voice in the industry in my book)

We must stop talking *at* bankers. I realise it pays the bills at times but it’s not helping anyone create real value.

I would have thought as the industry matures the amount of bank bashing would decrease because we would have less and less to point out. To be fair while the industry matured in knowledge that has not trickled down to consumer (yet) and the MoneyMoments/experiences/interractions the banks put out there are objectively sup-par and that needs expressing, but pointing and laughing at a hole in the road never made it magically plug itself.

Ours today is an industry so interwoven there is no black and white, no way to pick a side to either “help the banks” or “fight the banks”. Let’s face it, there is no B2C pure-play grass-roots FinTech financial services provider that single-handedly wants to take on the world. If that unicorn existed then their job would be to do nothing but show how useless incumbent banks are. Everyone else, the big names that go to consumers directly, the lenders, even GAFA, they all work *with* the banks for now so helping should be on everyone’s agenda.

Some would say I’m equally guilty, that I used to complain incessantly and I would like to say I thought I was always just on the side of the consumer – that with the banking customer hat on, I’d just report on bad experiences and with my professional hat on, I’d come up with ideas on how to help bankers fix those experiences hence why I built the Emotional Banking method, but I can’t claim my hands are clean, at one point I did feel like I was slipping towards just negative criticism and then I reminded myself that beyond evidently useless and not constructive, it’s part of why we are stuck in this place and I have to do better.

Sure there’s a living to be made by just deploring how bad things are in banking, but are we turning every conversation into a carrousel of same complaints as 2002 with no intention of really rolling our sleeves at the end of the moaning session or b!tch fest? Are we not part of the problem then?

It’s not about “if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything” but about the essence of constructive criticism which is pointing out a problem only if you can come up with real ideas as to how to solve it and 90% of the pieces I read or listen to these days in the industry from the new contingent still have absolutely nothing in the way of a suggestion.

Do we expect to change banking by the magical powers of catharsis? Some top bankers will read something we wrote or hear us at some conference and they will have an “a-ha!” moment of such magnitude they will champion immediate cultural transformation and use tech to make addictive banking experiences? Is that the goal? Well darn, then let’s carry on. Anything but that, we’re making the problem larger.

In the era of gender and pay parity pledges shall we do a FinTech constructive criticism one and see if we can actually all use our minds for positive outcomes? What good are we if a new bank CEO with plenty of passion and “a-ha”s looks at us for hands-on examples of how to turn his ship around and gets diatribe instead?

My turn: how about we construct a database of positive examples from incumbent banks. Let’s face it, we still reference mBank as the poster child for digital transformation 5 years later. Let’s find and popularise the rest of the wins.

I know most of us old-timers who have been in this long enough, have a host of examples of actual change -we have at times been part of creating ourselves!- with incumbent banks, let’s champion them instead of holding those cards close to our chest for our boardroom exec presentations. The opposite of “name and shame” – “name and praise”.

We should also encourage the bankers we’re working with right now to tell us more of their story as well, there must be loads of goodness they can see around them they never talk about partly because the problem is too big to be sorted by those examples and partly because let’s face it, misery loves company and the level of commentary we provide is a lot more conducive to them joining in the bank bashing themselves.

In my book I wrote extensively about DBS’ cultural transformation. That’s an amazing example and a good blue print and there are others.

The “FinTech Constructive Criticism Pledge”. Who’s in?

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