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All the bankers

Right now, not only is the bank’s relationship with the client broken, but the relationship between bankers is broken as well, and we can’t fix banking if we’re not going to fix bankers.

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Who knows what?

Education is a topic that we don’t to speak enough of in our industry.

People with very high degrees went to good schools but that’s not the type of education one can rely upon today to deliver a digital transformation program, is it? Whose MBA prepared them for deep FinTech knowledge more than watching Finovate videos? Who has A levels in agile technologies and courage? Who has a high degree in delivering addictive Money Moments™ to consumers?

Delivering on something so complex and important as digital propositions that have the consumer enthralled, has to be a living breathing exercise, so we can no longer rely on a good CV or at the right degree as what we need more than academic knowledge is industry specific knowledge and boatload of bravery and heart.

Who’s head is it on?

There is an inordinate amount of talk about bankers at the highest level in Boardrooms being the culprits of why we don’t have the digital experiences that customers deserve. The rhetorics is that these people are supposed to be too old or too close to retiring to give a flying and too fixated in their ways to do anything. But the reality is that there are other departments that are suffering from lack of good people and sometimes that is more acute.

I.T. doesn’t understand why we have to do design and keep chasing innovation, Digital people don’t understand why I.T .have to hold them back and as a result, all too often innovation becomes an empty exercise instead of a continuous state of mind. And of course, everyone loves to blame it on compliance and regulation and ironically, in many organisations, those are some of the more open minded and knowledgeable people they have,

What’s the answer?

Old school organisational change theories are centered around the concept that “a fish rots from the head” hence changing leadership will change organisations, but I’m not convinced we need to change people, nor is it practical, mind.

I think we simply need to obsess over meritocracy and define “Knowledge” and “Passion” as merits while instilling them in everyone top and bottom.

I think we need to empower HR and elevate it from an administrative department into one that can get and make the amazing people we need for the journey.

I think we need to take a few honest looks (just the one doesn’t seem enough) inside the bank and be honest about its DNA, then better it.

Most of all, I think none of this is fluffy and secondary to a core replacement or an Open Banking strategy but sine-qua-non conditions to them being successful.

 

How Facebook destroyed digital banking

Stand up and ask your Alexa who is in your family right now. Or who lives here. Or who all she’s interacted with. Who all is she talking to! She doesn’t know. Isn’t that outrageous? Why hasn’t she asked? Why does Netflix insist on the different profiles of those using in it the same subscription, but Alexa, a device designed to sit in the middle of the family hub has no clue? She’s being discreet is why. She’s careful what personal data she asks about. That’s not right.

Is this likely to change with the recent Facebook perceived data breach issue? Unlikely. Sadly that is moving us all, GAFA and banks alike even further away from honest, useful, data usage that empowers people’s life.

Let me be clear. Harvesting people’s data against their will to expose themselves and their friends to unwanted content is undoubtedly unpleasant/wrong/questionable/abominable (insert as per your own moral compass). Asking your online and mobile users if it’s ok to analyse their data in a way that will create value and help them save their coins is neither of those things – it is the decent thing to do.

One is stealing, the other, is the thing banks and credit unions had a moral duty to have delivered eons ago and haven’t. The fact that this breach will further blur the difference between data used for the evil and data used for the good with the consent of the user, is a tragedy.

It won’t be an evident, straight-away clear tragedy either. Banks won’t rush to put out press releases to guarantee data privacy and declare they did away with their Chief Data Officers and their analytics mandate because they never announced those in the first place.

With few and far between exceptions –mainly European- where there has been some furore over an incident or other that warranted messaging management and forced banks to show their hand about being in or out of the data game, the vast majority of banks are fanatical about this false sense of privacy protection. The one that mandates they can look at no data without breaching consumer trust as people demand data security alongside funds security at all costs and above all convenience.

This is wrong. One of the many unexamined myths of banking. There were no extensive surveys to have told retail banks their customers don’t want them to analyse their transactional data. There were no A/B tests to show they hated being asked for permission. No groups were sat in front of pleasing user experience alternatives that would have enhanced their lives and put more money in their pockets and they simply checked the box saying “neah, I don’t want any better of an experience and any more of money, I want you not to ever know what my transactions are about”.

One of the reasons this exploration hasn’t happened is that banks know on some level what the answers to that would be. What the demand would be. What the account holder would choose faced with a realistic choice. And they can’t deliver on it.

It is now, sadly, the best-kept secret of the industry that banks have little –if any- analytics capability and the reason why they are not using data are not artificially moral but largely motivated by the lack of implemented technology. In other words they are not aiming to protect our data despite how they could decipher it and use it to our advantage, they simply haven’t deciphered it or worked out how to use it to our advantage.

But they were on their way to doing so. Of all the banks I’ve worked with over the past 10 years, I can’t think of any that doesn’t have a serious effort under way to figure out how to get analytics basics in place -starting with categorization and solid aggregation- and how to translate them into the customer proposition. Finally. At long last. And now this happened and I am willing to bet the ICO-ed farm they will stop. Or at a very minimum slow down and become overly cautious and excuse the many internal reasons justifying and excusing the lack of action over the last 8-10 years.

Thanks a lot Facebook. I need banking that gives me MoneyMoments ™ instead of Financial Products a lot more than I need likes on my posts, now I may have neither.

 

 

“Culture” is not a dirty word

I’ve never done a guest blog post on here before but everything I wanted to say about what the essence of “culture” was better expressed in her piece by my friend Dr. Julia Furedi.

Yesterday, during a podcast speaking about Emotional Banking and the book, we also announced how terribly lucky I am to have Julia – an amazingly smart and overly qualified, ex HR SVP bank exec and former client of the method join me in changing the world of banking.

Aside for the overwhelming amount of supporting comments we got the usual reaction of virtual eye roll when we mentioned “people not tech” and in particular “culture” and it struck me that with confusion in terms running a-mock in the industry there’s a real chance people no sooner understand “Culture” than they understand “Brand”. I’ll leave Julia to clearly break it down in this post below.

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BE THE YOGHURT

by Dr. Julia Furedi

Yoghurts have a live and active culture and promote health. You can have that too.

But how do you know if your company has a healthy culture that is resilient and lively that would promote longevity for all in it?

Here is how to be a ’YOGHURT’ in your corporate culture:

1. Yes, you do have one

Whether you are aware of it or not, your company -big or small- does have a culture.

Let’s de-mystify the term ‘culture’ It is simply a set of behaviours that each and every employee shows when at work. Now of course each and every individual behaves in a different way but if you can pinpoint a set of behaviours that is mostly demonstrated and considered to be the ‘norm’, there is a thread of the fabric of culture for you.

For example, what happens when somebody makes a mistake? Is there a common understanding about the severity levels, possible actions? Are there no consequences, are people afraid to face up their mistakes or is it a learning experience for all that is embraced, talked about and no shaming takes place? Is there a common understanding and conduct among managers when a mistake is being made?

Another example is success. What qualifies as a success? Does your company celebrate successes and who are involved in that? Are there instant feedbacks?

So first, let’s be clear on what you have and assess the major behaviours of your company.

2. Owning it

Once you are aware of what your culture consists of, you need to own it. By owning it, I mean to be fully aware of how it helps or hinders your daily business, the interactions with your clients, your internal processes and the overall well-being of your employees.

It is way more complex though than starting an employer branding campaign.

The way your culture is being cultivated it strengthens the behaviours that have an overall positive effect on the colleagues, while weeding out the ones that are detrimental.

It is a continuous job that is needed to be done by everyone no matter where they are in the corporate hierarchy. More often than not we see the best intentions of the management die quickly when employees do not feel they can identify with them. Just like in a family walking the talk is the most effective way.

3. Growing it

A culture -see yoghurts- is alive by nature.

That means that culture needs to be approached as something we live with and adjust, alter, nip and tuck along the way. Culture is not a project with a deadline when we can announce it is done. It is never done. A healthy culture is in which everyone feels safe, motivated and is able to grow. The good and bad news are that each culture is unique and certain things that work well at other companies or even in yours with a different management five years before, might be a dead end her and now. However this is also the beauty of it.

4. Heat

Have you ever put yoghurt in the microwave? I can assure you that you will have a warm yoghurt but you can also be sure there will be no culture in it. Too much heat kills it. Translating it into the corporate lingo, conflicts are good and help growth however too much of it will destroy your people.

How much is too much, I hear you ask. I can not answer that but you will feel it in your guts when you witness it in meetings, there are harsh words spoken and personal agendas surface. Trust me, you’ll know.

5. Ugly stuff

I have a bad sense of smell. So if I want to know if my yoghurt is off, I ask my husband to smell and tell.

People surveys, engagement assessments even exit interviews might be the way to ‘smell’ what is going on within the corporate culture but there are more down to earth signals along the way that will show you the red flag. The flaring of gossip mongering, losing key people, appointments of people that does not make sense from either a professional or managerial point of view, some managers cumulating excessive amount of power upsetting internal balance.

Only if these are isolated incidents, a healthy culture will win them over and the system will recover.

6. Re-work

What would make you change the corporate culture? A new CEO, a different business strategy, high employee turnover, market challenges? All of them or any of them could be a good enough reason to start assessing it (see 1.point) and define the direction. However changing corporate culture does not happen overnight and it is hard work. It might involve changing communication, organisational structures, processes and sometimes even people. But the result is well worth it!

6. Thrive

Once I saw a quote that said, find your tribe and love them hard. I found it especially appealing as it brings positive emotions into a corporate environment. People thrive in a culture that appreciates them. I have come from an industry where the customer is king. I could never identify with that. I do believe that our people are first because if we do not take care of our own, what does it say to our clients? Being proud, happy, feeling connected, celebrating each day will surely transpire and will attract customers. Let these positive emotions be the backbone of a corporate culture!

So, be like the yoghurt!

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?

Meet your new MoneyMoments Provider: the Bank of Amazon

One of the major themes in my upcoming book “Emotional Banking: Fixing Culture, Leveraging FinTech and Transforming Retail Banks into Brands” is the fact that banks are so far removed from the concept of experience and that of truly investing in consumers’ feelings that they insist to think in terms of “products” not “MoneyMoments” and that intelligent retail brands have an open corridor to leapfrog them in that area should they not change fast.

After banging on for years that Banks need to become Brands before Brands decide to become Banks, last year I wrote about how Facebook could be the first big brand bank. Now, as I’m sure you’ve read, it’s Amazon’s turn.

This very insightful article by Jim Marous at TheFinancialBrand not only frames it beautifully but brings in the perspective of many great minds and some absolutely hit the nail on the head helping us understand the business model behind it, the value of data, etc.

To me it’s very clear: Amazon is a brand and they will use all that it encompasses – the knowledge, the passion, the vision and use technology to translate these into becoming the most insightful provider of MoneyMoments we’ve had so far.

They won’t worry about “products” – what is the “type” of “account” that enables the experience. That’s what they are getting a banking partner for. So they can focus on enabling their consumer’s life with purchases.

The possibilities are endless and the discussion on data privacy and automation comfort level should be raging but beyond whether or not their financial account customers will be offered access to a special episode of their favourite show for signing up, I think the most exciting angles to unfold will be around reframing around emotions in lieu of traditional banking interactions.

Imagine if this data-meaning-constructing-giant decides to redefine categorisation around the feelings that a certain purchase or payment have elicited. No more “council tax” or “groceries” or “shoes” but “mandatory”, “weekly”and “luxury”. And then if they correlated that with the degree of satisfaction (or absence of pain) a certain purchase causes the consumer and its necessity, its affordability, its need of instant gratification and turned them into “mandatory and painful, insured by income protection, can be improved when credit score grows”, “needed weekly, slight variation week after salary with extra items”and “cherished luxury with huge satisfaction quotient and big social media impact impulse buy credit pre-approved”.

This is a company that not only invented recommendations but enabled consumer near-instant-gratification with next day delivery, the Dash product button and was ahead of the pack in understanding the emotional value in creating a near human interface to data insight. This is not a company that will bundle a mortgage suggestion but will map your purchases for the next foreseeable future and adjust your credit and spending patterns for them before you even know you’ll be making them.

So soon enough, don’t be surprised if you answered an absent-minded “sure” when Alexa inquired if you wanted your groceries replenished and hours later found an extra box of chocolates that the babysitter you use likes, a dinner and theatre reservation, and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the promotion your lady just received but hasn’t even had a chance to tell you about.

Oh and of course, you never once “made a payment“.

NatWest – our Love/Hate Relationship

Regulation – one of the most heated (and arguably “hated”) words in banking. While it’s there to protect our collective money, it’s also the scape goat for all the things we failed the consumer with. Over the years most of the CX wish-list was met with the famous “computer says “no” in a regulatory flavour. “No, international transfers can’t be faster/instant – regulation won’t allow it”; “No, you can’t see all your account information in one place – it’s regulation”; “No you can’t bank through Facebook”, and on and on.

It’s not till very recently that we have turned the rhetoric around and started thinking of Regulation as a partner, made it sexy, useful, an enabler. RegTech as a term was born and FinTech started giving banks fancy solutions that cared about translating stiff regulation put in place to protect into seamless, easy experiences for the consumer.

Most of regulation plays in the background and it’s designed to define processes and systems in a way that will keep our data and money safe and –ideally- growing.

Some of it is evident to the consumer. If we disregard the digital-onboarding-pain elephant in the room, there are only a handful of other instances that we brush up with regulation in day-to-day banking. Accepting Terms of service, interminable letters with well crafter PR explanations on changes of policies and interminable security checks in any call center interaction are examples of irritations caused by regulation but arguably the worst offender is the practice of card blocking.

One doesn’t have to be in FinTech to know that, if a bank blocks one’s card it is to stop usage as fraud is suspected. Now we can sit here and debate if that’s necessary and whether it shouldn’t be covered by financial insurance products, etc but what I wanted to dissect is two of my recent experiences with NatWest, my bank.

First up – travelling. How can banking fail you when you travel? Let me count the ways. The most common one though, is that your card gets blocked as soon as your bank sees transactions coming from a destination outside of your country of origin. Often times that means that you end up frowning at a machine saying your transaction was declined when trying to settle your hotel room bill.

How bad that is, ranges from a minor inconvenience to a major snafu depending on factors such as how worldly of a traveller you are; what the state of your finances and assistance infrastructure is (i.e. if your parents/spouse/assistant can bail you out or not) and what your prior-to-failed-MoneyMoment™ stress level is.

Now for most people, that’s a rather fringe use case as there are no hotel bills to pay on a weekly basis, but if one travels as much as I have over the past 10 years, this is a very clear and present annoyance. As I was saying in my “Goodbye Santander – the end of banking love affair” last year, I would often be on the phone with them at least once a week to warn them I would be travelling and needed access to my funds.

After our rather public divorce, I’ve “swiped left” on many a banking propositions –some from the ever-celebrated challengers- because they were unable to accommodate my “I’m travelling and don’t want to call you every time to warn you” need and have finally settled down with NatWest who lets me input the data of my future travel plans in my app.

The experience is far from perfect and in fact, just the other day it presented me with this screen which looks nothing short of a riddle that made me recall the rules for setting new online banking passwords most banks used to lay out back in the day “Must start with a capital. Must not be a capital your paternal aunt would be able to guess on a Sunday or the same capital use use to spell the number you are required to insert as the 3rd character”.

natwestabroad

This post would have went to great lengths to underline how wrong it is of NatWest to lay out their regulatory requirements in the form of this riddle in lieu of dealing with the legacy systems or rules that have caused it, should they not have saved their bacon in terms of card blocking with another recent experience and the second reason to block cards – suspicious transactions.

I’m on the phone with a children’s soft play centre to book my son’s upcoming birthday party while on a taxi ride to the airport the other day, when I realise that the venue has a series of unfortunate circumstances such as “not enough laser guns” and “not enough staff to surpervise”, yadda yadda that will essentially mean I either alienate half our friends or half his class mates so I decide to work with their parameters and book two separate parties one after the other on the day to fit everyone.

Right, lovely, may I have the long card number please?”

Sure, it’s 472…

No Mrs Blomstrom please wait, I need to transfer you to the secure card input syst…

Sure, go ahead

<series of clicks>

Mrs Blomstrom could you input the long card number into your phone followed by #?”

4723 6452 6543 7542 *

That was incorrect Ma’am

Oh FFs 4723 6452 6543 7542 #

Lovely, now your expiration date and the next one will be the CVC code on the back of your card

<series of anxious stabs followed by dramatic silence>

Right, this is all fine, your deposit went through” the lady tells me as I wipe the sweat off my brow that encompasses all that’s wrong with modern payment methods and the deep angst they cause.

Now for the deposit of the second party, you know the drill now Mrs Blomstrom just please input your card details

So I proceed to do so and this time I get the “#” not “*” right the first time and it’s going smugly well with still several miles before we are at the airport according to my Uber driver’s Waze. Technology rocks!

Hmmm I’m sorry Ma’am, this didn’t go through, would you like to try again?”

What?!? Let me see” I forgo privacy and stick the call on “speaker” while I scrutinise the numbers I’ve typed against the card I’m holding, waves of “I knew this would be painful after all!” self-defeatism washing over me.

Everything looks spot on but as she insists and against rationality and in pure “just try again, you never know with technology” fashion, I get the digits in again.

Same thing I’m afraid, rejected, do you have another card we could try?” she says in that unmistakeable “let’s face it, you ran out of money, anyone else who believed you were solvable enough to give you some credit?” voice. I *know* she’s wrong and I won’t give in to pressure to give her another card when I have proudly saved for this moment so I go to my NatWest app half sure it’s a futile enterprise because the UK telco industry hasn’t exactly worked out how to let one use 3G and be on the call simultaneously but this time it works –“Perchance thanks to roaming?” I find myself wondering- and I get into the app.

As expected I’m not missing funds so I must be missing the way to reach them.

Wow hold on, they must have blocked my card as I’m travelling – let me check” I say to an ever more impatient call centre employee as I log into my phone messages an lo and behold I do have a text saying these last transactions have been suspicious and would I like to approve them.

I try and breathe in and not get angry while I wonder why that is – Luxembourg transactions being an issue despite my having warned them through the app or the kids leisure centre trying payments too close to each other as I absent-mindedly send the “Y” they require if I recognise the transactions and want them to go through, knowing full well that it’s likely a futile strategy for this call as it will take forever to reinstate access.

Yes, sorry, my bank blocked the card, must be my overseas transactions, I’ll have to call you back

You’re still on the secure line Ma’am, you could input another card” she says and I hear the click back to the digits section. Determined not to give in to pressure of the credit card industry on an expense I planned, I stubbornly get the same card details in –no less motivated by how I can’t be bothered to fish for another card when I am holding this one and we’re pulling in by the airport’s curb-.

Excellent Ma’am, thank you, this went through just fine!” her unexpectedly chirpy voice startles me and I look down to see a text from NatWest of a few seconds ago thanking me for the confirmation and ensuring me my card is fine to use.

Every ounce of dread and irritation melt into sheer elation! This is witchcraft! Pure technology magic! I was able to complete my MoneyMoment™ and NatWest actually were looking out for me, and eventually came through y’all! I feel like Facebook status-ing about it!

Should it feel like we won the lottery when a banking experience goes the way it should and is only half-painful? Of course not but hey, I slayed the Anti-Spend deamons and I’ve prevailed in using my funds on the go while regulation was –nearly- in the background keeping me safe so that’s a win for digital banking everywhere!

The rise of the DevOps Chief Innovation Officer

 

***Warning – Dry, heavy, serious, occasionally contentious and pensive post about IT, Culture and DevOps observations***

A couple of months ago at Temenos my team had the chance to think up, build and launch a new product. I would say it is a hybrid tech and knowledge product. It’s called the Innovation Acceleration Platform and it’s meant to speed our clients up in their innovation and ensure they get to the consumer with some of the magic value prop our platform’s FinTech providers bring, fast and before others.

I’ll spare you the details as to what it contains but in essence it’s a box inside which, any Bank Innovation team finds two of the only ingredients they need to accelerate their efforts and test cool propositions – the Tech (near production ready environments at the drop of a hat preloaded with the right kind of data) and the Know-How (access to curated cream-of-the-crop FinTech and to those that did the curating).

Now I’ve taken this box to bankers and boy was I pleased to see where we are today as compared to the days of dry, in a vacuum, self-indulgent innovation labs of yesteryear. These guys are on the ball! Not one still does useless pilgrimages to the Valley “to see where technology really is”; no proud walls of posters preserved for eternity and no obsessive focus on hipster premises.

It strikes me like there is a lot more value being created these days. A lot less focus on form in lieu of substance and a real sense of urgency for making some of the digital promises happen before it’s too late.

It was always the job of the Innovation or Digital teams in banks to be frustrated to no end by the Business Prevention Departments (J.P. Nicols ™) but for many years that frustration seemed to stop at man-buns and long beards starting to sport greys and to revolutionary new FinTech StartUp pipe-dreams being laid in front of terrified other CanaryWharf patrons every Friday afternoon.

These days that frustration seems to have shifted into pushing these modern day banking renegades to roll up their sleeves and take the battle with those departments heads on.

Over the last few years we’ve seen some fractions of valiant bankers tackle Regulation Business Prevention with every weapon from hackathlons to lobbying for a new set of people dictating it, who they knew to be capable of understanding FinTech.

We’ve seen them then fight the Procurement “Computer-Says-“NO” corporate inertia that disallowed them from engaging with promising new propositions with weapons ranging from low-key sponsorship of incubators and accelerators to full ownership of these.

We’ve seen them try and better the culture at times with long, arduous, inside-education battles setting up programs to get the whole organisation at the same level of knowledge and thirst for technology such as my Build-a-Voice Emotional Banking ™ programs. They educated not only exec teams but departments that were adamant they had nothing to do with all this FinTech marklary such as Operations or HR because they knew that the more people that see the promise, the more likely it is to get there.

Over the past few years of the struggle Innovation teams had in banks there was one department that never let them down. That always seemed to know enough. And (lowkey) care enough. A department who was not only a sine-qua-non ingredient in trying to get anything new in front of a consumer, but was also, mercifully, poised and ready to make any of the digital dreams happen as soon as the Business Prevention Departments stopped trying to impede progress.

That department was IT.

I’m afraid I’m here to say that I have a feeling that it’s over. That along the way, over the past few years, that department stopped being an ally. That they no longer are poised and ready to help. That they have become one of the Business Preventers. Let me tell you why.

For those of you reading this who are not in banking, this is of course a generic abstraction, “The IT Department” is comprised of tens -if not hundreds- of other departments and teams tasked with technology maintenance for lack of a better description.

As soon as they went digital, banks have become, whether they like it or not, if not technology creators (depending on whether you want to call ugly hacks and desperate fixes keeping it all together – “creative”) at least technology maintainers with systems that grew so complex they need immense operational effort expenditure.

Over the past few years, not only has technology exponentially grown inside banks but it has even faster developed outside them. Software development has undergone more change than they acknowledge for such a new discipline. Due to the very nature of the industry, they constantly challenge their method and process and try to better themselves immediately and measurably to get better output. Which makes everything potentially faster and better but effectively more complex.

These days, software houses everywhere struggle with maintaining vision and direction while adopting new methods and technologies every week to create faster. This would be disruptive to any line of business leave along one that now underpins the fabric of society. They cope by the grace of the fact that many are of a manageable size with a clear profitability goal and they can adapt internal culture to be permissive of uncomfortable rapid change and open to testing and developing.

Banks’ IT Departments are a lot like software houses. One would argue they are software houses.

What they are not is creators. What they are not is agile. What they are not is, in possession of a culture that sees sense and is unencumbered by Banker-Guilt ™ and ready to be truly agile in the name of a firm profitability goal as the private software houses so they don’t cope.

They too used to feel the Innovation team’s pain and frustration and wanted to build top propositions back in the day. After all, the IT Department is made up of a bunch of uber-smart geeks perched for technology advance. But as opposed to their younger Innovation brother in arms who, while prevented effectively, is at least mandated appropriately, the IT Department was never appointed by the business as the creator, just the custodian. So that frustration has never turned into creative tension and gusto for the end goal of the business.

A few years of having been discouraged, disillusioned and disrespected has led Bank IT Departments to becoming a Business Prevention department themselves.

These days when the all-grown-up-and-now-taken-seriously Innovation team turns to them for help to make happen the dreams they once had together, they often see they’re left behind. Unwilling to try new things, complaining about infrastructure challenges, crippled by the many “No”s they heard.

Say the Innovation team finally finds the killer app that will make our mobile banking less “meh” and they have finally been allowed to engage if not even purchase it by the Regulator and Procurement Preventers, and they’ve educated the exec team enough not to try and stop them, they’ll run back home to their old playmate the IT Department, to help them prove it or even help them bring it to market in their propositions and they will find a new breed of “Computer says “No”.

Security concerns they would have helped explain and alleviate to the rest of the business in the olden days are suddenly being raised. Resources whether it’s developers or testing environments or data are always impossible to reach and all tied up for eons. Proof of concepts are impossible to organise, integration would only be doable post a major transformation process, and working with the new fanged FinTech provider is nary impossible when they insist on all those fancy dev tools and protocols that don’t match theirs.

So now nothing fast and cool is possible. Again.

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We built the Innovation Acceleration Platform for an extra push. Thinking it would supercharge banks proposition creation at a time when they need to hurry up and bring compelling new ideas to consumers faster than ever. We didn’t think it would be as necessary or even in places, mandatory as it is. That the very part of the business that ran faster than the entire organisation has been brought to crawl over the past couple of years, ironically, partially halted by its own complexity in addition to the organisation. That’s truly sad.

The good news is that there is enough thirst for awesome tech out there and Innovation and IT seem to become interchangeable in some places Some banks have merged the two as they should have to begin with. Some have appointed DevOps wizards as Chief Innovation Officers and some have taken previously disillusioned IT heads and COOs and asked them to design Open Banking business propositions.

Now that the Business Prevention departments are losing their grip the only prevention is in your ability to execute and it’s becoming clear that to drive cool and exciting props in banking you can no longer design what you want to make but how to make it as well. The lines are getting blurred, teams are working together and there is plenty of tech smarts and good will to go around and make things happen.

Change is not only uneasy but sometimes sad, but it’s happening in our industry and it’s happening fast and those that learn to ride with the wave will certainly see exciting results and as usual, if they do, so will the Money Moments consumer.