How Bad ApplePay UX Could Cost Apple The Payments Race

<Reproduced with kind permission from Forbes>

With the new models of the phone, Apple had to take another step towards “paying with one’s mind” and decide on the most secure and effective user experience to adapt ApplePay to screens without a thumbprint.

What they came up with is a process that seems minutely different to the untrained eye but is in fact vastly more complicated than the one they had before and as such is the biggest fail l have seen then perform in usability.

How it works

You can find a tutorial here but in short, to pay with the new devices one has to perform however many clicks their particular phone requires to get to Wallet then however many to scroll through alternatives and select the desired card and then they have to double click on the side button, place the phone in front of their face to use Face ID and authenticate themselves and only then touch the screen of the payment terminal to complete the transaction.

Even if we disregard the pitfalls of the clicks and the pain of the notoriously routinely failing FaceID, a user used to momentarily holding their thumb on the home button to confirm a payment will find this monumentally more complicated.

Apple is well aware of the usability barrier the double click and FaceID pose to the previously-print-user as they had to go as far as to describe the necessary actions i.e. “double click here” in the UI every time the user encounters them but it’s unlikely they are aware of how cardinal of a design sin this will prove in the context of paying that is meant to have as only USP the ease of use.

Some articles suggest pre-arming as the only way to speed up a painful process. In fact, Apple themselves not only advice it but have trained implementing banks around the world to suggest it. 

This de-facto entails that you do all the pressing and the staring or the password inputting you have to before reaching the counter as the phone allows for 60 seconds once the dance has been completed to employ its NFC magic.

I would love to see “adoption rates” for “pre-arming” and would be shocked if they aren’t indeed dismal.

Let’s talk about pre-arming

The action in itself requires more thought than the wave of a card which is the beauty of contactless.

How much thought effort do we want to invest in the paying act and is the process ever going to become second nature?

There are plenty of examples of contortionist UX that still gets adopted by the consumer so eventually, maybe Apple users too will mold themselves to the uncomfortability of glass-only Pay.

The difference is that those other difficult experiences are necessary with no alternatives in the market whereas there is no instance where simply strapping a contactless card to the back of your phone doesn’t make the experience more enjoyable than using Apple Pay.

The determining factor of adoption could be if Apple managed to impose higher limits across the board. If the general limit is 30 but they manage to de facto extend credit enough to allow all restaurants, etc to take a higher limit it’s not impossible that it would make a difference to the digitally savvy consumer but even then one would have to wonder about the psychology of a trivial purchase and the ease of payment needed for it as compared to the accepted level of pomp and circumstance that a high-ticket sale entails and requires to register as a fait accompli.

Can they save ApplePay?

Before writing this l thought pre-arming is just a party trick designed to potentially wow other Apple Pay users in the line behind you who dread the clicks, see you having the same device and simply waving it and wonder what your secret is.

Having forced myself to spend a week using it for the sake of a point of empirical anecdotal evidence, l now know it’s much more than that – it’s an anxiety-provoking attempt to avoid the embarrassment should the complicated dance fail in the midst of the Christmas shopping melee.

It’s not habit forming or in any way rewarding enough to be sustainable and become routine and Apple will have to be honest when they look at the undoubtedly frightening results of this ill-advised experiment and come up with something designed at their expected level of usability excellence quick to protect not only against its competitors, but phone covers manufacturers accidentally making banks win the contactless battle by sheer mechanical convenience and the magic of a simple, easy and fast payment experience that requires neither your thumb nor your face.

Perhaps this first example of dismal usability is a sign of too much workplace Psychological Safety and the beginning of consumer obsession complacency and organizational hubris at Apple, and to correct course, everyone who was in the room (or the Slack channel) where the design of the new ApplePay glass experience was signed off on, should be made to use it with no alternatives in the London’s TFL network in rush hour for a month.

Banks Won’t Eat Challengers’ Dog Food But That’s Not Who’s Coming For Their Lunch

<Reproduced with kind permission from Forbes>

The Bubble of Banking

“Get out of the building” was such trendy advice a few years ago and now everyone is barricaded in their building.

Being told to look at other industries elicited many a gratuitous Silicon Valley excursions from bankers around the world which were invariably sprung on by lofty aspirations of doing the same things as the champions only to be drowned by seemingly reassuring remarks on how that simply doesn’t apply to banking. 

These days those trips are rarer and rarer which is a blessing and a curse.

Is it maybe that we don’t get out so that we don’t see how far behind we are digital user experience wise?

What’s most concerning is that traditional banks are not the only ones inside the bubble anymore but challengers are heading that was as well.

It’s nothing short of tragic to see some of them having but moments ago left their privileged first-principles design position and having now gotten utterly stuck in whatever they produced, often so blinded by the reality of day-to-day operations that instead of their current offering being a first pit stop at the end of a design sprint it becomes their main offering.

There is no doubt that it’s understandable – for challengers day-to-day doesn’t only involve running a bank which is what incumbents cite doing with such sacrifice but running a small business that needs to show its worth under extreme scrutiny as well. It’s tough.

A tale of two different tragedies – the challengers having to make a start-up thrive and the bankers having to budge an almost impenetrable mass of legacy tech and legacy culture. None an enviable position. None poised to build any lasting wins for the consumer.

Where are my MoneyMomentsTM

No one wanted challengers in the UK to succeed more than me. Over the years I’ve penned a couple of open letters which aimed to keep the snark level low and the constructive advice level high. Granted, a lofty goal for me, but my delivery shouldn’t have obscured the main message a plea for them to build solid technology pillars, take aggregation seriously, buy or build extremely capable categorization and data capabilities and above all, forget about banking products as they know them and design from scratch for addictive money moments.

Needless to say and not to burst the bubble of our newly enthused American friends who celebrate the announced imminent import of some of those propositions this week, none of that happened.

If you unpack most challengers today, they are rapidly building legacy of their own both in technology and in the way they are building the organization, having skipped steps and cut corners in their hurry to put out an app with some pleasing design accompanied by the best looking card they can think of and greater a sin still, with the exception of the unrealised promise of the budding challengers who aspire to become platforms, gave us precisely the same thing high street banks did.

Not a MoneyMoment in sight. How do l know they aren’t building any? Well ask yourself, with all the permissions every app ever asks for, why hasn’t any challenger asked to read your health data or at least your Calendar or your TripIt information? How are they to build integrated, contextual experienced when their transactional data is largely untouched and unaugmented with meaning and their data from other sources inexistent?

They aren’t. Truth is it’s not necessarily more likely that they will start doing so any sooner than the next NatWest app update. 

License to snooze

It’s a lot grimmer for the success of the challengers than we have collectively hoped for in the industry with advocates faith diminishing and mass adoption lacking but does that mean that incumbents should breathe a sigh of relief and carry on with JP Nicols’ trademarked “innovation theaters” and ever stronger “business prevention” departments?

Only if they’re ready to be out of the game because the extinction threat doesn’t come from colorful cards and incrementally better digital apps but entirely new ways of interacting with finances that will insidiously and mercifully insert themselves in our every day digital lives through buying behaviour and relevant advice and the guys who can and will provide this only have to click to make it happen.

Amazon Is Not Too Big To Fail And Neither Are You

<Reproduced with kind permission from Forbes>

piotr-cichosz-414542-unsplash                                                                                                                  Royalty Free

Self-awareness or sensationalism?

It’s not the first time he says it but last week Jeff Bezos has reiterated that he is convinced Amazon can and indeed will, fail.

“One day, Amazon will fail,” he said, “…we have to delay that day for as long as possible”. Framed this way, this is no longer a case of “IF” but of “WHEN”.

The metrics that show how the company founded in 1994 is now perhaps the best example of success in growing with a purpose and making money while at it, are impossible to doubt. Amazon is winning today by any measurement, its ascension the stuff of dreams not only for budding entrepreneurs but many of its competitors.

Why does it need to then concern itself with this impending death talk?

The answer lies in the myriad of examples of recent history to show that not thinking under those terms is a mortal sin. Giants that thought their size is protection enough against any type of failure have perished in many industries, most succumbing to the pressure of new consumer demands and digitization.

One could fill books with quotes from press releases and shareholder meetings from CEOs that spoke of their confidence in the future right before falling on their sword. Whatever you think of Bezos at the very least, he can always claim this monumental “I told you so” should he have prevented Amazon’s heralded demise. But how will he do so?

Amazon’s Knowledge, Passion, and Courage

Moving away from analyzing why big companies are afraid to look death straight into its hollow eyes we should instead look at what Amazon has put in place thanks to this self-awareness to prevent it.

Amazon values knowledge.

It doesn’t only meticulously insist on the highest caliber of people when bringing in each and every of its now 600,000 employees but encourages them to keep learning and demands continuous proof of critical thinking.

“Memos over PowerPoint”

It’s wildly reported but surprisingly un-mimicked in other boardrooms that Amazon prefers memos over PowerPoint. Every meeting starts with a period of silence where effectively everyone studies the problem at hand by reading a verbose, descriptive and hopefully succinctly all-encompassing memo about the topic at hand instead of looking at a series of slides with bullet points.

“Full sentences are harder to write. There is no way to write a six-page narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.” and having that clear thinking and presentation of the knowledge puts everyone on the same page from the start.

When it comes to passion it’s undeniable that Bezos thinks Amazon needs to have it as a sine-qua-non condition of success.

“Obsess over Customers”  

Reminding his employees that they have more in the way of a higher purpose than their tech giants competitors is a Bezos trademark.

“We have a good story to tell – we Improve the lives of consumers”. He bundles that with the need to elevate the concern for the consumer to obsession level as a basic survival technique and every executive in a large corporation around the world would do well to truly take that message to heart past the mere “customer centricity” empty promises to shareholders.

“There is no work-life balance”

“It’s not a balance, it’s a circle” he argued bemoaning that the idea of balance is debilitating because it involves a strict demarcation that shouldn’t be there. Going against the school of thought that advocates that employees must protect the sanctity of some extreme imaginary boundaries between work and life, what Bezos is advocating is not a state of perpetual work and no relaxation as his critics would like to claim but instead a blend between the two that brings true contentment to a passionate employee.

Finally, let’s look at how Amazon values Courage

“Every day at Amazon is Day 1”

What time in a company’s life better encompasses both enthusiasm and immeasurable courage than the day it starts? Bezos is so insistent that “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance and painful decline. Followed by death” that he does all he can to remind his people to stay in the mental space of Day 1 and even went as far as to rename the building on campus where he works “Day 1” and reportedly when he changed buildings he had the name follow.

It would behoove executives of large organizations to even imagine “day 1” of their company’s life and role play reliving it by vividly and regularly imagining what it would be like to start from scratch – what grit and bravery it would require.


“Disagree and Commit”

Having the courage to make decisions is the cornerstone of innovation and the foundation of speed for companies that want to keep moving ahead.

At Amazon, the focus is intentionally shifted from how correct a decision is,  to how fast it can be achieved and so velocity becomes a key success indicator that is handsomely rewarded.

“If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly thank you think whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure,” Bezos writes in support of the speed demand.

Nothing better signals to employees that there is enough trust invested in them and enough Google-coined workplace “psychological safety” than the expectation of decisions being achieved with speed and in the absence of all the data that would have removed risk.

Decisions are seen as being either “Type 1 – non-reversible” or “Type 2 – reversible” and a balance between the two is encouraged with velocity still being praised in lieu of proportion with passionate debate highly encouraged but cut-off points in the decision making process are encouraged early. It just means “Look, we disagree on this, but will you gamble with me on it?” asking everyone to be brave and invested.

Having the knowledge to frame a problem with considered, literate wording, the need to continuously and incessantly think of the consumers and ways to make their lives better and do so as if you’re just starting out, with the passion of a start-up founder and the courage of a rapid decision maker is what will delay Amazon’s death not its balance sheet and we can seek to stay alive by religiously applying their lessons in winning.

“Don’t be emotional!” and other nonsense advice

<Reproduced with permission from Forbes>

“Professionals don’t get emotional”

“Don’t feel, you’re at work!”

Emotions have long been regarded as a nuisance in the workplace. The ideal professional actor has to always demonstrate an air of cool nonchalance while they show they are utterly logical and supremely cerebral or else they will negatively affect the business they are in.

This assumption has been left largely unchallenged for tens of years.

In time, the topic of showing any emotion at work has come to be seen as a major weakness, a terrible fault in the character of the worker exhibiting it.

Despite the advent of topics such as emotional intelligence and all the work that coaches do with leaders everywhere to outline the benefits of understanding and, if we’re really good, using emotions, most company heads are happy to fiercely protect their “no feelings, ever, I’m a consummate professional” stance and bring in others to deal with those bits.

The term in itself of “getting emotional” has come to be regarded as a near-insult in most settings as it signifies an undesirable state in the work environment where the protagonist may do or say something extreme and it is associated with histrionics and dramatic moments.

While professional settings benefit from social contracts around the behavior of its workers where being polite, elegant and trustworthy is necessary to keep the beehive going, the assumption that all must be calculated, frigid and stiff at all times has inserted itself in the collective psychic of organizations and has become a de facto rule that penalizes feelings and any of their manifestation.

To feel or to objectively decide?
“Emotions cloud rational judgment and we need the latter to make fair, effective decisions for the running of the business so they have to be shunned and repressed by default.” is the adage that most leaders would firmly agree with today.

But is this the truth? Is acting out of feeling or as a result of an emotion a priori bad? Without going into the mechanism of what the difference is between the two and into a discussion of the various types of primary emotions and resulting feelings, we have to examine if there is any data to A-B test decisions made “emotionally” versus “rationally” and we have to ask ourselves if indeed it is possible to separate ourselves from our inner selves for the sake of a professional environment convention.

“Future of Jobs” report from the World Economic Forum of a few years ago predicted Emotional Intelligence to surpass Decision Making skills as one of the must-have skills by 2020. Seeing how we’re entering 2019 any day now, this seems impossibly optimistic but it’s nonetheless a great trend that anyone in charge of thinking of the future of organizations should pay attention to.

Outsourcing feelings?
Over the last 15-20 years, Design as a discipline has gathered strength and momentum. It seems like it is finally on its way to becoming the rightful replacement for strategy and in a world that adapts to rapid technology enhancers become the dictator of direction for the organization, which is really good news for the consumers as they are so much more likely to get what they need.

A veteran designer told me the other day “they need us so we do the uncomfortable, fluffy bits for them”. He suggests, the establishment brings designers in because they are officially mandated and allowed to examine the feelings of consumers and then advocate for them. A task which we know is uncomfortable to the numbers-driven-emotionless-executive.

In some organizations, the reason design has made its way in the boardroom and hasn’t stayed in the labor on the prototype level is because in addition to understanding and verbalizing consumers’ feelings they also do so for the leaders of the company. They have the comfort level and the necessary courage to talk about and underline emotions that are universally valid and not only personal and that acts as a useful proxy to those who refuse to access them.

The Diversity Clinch
Nowadays, every organization worth its salt spends countless amounts of money and time debating what it is that they can do so that their workforce becomes exponentially more diverse and reflects the make-up of society.

Trouble is, some of the groups that they need to have more of, are seen as being the opposite of their homogenous body of workers when it comes to their level of comfort about emotions.

Women, in particular, have long been policed out of their feelings with a derogatory comment, eye rolls and loss of trust every time they have come even close to expressing them. In time, “you are being emotional” has become an insult readily thrown around in boardrooms and retail shops lockers alike.

How can they help?
As armies of executive coaches will attest, getting leaders to get back in touch with their feelings and develop emotional intelligence so that they can then learn to experience emotion and utilize it for empathic and connected decision making, is a tall order.

After years in the business, they are firmly invested in the idea that competency excludes emotions. The more fit-for-the-task they want to appear the more they must express they are devoid of emotion and free of any association hence eminently qualified to make decisions with complete impartiality. It’s part of any executive’s armor and “never getting emotional” is a badge of pride.

There are but a very few leaders who learned that there is value in not playing the robot but embracing their humanity and making it work for them instead but these leaders will continue to be winning while their counterparts will slowly see that being unable to tap into their intuition, their gut feelings and their raw emotions to use as source for decision making will only prove a disadvantage in an era when we are building entities far better at delivering data-driven, impartial, non-biased decisions.

The Age of the Machine
Having (and expressing) emotions is the only thing separating us from machines. We live in times of equal measure excitement as dread when it comes to the effects automation and AI will have on our lives and whether or not we will have a job at all in 10-15 years but paradoxically, we keep trying to up the machines at their own game – logical, rational thought and spend too little time honing our emotions and responses.

Emotions are uncomfortable, they are difficult, they are politically incorrect, they are hard to manage and police, they are undesirable in a professional environment, experiencing them overtly is frowned upon and seen as a weakness.

With that said, when not only felt but “employed”, when intentionally acknowledged and utilized they are also elevating, inspiring, leveling, enriching and invaluable.

For the machines reading this, emotions are still our secret sauce, our competitive advantage, and I have a feeling that all the data that leads you to conclude we’ll roll over and give it up is wrong, and us humans will surprise you by finding ways to turn them into a win.

We have to talk about Organizational Design

<Reposted with Permission from Forbes>


Organizations – Not By Design

We all nod and agree whenever the topic of old dinosaurian organizational structures is mentioned. Everything from homogenous boards and lack of diversity to rampant politics, misguided incentives, a disregard for the new paradigms of the new ways of work, lack of authentic vision, fake purpose and no real regard for the power of technology or respect for people.

We all have the stories to illustrate the issues. Cue the eye rolls and the heavy sighs. We all instinctively all know organizations are tired, sick maybe even terminally ill.

Bizarrely most discussions about this abruptly stop once there’s agreement on the burning issue, and they rarely culminate with a call to arms to see a fundamental change by redesigning if they are so clearly wrong for our evolutionary scope these days.

The origin of the topic can be traced to Peter Drucker’s examination of General Motors tens of years ago and was refined and studied when the Star model surfaced from Galbraith in the 90s along with a few other notable publications at the beginning of the 2000s but realistically, if one wanted to study it in detail, there wouldn’t be much of it to look at since.

What does it mean today, though? What has happened in the meantime? How does it differ in nature from one industry to another? How can it help us enter a new age where it all comes together – the technology and the humans that employ it?

Let’s look at banking in particular – Who designs the organization in banks these days? Does anyone? And what does this organization look like?

To go any further we have to leave the debate on the role of HR out. Dissecting why HR doesn’t have the weight and the seat at the big boys’ table that it should, is not an easy feat and it deserves separate and careful consideration.

For the purposes of this article, let’s presume they did. That they were part of the really significant strategic conversation and human capital was more than a PR claim. If they were firmly sat at the top of the decision-making table, what is their point of view when it comes to designing the organization?

By and large – non-existent is what it is.

They may peripherally touch it when they refer to the antiquated tenants of the organization in terms of people – the Recruitment, Retention and Development functions-, but never in a meaningful transformational way.

When do they stop to say “Hold on board, you keep banging on in earning calls about investment in people and I don’t see anyone having stopped and wondered if we have the right structure.” When do they knock on the CEO’s door and say “This may sound crazy but we need to rethink this entire thing.”

When do they start on the arduous road of rebuilding the pillars of the way people are working together?

Why should that happen? Because we are being equal parts deluded and conceited to believe anything will change in banks and that they can compete with the tech giants, until such a time that they fundamentally change the way they are organized internally.

Genesis Of Teams

In banks, we have Groups, Departments, Divisions and Teams and in the progressive banks, we have the labs, the Agile experiments, the Tiger teams, the SWAT people. Both kinds are composed by one of two methods:

The “Looks Good On Paper” Method

This is where HR recruit internally or externally by looking at skills off a CV and matching them with the requirements by sophisticated methods such as heavily relying on keywords or even aleatorily choosing off an excel table from a multitude of individuals who all seem equally qualified. Reinforcing semi-educated guesses with stiff, corporate and in-authentic interviews conducted solely to underline how solid the initial choices are.

This is, in particular, the method employed for initial team formation when a new structure is needed to be built from scratch, and as such, it’s most likely to be the way the “innovative” structures for new projects are built.

The “Finger In The Wind” Method

This dimension comes into play in particular when teams evolve, so existing structures are more vulnerable to it. Accidental nomenclatures to fill in a qouta; “I’ve known Bill for years” vouching for specific individuals; and the “meh, I’m sure Mary would do” throw-away mandate, they all come in under this “method” like a finger raised in the wind with consequences neither considered, nor held in high regard.

Ironically, seeing how it involves a much more human element, this method is not all bad news and some parts of it could be valuable if they were geared towards a specific outcome and their power was genuinely harnessed.

Not Fit For Purpose

Aside from how flawed these methods of creating collaboration are, we have to consider that the purpose of having people come together in a team has changed over the past 20 years and it is now on a path of even faster evolution.

The technology employees are expected to utilize, -as well as the one they are expected to deliver if that’s their mandate- is inexorably more complicated and more empowering than any other time in history.

The methods above simply can’t deliver structures that are free of the conventional and deliver better than the paradigm which is what we should be aiming for.

First Principles Design For Organisations

We have to get back to the drawing board and wonder what makes the organization efficient, flexible, reliable and above all, simple and solid.

We have to ask what makes people willing to share knowledge, lend a helping hand, collaborate truly, be themselves, dare, care, have drive, work hard, invest, apply themselves, bring others along, embrace change, trust, learn, burn with some type of inner fire and move at a pace that makes it all possible.

Leadership has to have the courage to re-examine every assumption and then work really hard to imagine a new world where people come together around a common purpose, interest and need to succeed not floor space.

They have to look up from business projections and be curious about the way the new ways of work impact the psyche of their people, their aspirations, their needs, and strengths and start investigating the ways to get the best versions of these people to interact with each other rowing in the same direction. Where and when is it that people gravitate towards each other and bring bits and pieces of value together, because they believe in themselves and their company, and they believe in the intent of these leaders that have let them find the best way to achieve.

The organization’s ROI will from here on, only come from a place where they have achieved real workplace chemistry and serendipitous cultural alignment a la’ the likes of Apple or Google.

The answer no longer is “stick them in an aleatory “Looks Good on Paper and Finger in the Wind” team.

Empty Rhetoric Versus Rolled Sleeves

Some claim the age of information has now been replaced by the age of purpose. This sounds aspirational on paper but it assumes we have, as organizations, done anything to have adapted to the information part. We have not.

Tools and processes have evolved and the canvas of the organization has stood still, frozen in the 80s, unwilling and unable to come along on the evolutionary path. Consumer expectations have grown and thinking of how to put people together so they are best equipped to meet them has shrunk. Technology is running at a million miles an hour and organizations are crawling along to the tune of the same KPIs and Departments.

In most industries but in particular in banking where the urgency is palpable, we can’t afford to let organizations just happen and then just fester and deteriorate.

We can’t afford to not make this topic first on the agenda. We can’t afford to wait and eschew.

We have to stop paying lip service to the notion of people being important and ask the hard questions, examine the existing structures of the organization and be willing to take a can of kerosene to the status quo.

We have to rethink, re-dream and redesign the organization. Only then can we compete.

Only then can we truly grow.

Dear Bank, Here’s a Growth Hack: Find, Flaunt and Use Your Superheroes

Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 08.15.22

I’ve often written about Banking Superheroes.

They were -and in some rare cases still are- the intrapreneurs who, from the deep trenches of a horrendous organisation intent on staying stuck with its proverbially risk averse heels dug deeply in a ground of relative profitability, managed to push and pull the organisation with them towards a new vision and some revolutionary moments in the life of the respective bank.

They were often times, single-handedly responsible for big achievements of those banks – maybe their first mobile app, a PFM implementation that shaped their data strategy, investing in real-life blockchain use cases, getting Apple Pay in, being the first chatbot in their region or maybe even replacing and bettering a core banking system or designing an Open Banking business case.

Any of those pivotal moments in the past 15 years can almost always be traced to one of these Superheroes and their superhuman efforts of placing a major bet and then pushing it internally to see it reach consumers.

For those not in banking the enormity of the task may be unclear and thankfully, blissfully, the full extent of it was likely unclear to themselves as well or they wouldn’t have undertaken it at all but they achieved monumental things.

When I look around today, a small proportion of them dipped their toes in FinTech and consultancy and most others are still in banks -although not on the rightful positions you’d think such achievements command-. What they overwhelmingly are not though is recognized.

Our industry is plagued with some of the worst cases of blatant disregard for the value of knowledge that I have seen anywhere else.

This is partly caused by “The Great FinTech Inflation” – the amount of start-ups in the petting zoos around the world is finally on the decline but it’s nowhere near done being reshaped into a handful of truly valuable offerings- and the wide awareness curb still means that drones of new people are entering the industry each day and they are, blemishlessly clueless and uninterested in rapid learning (see my many rants about how past Finovate viewings ought to be mandatory for anyone claiming they know anything about the industry from bankers to VCs and start-upers).

It is also caused by insufficient investment in the personal brand. Very few, if any of these Superheroes would even think about attaching a self-proclaimed influencer label to their profile and most have very little in the way of Social Media presence at all.

This is of course primarily because they were “busy and booked, honey!” as achieving the miracles they did took time but it’s also because they believed in their organizations so intensely that going into the world and even hinting at their problems felt like a betrayal.
Some of them – so few you can count them on one’s fingers- became a voice in the industry and did share their thoughts and some of their expertise and they all paid for it in this era where CEOs are so easily threatened and so faceless with not being offered roles that would have changed the world again. This is thankfully, finally, starting to change and they have stopped being penalized for being amazing and opportunities are opening for them once again but even then they are not at the level they should have been in the least.

The biggest reason why these amazing individuals are not running banks today though is their modesty. Their gross underestimation of their own value and the wisdom, knowledge, diplomacy, and skill that went into building what they did or what they are still attempting to build. Their rampant and ultimately destructive modesty.

This should be a job for every bank’s head of People whether they are in HR or a CEO or Innovation champion – recognize past heroes, pursue existent ones and bring them on board and most importantly hold relentless internal searches to find and empower the ones they still have in the organizations.

Any bank without the ambition to build and solidly support a SWAT team of past and present Banking Superheroes is setting itself up for rapid failure as the day of reckoning of the value of knowledge is approaching faster than we thought.

Of course finding them and sticking them in a fake-grass Innovation Lab or using them as talking heads at conferences is equally bad and the wider purpose must be around using their very presence to inspire the rest of the organization as each and every one of their employees needs to fall and stay in love with the bank all over again.

Every battle ever won has been inspired by a hero’s legend. A ballad, a song, a tale of bravery. Banks have those stories to tell, all they need to do is find their heroes and flaunt them.

How the Tide is turning for the challengers’ Revolut-ion in SME banking

Some of you remember the saga of a few weeks ago where we tried to get a new account for our business. If you don’t, or, if you’re a FinTech masochist and want a reason to feel despondent again you can find it here.

I promised this next instalment and I’ve been ruminating over how to put it to make sure it’s fair and yet captures how we felt going through the adventure. Seeing how I am writing this from the other side of the planet and I’m all traditional-banked-out I’m in an unforgiving mood so I’ve dropped the impartiality requirement and will settle for authentic and honest.

In short and to save you the suspense if you’re too busy to go through the play-by-play and usability dissections of the other players, here’s the gist of it: at the end of the other story we had concluded that on balance we had to choose Revolut and we were going to stick with them as they are the least of all FinTech SME banking evils – we were wrong.


As of today we are the owners of two other intensely functional accounts that do all the things we needed them to: an incumbent – NatWest and a challenger that we had discarded at that time – Tide. No, I’m lying, we are also the owner of a Revolut account which we suspect just won’t die. But let’s rewind.

The Good

Right after our article hit, both Anna and Tide were amazingly communicative and we felt valuable to them as a result. As per a research often cited, they absolutely proved the point that correcting a negative client interaction with a positive one buys the provider even more brand capital than getting it right the first time.

Despite a personal and kind manner, Anna wasn’t quite sure how international transfers even work, at one point they assured me I could still receive international payments in their account despite the fact that they couldn’t provide an IBAN, BIC or Swift number and I had to let them know that’s incorrect but in their defence they openly corrected themselves and also made a concerted effort to augment their chatbot experience and insert humans in the process -be it to correct or explain- which is incidentally the type of sensitivity to one’s consumers and flexibility all banks should have when they start experimenting with chatbots in lieu of following a blind script and trying to fit their customers into it with the same impunity with which they forced us into every other banking product. Not to mention that their card is very cute. Sadly they don’t yet fit the bill for us.

Tide, our now primary account pulled the biggest rabbit out of their product hat and within 24 hours of the article we were informed we now had an international account – in fact a few of them in various currencies!- complete with the magic IBAN/BIC, etc which they couldn’t provide before when we were forced to discard them in favor of Revolut.

We aren’t conceited enough to think we have sped up development of a major service for a challenger bank with our needs, and this surely must be simply a very happy coincidence that they were hours away from releasing the product when we needed it, but either way, it’s nothing short of magical and we are looking forward to making them a lot of money and exploring their features including the direct integration with the accounting software, the invoice maker and the receipt bank. All they need is a business credit card, better categorisation and cash-flow calendar and they will be full stack in terms of basic business needs. Major kudos, if you need an SME business account and are considering a FinTech don’t even think twice, Tide is absolutely the way to go.

Do you know who is full stack already? NatWest. A much fuller stack than we dared hope. In fact, while yes, it took a minute to open the account – from application to confirmation it was around 10 days but that includes the call they made to chat through the model and the purpose, etc and 10 days is no longer than what Metro took a couple of years ago, and certainly not longer than the challengers took between the issues and the glitches- everything else was nothing short of amazing.

Granted, lower expectations are miraculously useful when it comes to the way we experience any banking experience in particular us jaded veterans but by Job they are a joy.

The screenshot-to-show-partners-and-spouse level of delightful features from NatWest include:

  • Double Personal vs. Business views in the app a la mBank (better 5 years later than never!);
  • Receipts scanning type functionality from the same app (although for us the ReceiptsBank app is more nimble to be fair)
  • A credit card that arrived as an almost surprise as it was a mere tick in the application process and has since seen its fair share of usage in various continents already!

 The Expected

Nothing more happened with some of the other ones we mentioned in Part 1– Monzo, Monese, Coconut, etc proceeded to ignore us and not even email us to say they’ll get back in touch or ask why we haven’t completed our registration. The only notable exception is Starling who answered us on Twitter and said they are working on Ltd’s and international transfers so we’ve made a mental note to give them another try when the time comes.

The Downright Ugly

And now for the painful event. How has Revolut managed to fall so far down out of favour?

Before I tell you I’d like to again underline that I had no preconceived ideas about them as some other people in the industry before all of this happened and have often defended them when they had PR disasters (although the latest one where they possibly conned people out of work and time for free is indefensible) and my business partner was a massive fan who had been using them since inception and has often tried to pay me through them even when she was a banker client so there was no a priori ill-will at all. In fact, with how much of an underdog they may have transformed into over night, I actually am still rooting for them because should they succeed by whatever measurement they are applying, it would be a story of learning from mistakes.

What have they done to us then? Not much, just lost our money and didn’t answer us for days.

When we opened the account my partner sent two international payments to test that all is well before we change our invoices to banking clients to ask them to use the Revolut account – one of a symbolic 10 GBP from her Unicredit account and another from her own private Revolut account.

Seeing how you read so far, there are no prizes for which one made it 2 days later whereas the other didn’t make it for 2 weeks straight while their account laid there bare and devoid of any trace of the money we sent and greeted us every morning with a heart-breaking “-15 GBP” (that’s a minus because you see, they grabbed the transfer that did arrive, and fancied we owe them another 15 to make up the 25 a month they decided they would charge us for the privilege of biting our nails and pulling our hair).

That’s right. The money we sent from Unicredit made it, the ones we sent from their own Revolut account did not.

What’s worse? She has had to learn the very hard way that her love had been misplaced all along, as she was the one trying desperately to get them to answer her as to where the hell the other transfer vanished. And try she did. On every possible medium, in every possible tone before at long last, days later, she was told “they don’t know”. Flippantly and with disdain at that. How it made her feel is her story to tell so I’ll see if I can get her to write it for you guys, but you can imagine it.

It will be interesting to see what kind of a struggle we will have on our hands to get them to release us from the yearly contract now that we know they are a joke and want the non-existent service cancelled, and I expect we will be met with no answers and it will end up costing us 300 GBP for the privilege of having found out first hand how far they are from being a real bank with any respect for their consumer.

So it’s farewell Revolut, Tide has changed and to paraphrase my own open letter to Santander a couple of years back – it wasn’t us, it is you.