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When is a bank not a bank?


02 June 2016

Chris Lindsay

Blogs by author: Chris Lindsay, Head of Digital Transformation, BT.


When is a bank not a bank? No, it’s not the start of a bad joke, but for some in the banking industry, it might be the start of a bad day.

Would you rather be a disruptor or one of the disrupted?
In this digital world, there’s a lot of talk about companies trying to be the disruptor rather than the disrupted — or as Forrester put it ‘Digital Predators, Transformers and Dinosaurs’. Boards of companies are both interested and worried about digital, because nobody wants to be the next Blockbuster or Kodak (to roll out a cliché). And everyone, well nearly everyone, wants to be the disruptor.

The traditional turns to innovation.
I spent some time recently with a group of digital leaders from across Europe. They came from different industries, with a range of perspectives and all facing different challenges. But one individual stuck out for me as being particularly unique. He was the innovation lead for an Italian financial services company.

When I spoke to him over dinner he revealed some of his secrets. “The first thing you need to realise is that we are not a bank. We are a software company that sells financial services,” he told me. And no he wasn’t from some brand new fintech start up, he was from a ‘traditional’ Italian bank. He went on to explain how, with that mindset, the bank was fundamentally changing what it offered its customers, how it operated and its culture — and he was leading that transformation.

He emphasised the need to be totally customer-centric — that’s where new value is created for customers and the business. “Study the customer, learn from the customer, collaborate in building value with your customer,” he told me. “Then move through a process of creating rapid prototypes and customer trials. Prototype again with the lessons learnt, and then look to move to launch your new capability or service.” There was no playing at being digital in his company.

The boon of board backing.
There was something else about him though. While others had spoken about the struggle to ‘get C-suite buy in’, or ‘build a digital culture’, or ‘build the case for change’, he was not encumbered by this. “I have the best job in the world,” he said, with a grin from ear to ear. “I am lucky, we have cash, so we are not acting out of desperation. We have the backing from the board and we have the people in the organisation wanting to do this.”

That’s a powerful combination, and the best compliment I could pay him was that I wouldn’t want him as my competition, in banking or any other industry. I wonder how many of the CIOs in our recent report would feel the same as I did, and how many are struggling to make their Digital Possible.

Find out more about how to achieve your Digital Possible, by visiting our dedicated web page.