By Oliver Smith on Wednesday 22 February 2023
The executive lifts the cover on the dysfunction of banks, and the frustration of bankers.
I’ve never felt more frustrated than when reading the anecdotes in Leda Glyptis’s new book Bankers Like Us: Dispatches from an Industry in Transition.
Tales of bankers sitting on their ‘legacy’ technology for decades, and then being forced to bring engineers out of retirement (seriously) when Covid struck and their systems needed to change.
Tales of bankers paying lip service to diversity and inclusion, while shutting down any diversity of ideas by “mansplaining” over them (be they from men or women).
And, less frustratingly, some tales of change. Bankers willing to think outside the box, who ask “why” and keep asking, who work hard towards positive outcomes (rather than looking busy and keeping their heads down).
Glyptis, for those who’ve not come across her before, is an expert in change, having worked at some of the world’s largest financial institutions and consultancies, from her time at BNY Mellon, Sapient, 11:FS and now 10x Banking where she works as chief client officer.
She is also a skilled columnist. Her #LedaWrites column has run since 2016 on Fintech Futures, garnering a passionate “Tribe” of readers who tune in every week for a dose of everything from advice on dealing with bad meetings to tales of incompetent CTOs.
So first, let’s talk about who this book is for.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to know who an author is addressing, especially in a niche industry like finance and fintech.
Is it a book for industry insiders, newcomers or everyday consumers? What level of technical expertise do these target readers have? And what parts of the story are they most interested in?
In the last few years, we’ve seen a flurry of fintech books cross AltFi’s desk, from Anne Boden’s “not a memoir” Banking On It memoir (an easy page-turner for just about anyone) through to Dan McCrum’s Money Men deep dive investigation of Wirecard that was so in-depth at times it felt like it required detailed knowledge of the subject matter just to get through the introduction.
Glyptis, on the other hand, knows exactly who she’s writing for and puts it right in the title, Bankers Like Us.
The book is specifically written for those employees at both large and small, challenger and incumbent banks, who find themselves—like Glyptis did—to be “in the midst of change” and fighting for it.
While Glyptis spends some cursory pages running through the basics of “what is fintech”, make no mistake, the book is written for those who are well-versed in RFPs, POCs and BAU, and unafraid of delving into ERISA accounts and securities trading codes.
It is written by an insider, with lessons for other insiders and a clear message to take away.
If you were expecting a memoir or narrative story, this isn’t that.
As Glyptis discloses in the opening sentences: “telling the story in sequence is actually not the aim.”
Instead in Bankers Like Us Glyptis channels her experience as a “recovering banker” and columnist to unpack and share a series of ideas, lessons and advice.
These ideas range from how the banking industry’s culture stymies innovation and progress, to why individual bankers are incentivised and motivated to avoid difficult questions, and whether the business models of banking are changing.
Each idea or ‘dispatch (presented as a chapter) is explored through a series of mini-columns from 300 to 1,000+ words that will be familiar in tone and structure to any #LedaWrites readers.
Some dispatches are punctuated by first-hand examples (or exhibits), and most are concluded with a bullet-pointed “Call To Action Cheat Sheet”.
Think: “Innovation is not a department. It’s a mindset that needs to permeate the whole business.”
This isn’t just leadership content, it’s more than that. Bankers Like Us is a call to action for bankers everywhere, a manifesto for enacting change within an industry adverse to it.
Ask hard questions, take on big problems and find like-minded colleagues both inside and outside your organisation to help.
“There is a job to be done. It will be done by bankers like us,” Glyptis writes.
I’m very aware that this book isn’t for me, and it might not be for you either.
But for the growing numbers of bankers who do feel the frustration (and find cathartic relief each week from the #LedaWrites column), this is a book for you.
Bankers Like Us: Dispatches from an Industry in Transition by Leda Glyptis is available from Amazon and other good booksellers with an RRP of £29.99.
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