Money 20/20: Let's have the important conversations

By David Brear on 4th July 2019

Fintech

What Money 20/20 reinforced for me is that despite all the talk of GAFA, of the Techfin giants of the East, the reality is that it’s still all up for grabs. We’re still at the start of the journey, writes 11:FS Group CEO David Brear.

Money 20/20: Let's have the important conversations
Image source: Money 20/20.

11:FS Group CEO David Brear gives his take on the lessons from Money 20/20 Europe.

It’s been a hectic few weeks with Money 20/20 and then all the follow-ups. I've said to a few people that I felt hungover for days, not that I’d been drinking. Well okay, I had, but at that point I hadn’t for a few days!

The adrenaline from Money 20/20 was like sugar high... then came the crash.

This year’s event raised the bar once again for bringing together the community to discuss what comes next in financial services. The people on stage, the open and honest discussions, the general buzz around the place was energising from the keynotes, to the roundtables and fireside chats.

Discussing ‘what comes next’ is great, so long as we’re discussing the important topics. Of course, banks should be wary of the fintechs, challenger banks and the tech titans who won’t just copy the traditional banking model, they'll find entirely new ways of doing things.

A personal highlight was the CEO fireside chat: three female CEOs on stage, being interviewed by a man. Superb. The panel, Claire Calmejane, group chief innovation officer at Société Générale, Dr. Leda Glyptis, 11:FS Foundry CEO and Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank didn’t hold back; on the relationship between banks and fintechs, core banking and what ‘value’ really means.

But if banks executives are scared of “pushing the button” as Anne Boden claimed, then we have a much bigger challenge, collectively.

The real fear should be saved for the business-killers; apathy and a lack of respect for the challenge ahead. That’s the real opponent and it’s where the danger lies.

It’s not a conversation about innovation labs, or accelerators, those are the answers to the wrong type of question. It’s not which technology wave to catch, or how to (and I’ve heard this a few times now) implement a voice strategy.

They’re more fundamental.

With new possibilities being opened up what can your bank meaningfully do? What can you achieve with credibility, reliability and capability that customers would actually want? Do you even have the brand to make any of this possible?

That means we have to talk much more about attitudes and cultures. For banks, these are not things that you can just train into your people – it begins with the skill sets you hire for, support and build around, and the leadership that inspires it. It’s the culture of curiosity you build and nurture throughout the organisation.

New entrants have shown the big banks that if you come to market with expertise and the right culture with a real desire and hunger to deliver what customers need, then you can achieve amazing things.

Startups don’t need to write a five-year business case, they have no “digital” strategy and don’t need to get 14 committees to approve. They need to build something that customers want, so they can secure more investment and fast.

To achieve this, they needed to be agile and I don’t mean a delivery methodology. Agility is in product development and engineering, where firms can move from idea to it being safely and securely executed to their customers in a fraction of the time it currently takes.

True agility also means having small, autonomous, multi-disciplinary teams that can take an idea to execution, not pass it from one team to another. Endless committees and sign-off at every level hamstring the process. Give the right remit to a small team of highly skilled talent, laser-focused on solving real customer problems, and they can achieve great things.

What Money 20/20 reinforced for me is that despite all the talk of GAFA, of the Techfin giants of the East, the reality is that it’s still all up for grabs. We’re still at the start of the journey.

However, it requires us moving away from innovation theatre and focusing on new ways of hiring, thinking and delivering. We also have to be honest that, frankly, some incumbents may never achieve that. And even then, some that do will find it’s already too late.

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