Digital Thinking for Bank 1.0

The impending #Fintech Armageddon has the banking industry in a spin. The 'digital winter' is coming ... and it’s time for Bank 1.0 to make a stand.

Digital transformation in the financial services vertical is ‘so hot right now’. The industry is awash with ‘customer centricity’, and booming with an expected $8B of #fintech investment by 2018.

The futurists among us make progressively intangible statements about a time when banking is completely transformed. And the imposing ‘banking is dead’ narrative is now a daily part of our industry’s social stream.

Overall it’s a pretty exciting time to work in digital. But, with so many verticals headed towards impending digital doom it’s easy to get carried away in a wash of buzzwords and technology (I call this #omnichannelopia).

Underneath all the excitement and intangible expertise it’s important to get the basics in place before you venture into the big unknown. So, forgetting about the great debate and the future of banking for a brief moment, I thought it would be good to cover some basic 101 digital thinking for the bank of today that will have a direct effect on the type of user experience you create as you build the digital bank of tomorrow.

Learn Humility

Almost everyone in the banking industry is scared. Just a few years away from retirement for some, and terms like ‘digital transformation’ and ‘disruption’ has everyone in a spin. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of ‘the Facebook’ and ‘responsive design’, along comes a wave of SEO concerns, content strategy, media optimization, big data and marketing technologists.

In between ‘pivoting’ and ‘staying lean’ you’re also expected to have an opinion on mobile payments, the blockchain, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for UXP’s and #mobilegeddon.

With all this digital change I think a little humility goes a long way. It’s OK to beat on the #Finserv25 and assume regulation will protect the financial services industry from disruption beyond the realms of payments. But, it’s also ok to admit our industry does not fully grasp what’s going on.

I would even state some humility in todays digital age is probably a good thing. The basic idea of an expert today has been devalued in the constant flux of new technology and opportunity. This new pace of change is now a constant. It’s not going to stop. There is no gap you can close.

The goal for Bank 1.0 (the traditional or incumbent bank) is to get to a place where you can start to learn and figure things out for yourself. A place where you can learn what works for your customers today and moving forward towards the future. This is the true nature of customer-centricity. Putting your customers needs at the center of a new dynamic digital world.

Practice The Art of Failure

For Bank 1.0, the space between the firewall and your end consumer needs to be flexible enough to manage, change and develop in a cost efficient and secure manner over a short period of time. We call this being ‘agile’.

The good thing about agility is that you can try things out, experiment a bit more, learn from your success, and most importantly … practice successful failure. I believe that innovation is the art of failure. And essential to developing better products, services and culture.

Bank 1.0 should like to fail. But in a controlled, fast, secure and cost effective kind of way. Some banks spin this constructive failure into a ‘labs’ mechanic, which I think is great. There is nothing I find more impressive than a bank that actually has a proper labs initiative instead of technology for the sake of technology. Developing a culture of failure should be a primary pillar for every innovation lab.

Align with Digital Folk

Without a doubt, tan essential ingredient to a successful digital strategy is people. The right leadership will empower, inspire and align Bank 1.0 to think about digital as a journey and not a destination.

For this to happen, Bank 1.0 needs a fresh perspective on the new digital age. This will not come from inside the bank, a book, a Google search or going to endless future bank conferences. As a Bank 1.0, you need to hire and align with thoroughbred digital folk to bring a fresh set of eyes to the table.

For your ‘digital champion’, this can initially be a hard sell across political silos within the organization. A crucial role of your digital champion is to inspire, empower and make digital tangible to all. Relationships will take a bit of time to nurture, but incremental quick wins can prove the value of digital to the wider team.

I can’t stress enough the benefit of the alignment with ‘digital folk’ at the early stages of a transformation. The classic friction between IT and marketing departments can be greatly reduced with some insights into the new digital playground and what success can look like.

Beware of Omnichannelopia

So I made up this fancy new buzzword – Omnichannelopia. It’s an affliction common to banks and signals a misalignment between various IT and marketing silos in the organisation. Yes, we want to transform and provide omnichannel engagement. And yes, there are some amazing platforms to consider. But no, a collage of the best technology from the magic quadrant will not bring you digital success. In fact, the opposite is true.

Bearded man draws formulas on a chalkboard

There is no synergy or common sense that states that combining the best offerings for your website, your portal, and your mobile platform is a good idea. Why add this complexity and total cost of ownership to your already stretched digital team? Sometimes, simplicity is better than combining the best of all offerings under a single umbrella.

Attaining Digital Maturity

Digital transformation is exactly that … a transformation. It’s not a switch that is simply turned on, but a steady maturity. It is about starting on the right foot and developing digital capabilities across a number of fronts.

The current narrative around financial disruption and impending Fintech Armageddon has the banking industry in a spin. Rightly so. The ‘digital winter’ is coming … but reaching for unattainable milestones that would make Steve Jobs proud will get you nowhere. Sort out what is best for you Bank 1.0 first. Then work towards disrupting the industry as quickly as possible.

Gavin Payne100Gavin Payne is the Regional CTO at HeathWallace MENA. A seasoned executive leader with a track record of success delivering digital transformation in the financial, telco and travel verticals. A Digital evangelist – Payne’s specialties includes the convergence of digital, data, customer experience and technology.

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