A few years ago, I found myself engaged in one of my more frequent activities. Having a drink with a banker. Sitting in Helsinki with a lovely glass of wine, the banker turned to me and asked:
‘So, Liz – take a guess on what was the most significant date in corporate banking in the past few years?’ (Very lively conversations I tend to have with bankers, you do understand 😉).
I was game – if I balked at every smug banker in a blue suit who wanted to show off an ‘insight’ I would have had very few conversations over the past 26 years. I leaned in, glass of red in hand, and replied: ‘I can not even begin to guess, why don’t you tell me?’
The date was January 3rd, 2012. And the reasons why are significant and have ramifications for what the banking industry is going through today.
BYO or Bring Your Own device, cloud-based applications, Open Sourced environments to develop technology, all of these developments were slow to find a home in financial services compared to other industries. Security concerns, regulatory oversight, and a real need for centralised control have all stalled the adoption of new technology, progressive workflows, and flexible work environments in financial services – while they formed the basis of innovation and development in others.
So, what is so significant with January 3rd, 2012, you ask? It was a Tuesday, and for many people, it was the first full working day after the Christmas and New Years holidays. Apple had been releasing various versions of the iPad over the previous year. Christmas 2011 saw a huge leap in the number of people receiving iPads as gifts. Many of these recipients worked as corporate treasurers, who then spent the holiday period playing with their expensive, flexible and powerful new ‘toys’.
IT managers and regulatory compliance directors, at banks and financial services firms had been largely successful in keeping requests to ‘use my own device’ for work-related activities at bay prior to the January 3rd date. I am sure many remember the surest way to spot ‘the banker’ in the crowd was to notice that they tended to carry the ‘bank-issued’ Blackberry in one pocket and the iPhone (personal-use) in another.
However, change often happens when we are making other plans. If you are a large, global transaction bank with lucrative, multinational clients – those client needs, and requests get prioritised. Many corporate treasurers started asking their banking partners to allow them to authorise payments on this ‘new device’ that they all received under the tree that Christmas.
In 2012, change hit financial services wrapped up in a big red bow.
Change in 2020, unfortunately, has not come wrapped up in a bow – but is instead covered in a surgical mask. Most of us who can are now working from home, teams are distributed, business models are pivoting and banks and financial services firms are working to support personal customers as well as business clients – all while trying to run their own operations in these strange times.
The other week community member Meaghan Johnson wrote about the incumbent bank’s response to Covid-19. This week the UK Government announced a £1.25 billion stimulus package aimed at innovative businesses – many of whom are FinTech businesses in the UK.
Change happens when we are making other plans. As better, faster and stronger mobile devices transformed our personal lives 10 years ago – those devices forced a change in our working lives. This year – 2020 – the disruption is Covid-19. Our ways of working will never be the same.
We will be discussing ‘Banking in the age of Corona’ at FTT Virtual / Spring this June 10th.