Earlier this week Tayburn hosted, with BIMA, a breakfast briefing asking the question; "Can FinTech make banking more human?".
We were lucky to have assembled an experienced, diverse panel:
- Fraser Lusty from P2P lending platform Lending Crowd
- Jan Cutting, an experienced Financial Services marketer, previously with Sainsbury's Bank and currently Corgi HomePlan
- Dug Campbell, Scotland's leading authority on Bitcoin, the Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and a member of the digital ID company MiiCard
- And some chancer called Nathan Fulwood, Tayburn's Innovation Director, who managed to sneak in while nobody was watching.
It was great to see so many attendees from the BIMA, agency and Financial Services communities form Edinburgh and further afield.
The discussion could initially have made difficult listening for the banks in attendance. The panel and audience agreed that the sector, largely unchanged for 300 years, was facing unprecedented disruption from FinTech start-ups tackling discrete parts of the established value chain and from the new giants of Google, Facebook and Apple.
And while the sector has (yet?) to see the emergence of a truly dominant new player (unlike retail, accommodation and taxis has via Amazon, AirBnB and Uber), the threat that new entrants pose is very real. With start-ups excelling in building strong relationships and delivering exceptional customer experiences, there is a risk that the established, undifferentiated players become utilities, particularly given moves such as the European Commission's PSD2 directive to open up the banks' services and data to third parties.
But where there's a threat, the panel saw opportunity too.
Established brands can, and must, learn from the challengers, revisiting their people, culture and technologies to enable them to meet the changing needs of their audiences.
- People - creating environments that attract the best digital talent to develop better products and services from within
- Culture - to give staff the space and trust to create meaningful relationships with customers, to move faster and build links with the innovators in the FinTech community
- Technology - despite the hinderance of legacy systems, there is a desire to be more 'agile', to open up API's and speed up development of useful services, to use data & machine learning to do the heavy lifting and allow more time for human-to-human relationship building.
The discussion around technology led to a discussion on Bitcoin, the current state of play, and it's future potential, led by Dug Campbell. A quick show of hands revealed that everyone in the room had heard of Bitcoin and the Blockchain, but only 2 or 3 people actually owned any of the currency. This, it was felt, was indicative of the fact that the conversation around cryptocurrencies was moving from it's value as an alternative currency to the massive potential for the blockchain as a credible and vast improvement to traditional auditing and clearing approaches. Being near instant, open, virtually impossible to fake or tamper with, it was felt the blockchain will have wide reaching but as yet unforeseeable consequences to not only banking but payment in general, real estate, law and beyond.
There was discussion around what banks need to do to protect and ensure their relevance. Jan Cutting advocated ensuring we really understood the changing needs of customers, as the family unit changes, as the needs and attitudes of Millennials diverge from what we have always taken as fact. With this understanding we can ensure our brands talk to them appropriately.
Nathan felt that what was often seen as another hindrance to the banks - their branch networks - could be their greatest asset in building stronger relationships. The role of these spaces across the country need reimagined, taking a leaf from places like the Apple Store, and Virgin Money's lounges.
Questions from the panel related to the role of data, and particularly how ownership of personal data may need to evolve in the future, to how banks can innovate in a culture of regulation (general consensus was that regulation was attempting to keep up with innovation, rather than overly stifling it).
Inevitably for such a dynamic and wide ranging topic we ran out of time to cover everything, so we are considering ways to continue the conversation (watch this space). In the meantime, a few useful documents were referenced by the panel:
If you attended - thank you for contributing to such a great and lively debate. If you didn't, hopefully we will see you at the next one