I regularly run workshops on the future of banking.
Part of the workshop explores the implications of virtual
worlds and social networking on bank services, and what the world of banking
might look like five years from now as a result. Yep, you guessed
it, we talk about Entropia, Second Life, Habbo Hotel and Club Penguin; we also
talk about Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Cyworld, Mixi and Badoo.
The normal reaction at the end of such discussions is:
“Chris, I never knew about any of this. It’s fascinating. Is our
bank doing anything?” which kinda amazes me, (a) that they don’t know about it
and (b) that they don’t know if their bank is doing anything.
Now the fact is that very few banks are doing much in this
world of any note.
ING, ABN AMRO, Royal Bank of Scotland, Saxo Bank, BNP
Paribas, Deutsche Bank and a few others have messed about with Second
Life. Similarly, TD Waterhouse, Royal Bank of Canada, JPMorgan, the
Co-operative Bank, Bank of America and a few others have thrashed around with
social network experiments. A few have tried to make a really strategic
deployment to leverage this space, such as Wells Fargo, who have spent serious
dollars on virtual worlds and blogs; and Fortis with the Join2Grow website,
which is a real innovation for small business networking online. Bank of
America’s copy for small business isn’t bad, but Fortis have created a site
that doesn’t even carry their brand, which is why they get the reward.
Social networks are not for branding, as people shun this in the real world,
it’s to provide platforms of participation. That’s what Fortis and Wells
Fargo have been trying to create.
Regardless of whether what these banks are doing is good or
bad, at least they are all trying and I’m sure some are reaping benefits
(please add any other good examples to this blog if you have any).
But going back to "I never knew any of this was
happening", I wondered why this was? I mean, even the folks who use
social networking didn’t know a lot of what was really happening. This is
because they have a Facebook page "because my kids use it" and although
they therefore are aware of Facebook and stuff, they admit that they don’t
I discovered the answer as to why most don’t get
it about eighteen months ago
I was at an annual kick-off internal conference for a client in October 2006, where the CEO of this major global organisation was addressing the audience. This
company has offices in almost every country, has a multi-billion dollar
turnover, and is one that everyone would recognise. They are also one of
the most strategically led companies in the world, always ahead of the pack.
He began by saying how astounded he was that Google had just
paid $1.65 billion to buy YouTube. He was astounded because, as the most
strategic company in the world, how could he not be aware of a company that was
worth $1.65 billion? He had never heard of YouTube.
So he called all of his direct reports into a meeting and
said: “how many of you are aware of YouTube?”
No-one raised a hand.
He said, “well this morning Google paid $1.65 billion for
them and so, as the most strategic company in the world, it is to our shame
that we don’t know what they do. Let’s find out.”
At this point, he switched on his PC and typed in www.youtube.com.
The computer buzzed away for a few seconds and then spat out
the answer, “the corporate firewall does not allow you access to this service,
please talk to the systems administrator if you are having a problem.”
This is the irony of the modern world, as nearly every
large, traditional organisation is firewalled out. Strategists,
marketers, technologists, bankers, consultants, governments and more are all
missing out on the most fundamental changes to our world because it is
invisible to them.
This is why people tell me “Chris, I never knew about any of
this”, because it is hidden away from them. They spend their days working
for companies that stop them from being involved with what they see as follies, gimmicks and timewasting
websites, because the employees should be working. That’s why we employ
The employees then go home in the evening to become humans,
and the last thing they want to do is waste time using websites that they don’t
know why they exist because they want to play with their kids, eat dinner and
have time with family and friends.
The world of today is passing by the generation of yesterday
because the management dictate policies of yesterday to the world of today.
What the hell will they be doing tomorrow?