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Who moved my rock?

I often use two discussion points by way of background when talking about the future.

The first is that kids will show you the way, because children are rushing towards the future whilst most adults are rushing away from it.

Children at 9 and three-quarters and 12 and half, whilst adults are celebrating their 31st birthday for the sixth time.

Adults fear the future because the older they get, the closer they get to the end of their lives.  Children rush towards the future as they want to be adults as fast as possible.

Children are also desperate to shape and change the future to their way of life.  Adults want it to stay the same.

It is why the teenage years spawn the most innovations, whether it be new music or new ideas; adults try to keep the status quo.

This leads to my second point, which is based upon the tremendously influential book: who moved my cheese

The basic idea of the book is that there are two basic sorts of people: those who enjoy change and will seek to find new ways of working and creating value; and those that just want everything to stay the same.

It’s told in an entertaining and educational way, and it builds on my first analogy of children wanting to change the world whilst adults want the world to stay just as it is.

Adults don’t want the cheese to move, whilst kids love to find new cheese.


Analogies over, and ruminating a little on my presentations this week to various folks, I then got this little sense of tingling on the back of my neck.

The tingle sparked a voice in my head: who moved my rock?

The rock is far more worrying than the cheese.

Without cheese, we starve; without the rock, our world crumbles.

What the hell am I talking about?

Core banking structures.

I presented to a group of custodians this week and, like the corporate treasurers, I was asked to talk about the fundamental changes being brought around by social media and technology.

First the group dismissed the change as just being about retail and the consumer (it isn’t).

Then they dismissed it for a more fundamental reason: it’s just the froth on the financial cake.

Mobile payments, Square, the Occupy movement, Molly Katchpole, etc is all just icing.

It’s fast moving consumer retail finance; it’s not core.

It’s not the fundamentals of financial markets.

The custodians basically saw the fast moving changes in future technology as being about front office froth and roll.

An iPad app for wealth management is all well and good, but it doesn’t change the core of financial transaction processing through the clearing and settlement systems of the world does it?


In other words, all the front office sexy new consumer technologies of the Apple and Android world is the moving cheese; the back office dull and constant processing infrastructures of the IBM and SAP world is the eternal rock.

The cheese moves often; the rock moves, but infrequently and slowly.

Like tectonic plates of back office reliability and resilience, the rock never rolls.

But it does.

And it has.

The rock rolled from old models of liquidity never moving from core exchanges, to new hi-tech exchanges like BATS and Chi-x.

The rock is rolling away from old domestic clearing systems to new harmonised regional and global platforms.

The rock is rocking from slow moving T+3 to real-time payments and settlements.

It may not seem like the back office is changing, but it is as fundamentally disrupted by the technology of consumers and social media as the front office.

So the cheese and the rock are moving.

Are you moving with it?



About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  1. While it is incorrect to assume that the rock does not move, reality says the pace at which the cheese moves is far more than the rock.
    I guess the same banks who swear by the rock are the ones who are committing to more dollars on moving the cheese than the rock
    After all, moving the rock and not moving the cheese does not rake in the moolahs

  2. Let’s not forget the role of the cheese graters and the rock crushers, sorry that government and regulation.
    Government works to make life better for the citizens, well that’s what it said on the election manifesto tin, so the more cheese the merrier and fatter the citizens will be! HHmmm.
    Regulation works to better protect citizens from the evils that are seen to abound. Rather regulators are subservient to public policy requirements set by government, but regulators prefer order and stability over excitement and change. HHmmmm.
    So the tectonics and technology are not exactly aligned. Few governments encourage citizens to adopt technology, for technology has the power to disintermediate government; perhaps we ask the citizens to e-vote on an issue of national significance, tomorrow to approve new laws?
    Yes the pace of change can be frustrating, but it is also encouraging that the power of technology IS to empower people who can then take back some of their lost control and finally hold government accountable more regularly than once every five years or so.

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