I find it interesting when you look at the Fintech start-up scene and the hotbed of interest now in the blockchain. There are 100s of companies attempting to do something in these areas, and it amuses me that my Beer and Bordeaux clash is even more notable in this emerging ecosystem.
First, you have the Beer brigade. These are the Silicon Valley brigade of hipsters like Dylan Richards and Harper Reed.
Marrying these millennials with the boomers of banking is a touch ask, especially as the boomers of banking look pretty dull.
They like Bordeaux wine and canapes, rather than beer and pizzas, as I noted a couple of years ago when we launched our blockchain group within the Financial Services Club.
So how do we bring these two together is a big challenge for a bank. A bank like minimal risk and is organized by financial experts to provide maximum returns; a technology company likes to learn and fail fast, and is organized by youthful technology experts to provide maximum innovation. How do you bring the old and the young, the financial and the technological together?
This is a question that arose the other day in a bank, when I talked with a senior head of innovation. I said his bank seemed to be doing the right things to be digital, and he replied: “we are making the right action but the question is whether we can be digital, which is more fundamental”. I asked him why they couldn’t be digital, and he replied it was the culture. The culture is the hardest thing to change, and becoming a digital bank is nothing if you do not have the passion to change.
That was an interesting comment and was followed by another discussion that worked the other way around. I have a friend who is creating an interesting blockchain company. The company’s leadership team are experts in finance; seasoned City people, who like the shared ledger structure so much that they’ve created a breakthrough system for banks using this technology. They’ve been pitching the technology around the markets, and are being regularly referred to young millennials for due diligence. My colleague was pretty miffed about this, as he usually deals with David Cameron, Boris Johnstone, Mark Carney and Andrew Bailey. To suddenly be behooved to some young upstart in jeans and sneakers does not fit well with such experience.
This led to another chasm of culture: trust. The old guys don’t think the young guys understand financial markets; the young guys don’t think the old guys understand technology. So the ideal mix is to have a company of millennials and boomers, isn’t it? Let the old guys share their wisdom about money; let the young guys share their knowledge about computing.
We do see this in some firms. For example, R3CEV. I bump into their youthful visionaries and think: hey, do they have the knowledge? But then I bump into their CEO, David Rutter, and they do. Just have a look at how they describe themselves, and you’ll see what I mean:
Led by former ICAP electronic broking CEO David Rutter, R3 is made up of financial industry veterans, technologists, new tech entrepreneurs and subject matter experts, bringing together expertise to rethink and improve the modern financial markets ecosystem.
Or take Digital Asset Holdings. Led by Blythe Masters (Ms. Credit Default Swaps, JP Morgan) and some seasoned folks like Chris Church (Mr. SWIFT Securities USA), they also have a number of supersmart technologists like Yuval Rooz (Mr. Algo Trading) and Shaul Kfir (he really is a rocket scientist).
Or take Zopa, created by seasoned financial professionals who previously created Egg.
Or take Atom Bank, created by seasoned bankers who have worked in or created banks before.
But then I’ve also bumped into a few firms where the millennial-boomer divide is too great. Maybe the boomer is the leader and treats the millennial too much like a son or daughter, rather than an equal. Or maybe the millennial is the leader and treats the boomer as too much of an old fart.
Either way, this FIN and TECH integration of Boomer and Millennial isn’t easy. The answer may therefore be that the Boomer needs a Millennial mentality and the Millennials needs to respect the Boomer’s experience.