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Bankers are from Mercury, techies are from Uranus

What goes around comes around …

Some things never change … 

Same old, same old …

Y’know you’re getting old when you are tired of hearing a debate about something fundamental but just continual.

And so if men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then bankers are from Mercury and techies are from Uranus. 

Yes,
it’s that old nugget of the chasm between IT and the business
community, a debate I first heard raging in the 1980’s and, even back
then, people were tired of it.  Still raging today, the reason I
mention it is that I picked up two interesting discussions around the
subject in the past 24 hours.

The first is from Bank Director Magazine.

This talks about the survey by Deloitte and the Corporate Board Member
(30 page pdf) which discovered that of all industries, financial
services executives said they were most likely (52%) to expect
technology to increase in priority for their company over the next
three years, compared to the average of 45% for all respondents. 

Yet
I wonder how often the SOA deployment of modules for new core banking
services is actually discussed in a main Board agenda? 

How often do the guys sit and actually ask about their internet banking platform and whether it’s fit for mobile access? 

Do
they really get to grips with the idea of the CEO doing a daily podcast
update for investors and employees that can be downloaded internally
and externally?

I doubt it very much.

On the converse,
to switch this beat, the reason is that most of the bankers are rather
mature chappies.  For example, an analysis of the industry by the
Journal of Banking & Finance states that the average age of a bank
CEO is 57, ranging from 40 to 69, and most Board members are over the
age of fun.

The fact is few on the Board of a bank is young
because this industry is a risk averse industry, run by conservative
males (see earlier article about Sexism in the City).  As a result, no-one on the Board of a bank can possibly understand the techno potential of today’s world. 

With
Gen X and the iGen coming along fast to disrupt our thinking, this is a
major gap, and is the reason why most banks don’t understand or want to
understand Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Second Life, World of
Warcraft, other virtual worlds and blogging.  After all, most banks’
firewalls block access to these sites.

This leads to another dimension of the business and technology divide which the Financial Times debated on Wednesday (accessible to FT subscribers). 

This aspect discusses the fact that the CIO is dead as a donut.

Congratulations guys … just when you thought it was going OK.

The
tenet of the FT article is pretty sound actually, in that it’s saying
that after thirty years we have moved from the Data Processing Manager
to the IT Director to the Chief Information Officer. 

We have moved from paper processing to automated records to leveraged information services.

We
have also moved from Governments driving technology to consumers
driving technology.  After all, consumers’ adoption of new media is
voracious and growing fast.  That’s why the iPod went from zero sales
to 100,000,000 in under five years.

The logic of this is echoed
by JP Rangaswami, the former CIO of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and
now CIO, Global Services for BT Group, who states that the role of CIO
could disappear because all senior managers and board members will have
to be knowledgeable about IT.

Mind you, I heard that same
argument – all of the Board will have to know Technology – in 1991 and
also in 1997.  I remember both moments clearly as the audience drew a
sharp intake of breath.  Us?  Technologists?  You gotta be kiddin’!

To
be honest, the point being made is that all of us need to know what
technologies are capable of achieving, whether you are a middle
manager, senior manager, board member or CEO.  If you don’t, especially
in financial services where everything is bits and bytes, then you are
fundamentally failing in delivering the potential of your business.

That
doesn’t mean that you, as a banker, need to know how to disconnect a
memory board or replace a blade (although many will); you just need to
know what folks can do with IT, and many of the folks using that IT
will be bankers.  They will be the new generation of bankers, who have
been wired pretty much since birth, and don’t see technology as alien
but as innate.

That’s why I agree and disagree with JP and company.

We won’t have CIO’s in the future.

Their role will have changed and, as a result, so will their title.

In
ten years, all of us will be harnessing information and so you won’t
have a Chief of Information.  We will all be Chiefs of Information.

Therefore the CIO will become the MEP.  No, not Member of the European Parliament but Master of Electronic Platforms.

MEP’s
will deal with the splicing and dicing, plumbing and pipes, bits and
bytes to ensure the bank is truly capable of achieving its electronic
potential.

That’s why, even in another thirty years, bankers will still be from Mercury and techies from Uranus.

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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