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Branches – the last word?

Some of you may have noticed that Michael Goldman has recently joined the Finextra community to blog and has decided to create a debate with me over my blog entry last week.  Now, there's nothing I enjoy more than a debate and so it's nice to finally have one online.  About time.

As I can see from the viewings, it's also popular with you guys.  So I have to thank Mr. Goldman for prodding me into explaining my thinking in far more depth, articulation and preciseness than I thought necessary.  But then I assumed the initimacy with financial technology was far higher with the Finextra readership than perhaps it is, based upon Michael's input.

I also think I need to set the record straight, as many of you are reading our new blogger's views and, like me, could misinterpret them to think that Chris Skinner believes it is all about IP and that customers, branches and processes are unimportant, as this is how he's positioning my views.  His positioning of my views is actually completely based upon his own misinterpretation of my blog entries and responses.

In other words, I do not believe any of the things that Mr. Goldman implies I believe through his postings. 

For example, I totally agree with his point about customers and processes coming first when you're designing a bank.  It's pretty darned obvious isn't it?  And, for those who have followed this debate and/or my blog, I've always said that human interaction and face-to-face connection is critical.  Sure, we could debate whether such interaction can be achieved electronically versus in person, but financial services is a service-based business and service can only be delivered by human connections and relationships.  So yes, BPR and all that good stuff is essential when you're designing for your customer.   That's why it's called Business Process Redesign. 

These have all been common themes of mine and, for those who know me or read my blog, are integral to my thinking. 

Our new blogger happens to ignore the fact that I have this view by trying to put words into play that make it look as though I don't think this way.  His attitude is to try to position my views as being an IP-fixated techno nerd, which I'm not, and being IP-focused as the priority and first focal point, which it is not.  My background is very firmly in the BPR camp and how to apply and use technology to innovate and differentiate as a result.  Therefore, the focus should be upon designing tomorrow's bank bearing in mind that IP is the new foundation stone when it comes to implementation.  I'm pretty sure that's where I started in my original blog entry.

His points also relate to, but are totally different from, my original posting. 

My point was around branch versus IP as a foundation for the bank, and that IP is now mature enough to design the bank completely around this as a foundation stone.  This is therefore all about new materials for building a bank architecture.  Brick-based raw materials have been replaced by IP raw material.  This is all about architecture and implementation, and is my core debating point. 

His point is all about BPR, processes, customers, service and so forth. These are all related to my argument, as processes need to be redesigned to service the customer across multiple channels that are IP-based.  So, everything I've said relates to customers, processes, TQM and BPR, but it is a different point completely.

This comes back to the key question: Why are we redesigning?  Answer: because we are changing branch foundation stones and architectures with IP ones.  The new IP foundation stone requires a focus upon customers, channels and services, as all of these areas need redesign using BPR and other techniques.  This point I've covered extensively in the original blog entry, it's follow-on entry, and again yesterday

Why do I keep adding to this? Because I think this is fundamentally important to the modern bank and so I want it to be clear to every reader, including the ones who find it hard to understand, such as Michael.

For example, he was originally saying that a bank should be built around branch foundations instead of IP, which is how I got sucked into this discussion as that's where I was arguing a point, and now he's arguing around customers and processes versus IP.  I've never even raised this latter point, as I don't believe the two discussions fall into the same category.  The latter discussion around customers and processes relates to BPR and designs; the former area of IP foundations relates to architectures, and the implementation of the design. 

He also began by lumping IP and online banking into the same breath, as though IP meant online banking, which was a mistake I pointed out as IP is not online banking.  It's just infrastructure that supports online banking delivery, in the same way as it supports mobile/cellphone banking delivery, branch delivery and contact and call centre delivery.

So, just in case readers haven't seen my comment on his blog posting today, I'm posting it here separately as it clarifies exactly where I agree and disagree with Mister Goldman:



I totally agree with some of what you say. 

As a bank designer, I would start with client and process.  I call this buyology and blogged about it a while ago.  It's what BPR is all about and why I distinguish between design and architecture.  So yes,  I would design my bank 100% around the client and, in this area, I fundamentally agree with you. 

I disagree with you in the use of phraseology, e.g. foundation. In the way I’m talking about them, foundations are builder’s terms rather than designers.   As a designer, I would hand my design over to the builders and architects to implement my design, and they would build with materials for the foundations using technology as the focus.  This is because technology is the underpinning of the bank these days. 

I also disagree that banks have totally ignored customer needs.  After all, they seem to have provided customers with a lot of decent services such as free banking, online banking, call centres, ATMs, integrated solutions for finance, trade finance, high alpha returns … need I go on?  Some banks are just poor in their treatment of customers because they are not transparent and try and rip them off.  They'll get found out.

Finally, your comment about why is there "so much talk of IP and so little about the client" happens to be due to the fact that this is a financial technology website.

I realise you don't get my language, and that's why you don't get my point.  Hopefully, most other folks can see the difference in the semantics that you are not seeing.


The reason I've posted my comment here is that there's a load more to life, and banking, than a non-debate about whether customers and processes are important when designing a bank.  Of course they are.



p.s. I really hope this is the last word … but never say never again.  


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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