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Shaping the future of finance

20 years of change and the challenge is still the same

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Twenty years ago, I was inspired by Mike Hammer and James Champy’s book Re-engineering the Corporation to start a consulting practise in business process
re-engineering (BPR).

I had just been made redundant from a firm that automated office processes with workflow technologies (yes, they had them back then, just after the Ice Age thawed), and thought it worth giving a go.

And it was, but it also became frustrating as I was wholly passionate about re-engineering processes around customers, yet the financial clients I worked with were far more passionate about re-engineering processes around work.

As a result, we would tinker with process improvements rather than business transformation.

But then business transformation implied more than tinkering here and there, and a radical overhaul was often completely untenable for most senior managers to take on board.

There were a few however.

Perhaps the best example was in Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, where he took over his father’s company and turned it on its head.

It was a traditional firm with hierarchy and product silos, and they re-organised around customer and gave people passion.

The message of such things is that when you are at home you might be a father, mother, teacher, preacher, actor, musician … so why do we force you to leave all those skills at home when you enter the office?

The aim would be to have the same passion in the office as at home.

We also talked about Galileo Management back then.

It’s a long story, but the simple idea was to organise the company so the Sun always shines on every part of the company.

The Sun is The Customer and The Company is Earth.

The Earth travels around the Sun’s universe but, too often, we see the Earth as the centre of the Universe.

In other words, we forget that we serve the customer – our Sunshine – and get caught up with serving ourselves.

Internal politics and personal motivations cloud the Sun, and we focus far more on colleagues and objectives rather than customers and markets.

Another thing we would talk about is designing the company around moments of truth.

Moments of truth occur at all the key stages of processes where the customer touches the company.

What we proposed is that firms just took those moments of truth, and designed the business they would visualise as the best way to manage, deliver and serve those moments of truth.

That would mean throwing away the existing business model and constraints of thinking, and working out what business model you would create if you could start again.

You then work out how to get from A to B, e.g. how to evolve today’s business towards that vision of the business model you want to be in the future.

These are all simple things, but resisted intensely by most institutions as it’s just too darned difficult.

So why am I blogging about all this old twaddle today?

Because it’s back in vogue again.

After two days in the EFMA Distribution Week conference, where I delivered a keynote on security, the theme is all about designing banks around customers to serve them brilliantly and give them a great experience.

It’s something I also blogged about recently, in terms of dumping designs that focus upon channels and products.

Design for customers.

Amazing that the same issues exist two decades later, and probably will two decades from now, because companies that become institutions become institutionalised.

They end up designing for their internal needs rather than the customers’.

They focus upon the Earth rather than the Sun.

They forget that their people are humans, and even that their customers are humans, and see them as resources and revenues instead.

Now this blog is not a depressing one.

It could go that way, but it’s not a depressing issue.

It’s actually a great opportunity, for the bank and business that truly designs around customer’s needs is the one that flourishes.

The company that dumps their internal view and wholly focuses upon moments of truth succeeds.

The company that revolves around the Sun, the customer, rather than thinking the Sun goes around the Earth, the business, gets the market lead.

That’s what Apple, Amazon, Nike, Ikea, Harley-Davidson, USAA and more have done, try to do and hopefully will continue to do in the future.

If not, they will lose their rose-tinted brand positions and market capitalisation.

And some already are.



Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, 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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