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Are you really a digital bank? (just shake it off)

I was in a conversation the other day where someone asked me how I can tell if a bank is really trying to be a digital bank or just a bank. Off-the-cuff I immediately said that I have a litmus test to work out the answer to that question. I didn’t realise I was so polarised until I said it, but as the words tumbled out, I realised that this is the question that needs to be asked and answered.

First, a moment’s pause …

What is a Digital Bank?

Everyone has their own definition, but here’s mine:

It is a bank built with a vision to reach out to customers through a digital foundation.  It is built specifically to offer the customer the service of their choice through the access of their choice.  It believes wholeheartedly that, in order to do that, the bank has to be designed and created from the ground-up with a digital core infrastructure.  The digital core is a consistent enterprise wide, cleansed data store that is accessible internally and externally through a strata of access layers and consistently with a single view of the customer.



That’s a great start.


How can you tell if a bank is really a digital bank or just aspiring to be one?

Aha! This is the nub of my question above and this is where I diverge from all mainstream commentary, as I really hate the way most talk about digital banking these days. They don’t get it. They talk about digital banking, but I can see they don’t get it. This is why I throw rocks at them, and say that it is just showrooming with their jazz hands and innovation theatre.

I’m sorry, but it’s true.

So, here’s my litmus test for a bank that talks about digital banking.

First, do they mention CHANNEL? If they do – whether it is channel, multichannel, omnichannel or uberchannel – they are showrooming. In a digital bank, there is no such thing as a channel. It is a word of the last century. There is only ACCESS to the digital core.

Second, do they mention PRODUCT? They may not say product, but do they mean product? They may say share of wallet or fulfilment or service or NPS, but do they ever say CUSTOMER? My antennae is raised when I hear so much talk about their metrics and yet, not once, do they talk about the customer. Are they building a customer-centric bank? A true digital bank will always start with the customer, and the rest of these terms are just bingo-speak for old bank product-centricity.

Third, do they talk about FUNCTIONS? Again, they may not say function, but they’ll say things like cross-functional team, Chief Digital Officer (CDO), the Digital Project, yada, yada, yada … but do they ever say CULTURE? Creating a digital bank as a conversion of a physical bank involves massive change to the organisation’s fabric and foundation. Moving from a physical foundation of branches and humans to a digital foundation of software and servers is a massive change. It is a leadership challenge. It is a cultural change. Do they ever talk about the cultural change and that this cannot be delegated? If they talk about functions and CDOs, then I know that the leadership team is dodging the change and delegating it.

So that’s my litmus test of how to spot a real digital bank from just a player. Oh yea, just shake it off.





About Chris M Skinner

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