Chris Skinner's blog

Shaping the future of finance

The new FinTech bank

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For years, I’ve been wondering why people in business operations couldn’t align their needs with the people delivering technology in the organisation. The CIO would sit outside the business, watching and responding to requests. The requests would get prioritisation and be delivered in sequence over time, sometimes a very long time. The business people would get frustrated that the technology people then didn’t deliver exactly what they needed, and would argue about getting reprioritisation. And so the circle went around and around.

In the last century, most technology developments would take years, involve hundreds or even thousands of developers, be delivered with a large consulting and technology team hired from the likes of Accenture and IBM, and eventually turn up on a Monday morning looking slightly weird and wrong.

For some, this has changed dramatically. In talking with banks that understand digitalisation, they do not operate this way. Instead, they operate in a microservices structure where teams have designers, coders, developers and techies integrated with product and service people, customer focused people and business people all in the same group. They go around the round, debating and developing in real-time using cloud-based services and Python. They use containerisation and have that lovely term kubernetes buzzing around the company.

This is nothing like the old, traditional bank. It is instead a fintech bank.

A fintech bank does not isolate the fin from the tech, but must integrate it. It is an eye-opener when you see this in action. Rare, but becoming more common, the fintech bank does not let technology do its own thing. It embraces it or, rather, it embraces IT. Technology drives the organisation and the organisation drives the technology. There is no separation, as it is symbiotic.

Strangely enough, we have known for decades that technology and business must be aligned, so it seems odd that they were separated into such distinct groupings in the past. I remember working for one, large global bank a decade ago, and my job was to help the company with its new integrated technology and operations group. The group had elected a small number of individuals to be ‘relationship managers’ (RMs). These RMs were not for customers, but to be the interface between technology and operations and the business.

Y’see, business did not understand technology and operations. It was very complex stuff involving mainframes and code that no one could write, except the people in technology and operations. And the technology and operations people didn’t understand the business. The business was all about maximising share of customer wallet and shareholder returns using complex terminologies around CDOs and MBAs, interest rate differentials and cross-sell ratios. How was a person immersed in COBOL supposed to understand that?

So yes, the two groups sat at opposite ends of the spectrum, staring at each other with no idea what the other does, and needing someone to bridge the divide called an RM.

This is no longer true.

The move towards rapid cycle development using low cost systems, easy internet services and cloud means that the technology people are being thrown out of their warehouses and caves and being deployed into the business. The business people who previously looked at these developers with suspicion, have now discovered that they are human. Slightly strange humans, but yes, they are human.

The result is that ideas can be brainstormed on a Monday morning, designed on a Monday afternoon, trialled on a Tuesday morning and released on a Tuesday afternoon.

The business people are no longer constrained by slow developments of years to meet their needs in a manner that just misses the mark, but can have their needs developed in near real-time and be part of the process of designing their next generation services.

Wow! This is a brave new world, but isn’t it wonderful? A fintech bank that no longer separates the fin and the tech, but integrates them as one.

I love it.

 

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

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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