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What does your leadership look like?

I’m sure some people see me walk into a room and go oh no, not him. I have a position, and it’s not popular with everyone. But I don’t care. On my LinkedIn profile, I describe myself as a troublemaker, and no issue, I’m sticking with that.

So, boot on the other foot, I often walk into a room and go oh no, not them. Them. Who are them? They are the old men.

I’ve raised it a few times and no, I’m not ageist. I’m an old man myself. But I do feel incredibly uncomfortable these days when I walk into a leadership team or boardroom meeting and find myself in front of a bunch of old men for two reasons.

First, I know they don’t get digitalisation and second, I’m going to tell them they don’t get it because they don’t have diversity.

If I walk into a meeting of people who are men and women of different ages, that’s cool. But the number of times I walk into a room full of wrinkles and bald heads, it’s not so cool.

I raise the issue as I’m often requested to give executive workshops and I know, when I walk in, that my views will go down badly with the guys who asked me to give the workshop. That’s a hard one but hey, I’m not there to tell them what they want to hear. I’m there to tell them the truth. And the truth is that if your leadership team is all old men, then it’s probably the wrong leadership team.

It doesn’t mean there has to be a quota. Oh, Chris says we must be 20% ethnic and 20% female. All I’m getting at is that a group of just old men does not represent the customer base, the users, the staff or the investors. It’s a demographic that has a very limited outlook.

Points I make regularly about digital banking is that it’s being created by kids who can code who have vision. The majority of start-ups are created by millennials under the age of 35. The majority of innovation is coming from Asia, Africa and South America. The ideas are coming from people outside of Europe and America. And women are far more effective at creating innovation than men.

It’s something I keep coming back to, as I cannot see how a bank that only has bankers in its leadership team and boardroom can create a digital bank. A digital bank is half digital and half bank. How can a bank be a digital bank if it’s only led by bankers?

For me, this is a fundamental of the future. And I find it interesting that the banks that are doing digital well have a lot more digital people in the executive leadership than the rest. I recently met a bank where half the executive are technology people. That bank is one we all know and love as a leader of digital banking, BBVA.

And if I were to sit back and wonder about the future of banking, I would just look at the leadership team and reflect upon the question: are they just old men or a diverse group of people who reflect our customers, employees and investors?

It’s a fundamental question.

About Chris M Skinner

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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