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Eyes wide open

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I sat through a soul-destroying meeting the other day. The meeting was with a C-level decision maker in a bank, and we were brainstorming. Ideas were flowing and, at the end of the ideation process, we went to see the C-level person to get his view. It wasn’t good.

You can’t do that because the regulator won’t allow it, he said. Even though we hadn’t spoken to the regulator.

That won’t work because we tried it before and it failed, he said. Even though when they tried it, it was a completely different time and technology.

That’s a good idea, but I think we should try it once proven, he said. Even though we would have to try it to prove it.

I could see my design and development colleagues getting angry. Then, to top it all off, he recommended that there should be a sign-off process for anything going through the innovation program. When I asked him what the sign-off process was, he expounded the idea that compliance and risk must be involved, along with the product managers and technology team.

Oh no, oh dear. What is the point of living? I’ve lost the will … we’ve lost the will … everyone’s lost.

Unfortunately, these sorts of meetings are far too frequent within traditional institutions and it demonstrates a closed mindset created by years of avoiding change. The more you can place barriers in the way of change, the less you have to change. And even if one person in the chain can open their mind, there are still a dozen more who can shut it down.

The organisation either waits you out or wears you out.

This is why the bright young things are starting their own companies and have vision, agility, focus and execution. The bright young things are changing things, because they can. They don’t work like the traditional firms, because they are open to new ideas, embrace new things, demand that change happens and work with zeal.

But then the big old firm with its big old budget and its big mass of customers, reaches out its hand to say, hello pardner, let’s party. And the bright young thing ,with its rose-coloured spectacles and damp behind the earlobes, shakes the hand and says sure thing.

No wonder co-creation, bank-start-up partnerships are hard things to manage. In fact, someone recently said to me that they were forging a partnership with a bank, but the bank kept stalling. Teams and teams and reams and reams of people from the bank crawled all over the start-up, assessing its business ideas, code, structure and developments. They had visit after visit, meeting after meeting, call after call, and yet nothing ever got signed, no money exchanged, no results delivered. Eventually the start-up got fed-up and told the bank to go where the sun don’t shine.

The bank surely did go but, in the process, it assigned a team of people to develop and deliver something that looked mysteriously similar to what the start-up was doing. Of course, there was an NDA and such like, but how can you prove they stole an idea if their version of the idea is not exactly the same?

You can’t do that, because the ethics wouldn’t allow it, the start-up says.

We just did and you can’t do a thing about it, The Man says back.

Just a word of warning for those in the co-creation and partnering world. Keep your eyes wide open.

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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