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Are banks adapting in the right way?

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I picked up a few innovative changes taking place this week within banks. In fact, I should point out that banks are not static beasts, as many claim. They are changing all the time, doing things all the time, adapting all the time. The question is: are they adapting in the right way?

Charles Darwin claimed that it’s not the fittest, strongest or most intelligent who survive, but those who are the most adaptable to change. Banks are adaptable to change, but Darwin should have qualified this statement to say the most adaptable to changing in the right way. Banks are changing but are they changing the right way?

I always say that if a bank is changing to be digital by creating a new digital leadership role, the Chief Digital Officer (CDO), and giving them a mandate, team, function and budget, then they will fail.

I also claim that any bank that talks about digital as a channel will fail. Digital is a culture and mindset. It’s not an add-on, a channel or lipstick on the pig. It’s fundamental restructuring.

So, is the bank adapting properly?

Some are. Several are. In fact, the more time goes by, the more banks I see doing stuff.  Just look at the interview with Ana Botin I blogged about yesterday, and there's lots of lessons I've been learning from big banks about how they are changing. There’s ANZ, for example.


ANZ … the bank that starred on my blog for a week when they said, in 2016, that they did not need to replace their 40-year old Hogan implementation.

I didn’t like that statement.

Since then, the person who made the statement has left, the bank has hired a digital transformation leader - Maile Carnegie - and undergone a big change. So big, in fact, that they announced they are rebuilding their core platforms this week to become ANZx.

Now, I know that ANZ read what I write thanks to Blue Notes, their blog. So, to ANZ, I raise my glass. I’m sitting here with a nice glass of Coke Zero and salute you. Well done. A bank that has adapted from having no idea to becoming a potential poster child for digital change.

Here’s what ANZx is all about:

ANZ Banking Group has started an ambitious new transformation program called ‘ANZx’ that will see it build a whole new banking platform and drive a tenfold improvement in its ability to serve customers. The bank is five months into the transformation, which is anticipated to run over the next two-to-five years.

The technology side of the ANZx project is being led by Chris Venter, the former head of its New Ways of Working agile technology transformation …

Speaking at Salesforce’s Dreamforce 19 conference in San Francisco, Venter said the ‘x’ in ANZx was a reference to the Roman numeral for 10.

“Our whole view is if we’re going to do this it has to be ten times better than what we have, otherwise there’s not much point in getting started,” he said. “We’re about five months into our program … building a connected banking platform … it’s all about a platform differentiating us.”

Venter told iTnews that ANZx is “effectively building a new banking platform” comprising multiple components. Two of the components were confirmed at the event: Salesforce and MuleSoft.

Venter said the new platform would be “cloud-native [and] API-first”.

In addition to Salesforce tools, some of the cloud components will come from ANZ’s equally nascent Enterprise Cloud Portfolio, a central capability within ANZ that is taking responsibility for cloud services.

“We’re leveraging a lot of the capabilities that the Enterprise Cloud Portfolio are building,” Venter said. “Our goal is to build a new banking platform on cloud-native technology, and [the Portfolio] team is building the underlying capabilities that we’re leveraging to sit this platform on top of.”

Venter said the intention is for the new banking platform to “eventually form part of our standard bank technology”.

“That’s going to require us to integrate into some of our existing systems within the organisation,” he said. “It’s greenfields, [but] coexisting with some existing components of the organisation. So, we’re building some new capability but we’re integrating in [to the existing environment].”

Where the new platform would need to connect with ANZ’s legacy environment is still being worked through, but any linkages would be via APIs.

“We’ve got a whole program that’s going to run over the next two to five years,” Venter said. “We have a team spun up now looking at the customer migration and how we make that seamless, so we’re going through the process right now of working out how we best do that to make the experience completely seamless for our customers and do it in a way that gives them the opportunity to have better capability within the organisation, but do it very securely.”

Being API-driven will also enable ANZ to bring third-party components into the platform as needed.

Well worth reading the rest over here at Australia’s iT News.

I copied and pasted quite a lot of that article, as ANZ demonstrate to me the major turnaround in attitude in most big banks in the last four years. In 2015, most banks believed they could get away with minimal change to digital. In 2019, banks know that’s a zero-sum game and will lead to failure.

This is demonstrated by so many other activities from RBS/NatWest launching Bó to Goldman Sachs partnering with Apple to JPMorgan Chase talking about their $11 billion tech budget to the headline that $400 million has been invested in African FinTech start-ups … in just one week.

Things are changing.

However, are they changing the right way? Are banks adapting the right way?

A good way to test this is a short report released by Accenture in the last week asking: “Are you really a digital bank?”

The report poses ten key questions to test if you are really a digital bank:

1  Does the bank have a mobile-first distribution model?

2  Is the bank eradicating back-office manual work through intelligent operations?

3  Is the bank embracing Open Banking?

4  Is the bank willing to push the boundaries of its business model?

5  Has the bank become a truly data-driven organization?

6  Has the bank committed to public cloud as its default infrastructure?

7  Does the bank understand that true enterprise agility is a team sport?

8  Does the bank's business strategy emphasize innovation in the core?

9  Does the bank have a disciplined fintech engagement model?

10  Does the bank have a culture and HR approach that values technology and engineering skills?


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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