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Reports of my (banks) death have been greatly exaggerated

I’m getting really fed up of the number of research papers, videos, blogs, headlines and more screaming: “banks will die”.

Sure, sure, you’ll immediately go: “but you say that all the time Chris” but, if you check back on what I’ve written, I’ve only ever said that banks will die … if they don’t change.

Now OK, that’s a mantra of any good consultant … but I don’t do consulting, so there. I just like to try to provoke people in large incumbent institutions to wake up, shake up and change. The only constant is change, and changing in the right way and doing the right things to greet the future is all you have to do to avoid death. A bit like washing your hands regularly to avoid getting the coronavirus, you just need to sign up for a clean bill of healthy change.

The reason I write this today is that two nudges over the weekend were all about banks death being imminent. As I read such items, it was obvious halfway through that the solution to avoid death was to engage with the firm who posted the article. Yep, we can save you.

Many of these firms think they are like doctors. Sorry Mr. Banker but you have cancer and will die next year … unless you sign up for my radiotherapy treatment at a measly price of $10 million … per annum … in perpetuity … index-linked and inflation protected … just sign here.

Hmmm.

The thing is any headline that announces the imminent death of an institution unless they change probably falls on deaf ears these days. We’ve just heard it too often. That’s a refrain I regularly come back to.

The core issue here is that there is a grain of truth in the statement that banks are critically threatened by technology and could be subsumed by it if they don’t change in time. That part is true. The untruth is the speed and nature of such a death, should it ever occur.

No bank to date has disappeared from the markets because their technology was awful. A few investment banking folks have struggled, because they couldn’t keep up with low latency program trading; a few fund managers have disappeared due to passive trading; and a whole bunch of bankers have lost jobs to software; but the bank itself has not shut down due to these factors. Only changed. The only thing that is certain is change.

And due to the constant screaming and shouting of consultants, technologists and media that banks will die thanks to technology, the bankers have got to the stage that they just don’t believe them. In fact, if anyone walked into my office and said: are you aware of your imminent death? I would respond are you? as the secret gun I have under my desk accidentally fires.

So please change the tune folks. The music should be upbeat and optimistic, not funereal and dull. Play me some Miley Cyrus any day over Adele. That may be heresy for some readers, but I want to look forward to the future.

Send me a message that says: here’s how you can crush your competition and thrive, rather than here’s how you’re going to die soon. I don’t want to hear about my imminent death. I want to hear about my bright and optimistic future.

Thank you.

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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