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Shaping the future of finance

From Zoom to a Room

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After a year and a half, I presented my first keynote with a physical audience yesterday.

It's FinTech Week London!

It's a whole week, in London, talking about FinTech. That's a surprise, huh?

The interesting thing is that, after people have been locked up for a year, there was a buzz. It was not like the old days of conferences. It was a buzz like hey, I am outside meeting humans!

I had a throw-away comment that I quite liked: we’ve gone from Zoom to a Room. Sure, it is a soundbite, but it’s an important perspective. There is a buzz about getting back to normal. And yet, what is normal? We talk about a new normal, what is the new normal?

Well, it is not business as usual. Everywhere I look, business has changed. It’s moved online; it’s removed acceptance of cash; it’s looking at working in a different way where human hands are not involved; it’s no longer face-to-face; it’s all about doing business with no direct face-to-face interaction.

Thing is that humans yearn for face-to-face interaction. Building on yesterday’s blog about designing for digital at the core and physical on top, we need to design business for the human touch.

I’ve talked for decades about automating everything – software is eating the world – but the automation is being done to allow humans to enjoy better lives. Sometimes, as a technologist, I get the sense that technologists forget this. Sometimes, as a technologist, I think we want to automate everything to remove the human touch. There is the mistake.

Technology is here to improve our lives, not replace them.

Therefore, when we rethink our business structures, business processes and business models for digital automation, the single most important question is: why? What are we trying to achieve? How should our business appear … to the customer?

The human touch. The customer. The device-to-device interaction. The device-to-device interaction which might be face-to-face via a device. From Zoom to a Room.

In my own perception, Zoom and its alternatives (Teams, Meet, etc) are fantastic and have been brilliant, during these times where we have been forced to sit at home. But there is nothing like rubbing shoulders with friends face-to-face in a room. From Zoom to a Room.

So, this is probably the hardest thing for any organisation to deal with today – both traditional firms and technology start-ups – how do we design a digital world that demands physical interaction? For traditional firms, their challenge is that they have not got a business designed for the digital world; for start-up firms, their challenge is that they are designing to be digital-first and often lose sight of the human need for interaction.

It is a balance.

You may say oh, but I never need to call or see ABC, but when things go wrong, you are desperate to call and see ABC. I guess this is my closing thought: when digital processes go wrong, what alternative do you offer for customers to get sorted out? Do you have the physical engagement processes – call centre, face-to-face, device-to-device – to ensure they feel reassured, and that software has not eaten the world. There is still a human there to talk to. From Zoom to a Room.

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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