I had an interview the other day about my new book Digital for Good. It felt like it was a worthy discussion, so thought it worth sharing again today.
What is the number for your new book “Digital for Good“? Do you have the same feelings as when your first book was released?
I’ve released many books – Digital for Good is actually number 17 for my business books (I’ve also produced 5 books for children) – and each one is a project. The ebbs and flows of life and business influence what you write. When my first book was released, I was purely thinking about business in the future. Today, I think about life in the future from all aspects: business, society, family, humanity. So, the feelings are different.
Could you please tell us about the key topics raised in the book?
There are many. The founding idea is to challenge the idea of how to bring technology and finance together to build a better planet. That is the basis of FinTech. But it goes further than that in that each and every FinTech start-up I meet has a clear foundational purpose. The purpose varies by company but examples include opening finance to everyone, ensuring that finance is used to make a better society, using finance to ensure the world gets better and avoids a climate emergency, and so on. So the book covers things like Environment, Society and Governance (ESG), but more than this the over-arching theme is purpose-driven finance. How can finance and technology make society and the world a better place?
Who should read “Digital for Good” in the first place?
The book is targeted primarily at technology and financial firms. Having said that, I think anyone interested in the future of our world from a business perspective would find it useful.
Can we say that “Digital for Good” is a book about transformation?
Not really. That was the focus of my last book, Doing Digital released in 2020, that picked a range of case studies of banks trying to transform. That book gave over forty key things you need to consider to embark on transformation and would be useful to any incumbent wondering what to do.
Is transformation equal to digitalization? What banks should pay attention to in the process of transformation?
The two go hand in hand but are different. Transformation is a change management process that requires strong leadership and cultural change; digitalisation is then the technology pieces that go around such change. I often use the example that most banks and companies were built on a business model that was physical and analogue. The core of that model is now obsolete, so these firms need to redesign the business model to be digital and networked. If you have that existing structure, then the first thing you must do is create a compelling internal need to change, transformation, and then make the change, digitalisation. If you don’t do step one, you end up with technology just being added to the old structure and model, and it will fail.
Can Web3 and Metaverse become the instruments of transformation of financial sector? Or, perhaps, they have already become?
No they haven’t yet, and the Web3 Metaverse developments are creating a whole new world. It’s a digital world, separated but augmenting the real world. Nevertheless, I always refer to Second Life when we talk about this. Second Life was a massive alternative world on the internet in the 2000’s that collapsed because people lost trust in their financial system. Basically, Second Life had a bank that disappeared one night and the people running the platform said not our problem. After three months of users demonstrating outside their virtual head office demanding their money back, they introduced a new rule: to be a bank in the virtual world, you need to be a bank in the real world. In other words, virtual world banks need to be regulated with the same strict rules as banks in the real world. That’s not surprising but it may surprise some.
Will Big Tech companies become successful in the fintech race?
They will be successful in doing many things with tech, such as savings, loans and payments but, to be clear, they will never be banks. I regularly quote the old statement made in the 1990s by Bill Gates: “we need banking, but we don’t need banks”, and he was wrong. Only banks do banking. We don’t need banks to do savings, loans and payments, but we do need banks to do banking. Why? Because it’s an activity heavily regulated by governments – which are not necessarily national governments, e.g. it could be the network – to ensure it can be trusted as a store of value and intermediary between borders, companies and people that is bullet-proof. If you remove that bullet-proof jacket, you have a Wild West. That’s why you need banks to do banking.