Yesterday i was one of about 1100 registered delegates that attended the SWIFT London Business Forum 2018 at Tobacco Dock. The theme of the forum was “Seizing the Opportunity”, and there were the usual punchy cross-industry topics (fintech, regulation, machine learning, AI, cybersecurity… you get the idea) being discussed by some pretty high profile and interesting folks.
To get a good detailed insight into the SWIFT London Business Forum i recommend reading the Finextra live blog. In this post, i thought i would share some of the less discussed, but insightful, topics and comments that i picked up through the day.
1. Instagram must remain Relevant to key users such as Swift Taylor, SWIFT must do the same!
In his opening remarks Javier Pérez-Tasso (Chief Executive, Americas & UK Region, SWIFT) talked about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and explained how technology companies like the GAFA’s (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) of this world are operating a 2 sided model connecting users (1) via their platforms (2). This model requires the technology companies to remain relevant, if they don’t their users and customers will go elsewhere.
As the heading suggests, Javier gave the example of Swift Taylor using Instagram as a way to reach out to her fan base and the need for the application to remain relevant to all users. If they fail to remain relevant, Swift Taylor and her followers will simply go elsewhere. Similarly, SWIFT and banks must remain relevant to their customers and ensure that they offer value to retain their customers – particularly in light of the multiple emerging players.
With this in mind, Seizing the Opportunity seems like an appropriate call for action!
2. Jeff Bezos “Customers are Divinely Discontent”… So too are Regulators!
During the Opening Plenary titled “Transformation through Collaboration” Andrew Pearce from HSBC explained the nature of the fast paced financial services environment. Andrew described how a single participant in the ecosystem is unable to effectively do everything, and as a result collaboration with the appropriate companies is required.
Anyway, in this climate Andrew referenced Jeff Bezos’ “customers… are divinely discontent” comment from the Amazon CEOs recent letter to shareholders. I thought it was a pretty cool quote emphasising how customer expectations are never static, customers expect more, technology is enabling more and organisations that fail to adapt will no longer remain relevant to their customers (see above).
The theme is very relevant to financial services, Andrew went further and thought Regulators were also “divinely discontent”…!!
3. Bank of England Exec – Understand Fintech and get closer to Tech
In the above mentioned Opening Plenary, during the closing comments Andrew Hauser (Bank of England Executive Director for Banking, Payments and Financial Resilience) unexpectedly rocked the boat. When asked to give his closing comments, Andrew suggested that SWIFT needs to delve further into the fintech space and believed better to know the enemy (if you consider it an enemy) than not!
That was an incredible comment, followed by further thoughts that the panel was not very fintech, and that SWIFT ought to get its head around fintech and get closer to tech.
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4. How you Perceive the World determines whether Technology is Disruptive or not
Aleks Krotoski was the host for the day, Aleks is a tech presenter/social psychologist and shared some really thoughtful observations. Following are a couple of insights that got me thinking about the way in which we each see the world around us differently:
- Technology has become so mundane that some really advanced tech (think about your phone, TV, watch) is not even seen or sensed – it is just there and we take it for granted. Yet, to reach this advanced state that technology has grown, evolved and reached a state where we no longer see it and for generations such as millennial’s it is the norm. That is all they have ever known
- Aleks illustrated how adding the word “disruptive” to technology means that you automatically isolate yourself from the technology and from the underlying problem that the “disruptive technology” is solving. She went on to show how the developers of the technology don’t see it as “disruptive technology”, they view the tech as a solution to a known problem and are not even thinking about any type of disruption
- Diversity is key, following an inspirational introduction by Amali de Alwis (CEO, Code First: Girls) Aleks further highlighted how a diverse group of coders enabled a more appealing platform/solution for customers
5. Ego’s will determine the Success / Failure of Financial Services
Ego was a term that came up at the end of the “Building Blocks to Open Banking” session. Russell Saunders (MD for Payments at Lloyds) in his closing remarks talked about how in order to be successful open banking required key decision makers to leave their egos behind and imagine the outcomes and opportunities that various innovations can potentially bring about.
Russell highlighted boardroom culture as one of the key barriers to the future success of open banking. And it is with this outlook in mind that the comment about ego really hits home.
The ego theme was picked up by Aleks too in her closing remarks, outlining how ego can cloud minds at different scales of the financial services spectrum. Ego can lead reinforce incumbents beliefs that they are too big to fail and within startups set false expectations that they are going to “disrupt” everything.
I suppose the true leaders have the humility to recognise their customers needs, and ensure that their organisations adapt accordingly.