Digital Finance Masterclass London, 2014

Earlier today I gave a short presentation to the Digital Finance Masterclass in London. I only had ten minutes, followed by 8 sessions of pretty intense ‘Digital Surgeries’ – a great format, but quite tiring.

Before the event, I had been told that the Digital Surgeries were like speed dating – thankfully I got married before speed dating, because I can’t imagine going through that process in a relaxed, sociable setting.

With only ten minutes for the first presentation, to a varied audience across Financial Services, I focussed on the following topics, shown in the attached Slideshare presentation:

  • Putting the User First
  • Development
  • Cloud
  • Mobile first?
  • The future

Here are my notes from the presentation. (And no, I didn’t read them out verbatim).

Putting the User First

Assume all users (both B2B and B2C) use Facebook before work, then internal systems for the morning, then Facebook at lunch, then back to the internal systems, and Facebook in the evening… so why are internal systems so difficult and clunky and to use? Ever wondered why you can upload, tag and post an image in Facebook in a few seconds (from any device), yet uploading images to an expenses system takes several minutes? Why??

Single Sign On. I use six different channels to interact with my bank. Why do they all have different passwords and even different security requirements for passwords?

Social media listening projects are having an interesting side effect on banks – it’s showing back office staff what users are saying about their organisation (and systems) in real-time. It’s bringing their users’ voices into their head offices.


Agile is changing the quality, productivity and pace of innovation for development projects.

A recent report showed how banks spend over six months releasing a mobile app. With Apple releasing new devices every 9 months, banks are often a generation behind before their app is released.

Agile brings IT and the business closer together. It’s not always the silver bullet, but it’s the most efficient methodology that we have today.

Learn quickly from Agile. Ensure that all your product have decent analytics, and make sure you have staff to understand the analytics, to make recommendations and feed this back to the business.

Cloud services

Why do Financial Services organisations need to build everything? I understand that core services should be run internally, but why do other systems?

Why not release a public API and enable developers to write apps on top of the API?

One of our Financial Services customers launched a new service from scratch, in 3.5 months. Well it could have launched then, but we then went through an architectural review for several more months, didn’t change anything, and then launched. Our client’s business division then complained why the project took so long.

My recommendation here, is to investigate cloud services, trust them (that’s one of the main reasons for a procurement exercise), and try to implement them quickly. If the service needs to be heavily customised, consider why it’s OK for all the other customers but not your own.

Build API first

I have never believed it a mobile first website, for two reasons. Firstly, there are still two billion PCs in the World, connected to the Internet. Secondly, designing for mobile today is short-sighted, because we’ve seen how quickly the front end technology device can change. The re-engineering for tomorrow’s device will be too costly if everything was designed mobile first.

I’ve just bought Chromecast at home. My brother-in-law recently bought Apple TV. I went out for dinner on the weekend with someone wearing a Samsung Gear watch. How do those devices figure in a mobile-first environment?

Build an API. Commit staff and budget to its maintenance, security and load tests. With every piece of new functionality your organisation offers, ensure the API keeps up to speed. Test a public API offering. Try new models.

The future

I believe there are three key disruptors which Financial Services organisations need to grasp:

  1. OIX (Open Identity Exchange) could turn Financial Services into an international market. If I can create a trust identity with the UK government and log on to my bank account with the same account, and other governments will trust my UK account, then international Financial Services organisations will trust it too. This could mean I might insure my car with a Spanish insurer, have a savings account with a Japanese bank, and a mortgage with a Brazilian lender.
  2. The omnichannel offering… When ATMs were launched, customers still went into bank branches. Decades later, customers still go into branches, despite having phone banking, Internet and mobile banking, and now social media customer services. Customers want a choice, and it’s very difficult to remove previous channels.
  3. Payments will become more complex. For decades, customers have been able to pay with cash, two or three payment networks, and cheques. We are now entering a world of choices of mobile and wallet payment systems. This will lead to confusion, and it will take an organisation with deep pockets to consolidate the market.

I started with a request to simplify user interfaces, and I’m finishing with a request to simplify the back-end systems too.

The full slides are below.

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