My last project has been at a bank, helping to put together a tablet solution for Android and iOS. It is really a cool project that is on its way to became a pleasurable experience for many users of that bank.
During my time, I had plenty of discussions about the wonders of context base tech, and the potential to build amazing experiences based on Context, in addition I had plenty of time to reflect on the many challenges that the industry is facing at large as they come face to face with a Digital future (a software driven world).
So, as part of processing my engagement I wanted to spell out a few of the challenges that most industries (Banking in particular) are facing.
Recently I heard an interview from Russ Roberts to Marc Andreessen* and one of the pearls that Marc dropped (and that is so obvious that it almost hurts to think I did not come to the realization myself) is that, with the invention of the Smartphone, in the next few years for the first time virtually every person in the planet is going to have a "personal computer" and to be online. Then he goes on unraveling this seemingly obvious fact, and the implications that it has when combined with the Development culture: the potential reinvention of pretty much every business.
Ironically one of the example he talks about is of a Digital Bank that could operate completely from mobiles (no branches), no legacy assets, no legacy systems.
Not so long ago, admiringly, I thought of Banks as the last bastions of technologies past. Like a British Museum, banks collect platforms, systems, and technology and keep them running for decades beyond their prime. This forces them to build layers and layers of complexity to get new services up and running while protecting the integrity of the data, the security level, etc.
Unfortunately, this amazing achievement, comes both a high economic cost and makes them terribly vulnerable in this Digital world where any banking solution ends up being a work of art that needs "careful curation," severely limiting the pace of internal innovation, and limiting their vision (is difficult to see the forest past the trees).
Challenge in the vision
One thing I've come to realise with age is that people/organisations need to be ready to hear and ready to see to be able to share in a vision. Like in the tale of the blind man touching the elephant, it takes touching the whole to have the full understanding of what the elephant is.
Unfortunately, great change is fast approaching with a future ripe for innovation in the Banking world, a future where from our many connected devices, we will be able to to we will be able to transact, consult, and interact with our Bank easily and freely.
That world is going to happen and my questions for all banks out there is: Are you getting ready for a context driven digital world? You already have the means and assets!
Businesses don't trade on anything but information! Yes of course they will occasionally sell you a widget, but admit it, most of the time that you interact with a business is not to get the your hand on the widget, it is about the information it surrounds the widget. So, the easier a business makes it for you to get to be convince and to get that widget in your hands: the happier you will be and the bigger the margin for them.
Banks are no different, and would go as far as to say that the bulk of what anyone wants from a Bank is information. Ironically, this is perhaps the most challenging thing for a bank: to quickly provide relevant information.
The truth though, is that siloed in the bank is likely an incredible amount of information that should allow them creating amazing experiences. For whatever is worth: you have my permission to help me reach my life goals as quickly and efficiently as possible: Please provide me with an amazing empowering contextually aware banking experience!
*(EconTalk, Russ' podcast is an amazing source of thoughts and ideas. Thanks Russ!!)