Confessions of a FinTech Innovator #1

Culture Shock

Charles Radclyffe, The Data Philosopher, was one of True’s guest speakers at our Open Finance: Breaking Inertia event at The Gherkin in January. In this 5 part guest blog, he shares his insight, experience and often provocative views of banking and fintech in 2018.

Picture the scene.
 
After 15 years in Banking (mostly at the same one) your colleague tells you they’re about to join a FinTech start-up. A new working life, probably in one of those funky start-up hangouts in Shoreditch, London – or maybe in the Engine Shed, Bristol. 
 
How do you react?
 
Most people will hide their cynicism and give their workmate the encouragement they are looking for. “I’m proud of you, Sarah” they say. “You’ve been frustrated for some time, here’s your chance to make a difference”.
 
Full of expectation, Sarah embarks on her new career as the seasoned ‘industry expert’ that every FinTech start-up brings on-board in their plan for world domination.
 
Because even while FinTechs are trying to challenge the status quo – they invariably realise that a good quota of industry expertise on the team is essential if they are ever to break through.
 
If they make it, Sarah will be heralded as a visionary, a champion of entrepreneurship. If she fails, she’ll be welcomed back to her old stable with open arms. “Good that you got it out of your system”, they’ll say. “It was the right time to take a risk”, and with that, she’ll be back to the annual performance review cycle. Phew. Midlife crisis over.
 
Now let’s turn the story the other way round.  What if it’s a FinTech entrepreneur getting a job with a Bank?
 
“I’m not sure how you’ll fit in”, they’ll say. “It’s a rather unconventional background” they’ll mutter – unable to see past the ponytail and goatee. The anti-bodies are already mobilised.

This is banking’s culture shock. 
 
I’ve just completed nearly two years for one of the world’s best known and respected Banking institutions. Hired as a consultant in the innovation department, I expected a culture very like that of a start-up. How wrong I was.
 
Many of my colleagues were truly wonderful people, and I learned a great deal from them.  But the absence of entrepreneurs in the team and the suspicion that greeted an entrepreneurial mind-set was a real shock.
 
Banks desperately need to change their culture if they are to survive. Yes, survive.
 
While they’ve adopted technology like many other industries in the last three decades, Banks have largely been immune from business model change.
 
High barriers to entry of new providers, restrictive regulation, and formidable long-standing distribution have maintained the status quo. But this is changing. So banks need to change too. And fast.

This is part of a series, for Articles 2 and 3, click here and here, respectively. To see more of Charles’ views visit his blog.
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If you would like to find out how True is helping break inertia in the banking sector, please get in touch with Bertie.