Technology without heart destroys us: the hard currency of bankers’ feelings
If you haven’t seen “Justice League”, I could totally get away with pretending this is my line. But I suspect #mytribe would know this for what it is: a Diana Prince quote from Justice League.
Technology without heart destroys us
Ok so what if Wonder Woman wasn’t talking about digital? When did that ever stop me before, from making connections?
And what if she was talking about something a lot loftier than balance sheets and banking transformation? This is my battlefield and I care fiercely, albeit with less forearm bashing and whipping stuff about.
The line resonated.
The heart of the matter
In case you were wondering, I am not actually talking about feelings here.
At the heart of why we engage with innovation, transformation, digital discovery and painful, expensive programmes of change is… money. The money we need to keep making in order to deliver value to our shareholders and stakeholders alike. Banks need to be profitable in order to power global trade, offer accessible pension products and stable-return investments. And we all like those, so give the bankers a break.
And yet as we engage in endless rounds of pageantry and overpriced consulting assessments, money is rarely talked about. Other than the money it costs to play.
Business alignment seems to be strangely forgotten.
Why do we do all this?
To stay profitable, to stay relevant, to catch a wave in the market.
Will a new app or a shiny personal finance management (PFM) tool do that for my business? Will this latest integration, the freshest white paper move the needle, make me money?
If the answer is no then it’s technology without heart, and it will destroy us.
It is without heart by being wilfully blind to the thing that was the purpose of all the activity. Money. Profitability. Business viability.
But it is also without heart because it was arrived at through the path of least resistance. The thing that was least hated and feared, is also the least loved by any and all decision makers inside the body corporate.
What’s love got to do with it
In case you were wondering, I am totally talking about feelings here.
If innovation is part fear of missing out (FOMO) and part realisation that we desperately need to change what we do in order to have a chance to keep doing it, then project selection, the tech we play with in the hope that it will be part of this elusive future, is the absolute labour of love.
But not how you are thinking.
This is nobody’s fierce dream.
This is about tough conversations not taking place.
If you really want to think about what emergent tech is part of your future, you need to have some hard chats among your leadership about brand permission, feudalism, politics and internal inadequacies, about talent, imagination and, above all, about appetite. Does your leadership have the stomach for the fight ahead? Because if not, they should take less on. There is no shame in that.
But without those conversations, and nobody is having them, what you are left with is posturing and hedging: the things engaged in far from being the bet boldly made, they end up being the thing reluctantly conceded.
Someone else’s project, another thing to track, tightly bound for damage limitation and destined to never achieve more than that.
The curse of the under-loved is strong.
Do it for love or don’t do it at all
Are you kidding me? We have a business to run. Margin compression and reduced profitability has us with our backs to the wall and the regulator is dancing rings around us, says my inner banker, and you want us to take time to sit around in a circle, middle aged men in dress-down jeans, as ill-fitting on their bodies as this exercise is on their souls.
Are you kidding me?
I totally want you to take time out of the insanely busy everyday and the unnecessarily busy innovationing to talk about feelings.
You go forth and invest without the hard graft of finding the future’s heart, so you waste money and time.
And money you may have more of.
Time there is never more of.
And you squander it by committing your organisation to projects nobody believes in, nobody loves. Projects nobody is willing to fight over. Nobody is losing sleep over. You know how I know? The projects that are fiercely loved and believed in tend to succeed or at least survive long enough to pivot. Things driven by passion and purpose find their way. Things chosen because ‘they will do, I suppose’, because they can’t break stuff too badly, will take you nowhere.
Which may not sound so bad. But it is.
This is worse than an explosive failure.
And it will destroy you in the worst way possible
By a thousand cuts.
While you are cautiously trying to hedge your bets long enough in the hope that the universe will conspire enough to show you, in a moment of revelation, what your future core should be. Doesn’t work that way.
And while you don’t care about anything enough to advocate and fight, to take a stand and make a bet, the tech you will put forward will have no heart. And it will destroy you. Not by failing and causing regulatory wrath and customer outrage. But by taking you nowhere, in the slowest and most expensive way possible.
By Leda Glyptis
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption as chief of staff at 11:FS and CEO of 11:FS Foundry.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!