What will you do next?
If you’ve ever heard me give a keynote, you will know that, no matter what I talk about, I somehow always manage to make it your problem.
What can I say? It’s a gift.
Every single one of my presentations for years now has ended with a single question: what will you do next?
A bias to action is part of the way I engage with the world, I confess, and I am also big on personal accountability for however small or large a piece of the puzzle you can grapple with. It doesn’t matter how big it is, it matters how engaged you are.
What matters is not the size of the impact but the willingness to get off the sidelines, out of the commentator box, down from the cynic’s bleacher or up and out of the powerlessness dugout and get active.
You will be pleased to hear I am stopping with this analogy now.
But the point remains. Personal accountability and action.
It always matters. But it matters in our industry particularly because what we do impacts every human on the planet (money has that habit) and because we are actively and intentionally talking about impact a lot. Even if the way we do it is rather… unimpactful.
Because let’s face it, in our industry the world can largely be broken down into pundits and commentators on the one hand who are keen to tell you all the ways in which you are falling short in a rapidly-changing world… and a whole host of rabbits in headlights on the other hand who are trying hard and doing their best but they are mostly overwhelmed by resistance, the sheer speed of change, ever-increasing complexity and a million people saying no, like, all the time.
Whether it is because the nay-sayers are themselves rabbits in headlights or are simply saying no because they like the world as it is now, it almost doesn’t matter. The point is they say no and they have the power to thwart and delay you. Derail and occasionally stop you.
Our life and job is mostly about dealing with that. All of that. The stress, the frustration, the complexity, the frustration, the curveballs, the closed doors and… did I mention the frustration?
Be it the budget committee, our boss, the regulator, the VC that just refused us funding or the risk committee that just curveballed our project, we spend a lot of time fighting fires and dealing with people saying no. Or the more open-ended ‘but’…
A lot of time is spent being frustrated. A lot of time is spent feeling hemmed in and occasionally helpless.
And my point is, we are not.
We sit in organisations that have reach and power, resources and resilience. Despite our worst fears, all of those things are true.
We live in a moment in time when rapid change is front and centre of our lives in a very fundamental way. And it is not just happening to us. We are part of it.
We are here, aren’t we?
We are right here. We are the ones who are here. We are the ones doing the doing. And if we are not, why not? We are the ones who are here, if we are not the ones doing the doing, who is? And why aren’t we?
You see where I’m going with this, right?
What will we do next?
If I’ve done my job well enough in the keynote presentation before I get to that final slide, there will be a sensible build-up of a narrative that helps parse and focus, a narrative that suggests that, yes, there is a lot of complexity here but actually there is also urgency and that means two things: you have no choice but to work your way through the complexity and, as if that wasn’t enough, to find a place to stand. And a place to start.
Not your boss.
Not your organisation.
Whatever your role and whatever your ambition but relative to both.
What do I mean by that?
There is a tendency to say ‘we’ a lot in this industry.
I am guilty of it too.
It’s very fungible, this ‘we’.
We the bankers?
We all the players in the industry?
We the people who work in my business?
We my team?
We the people in this room?
We the Greek women working in core banking? (I believe there’s only two of us but if there’s another one, give us a shout, we have a support group).
My point is, ‘we’ takes a lot of water and covers all manner of sins.
Who the hell are we?
I was on a panel a few weeks back and I was making a point around the unintended consequences of pursuing the art of the possible. When tech folk are allowed, invited, encouraged or mandated to play with tech capabilities, they don’t necessarily think about moral or macro-economic ramifications of whatever it is they are working on. They think about what they can make happen. They know what they are doing and are hoping we do too. They are doing their bit and trusting that ‘we’ are doing ours.
The question is, who is the ‘we’ that is meant to be doing the rest? And do they know it? Do they know it’s them, do they know what the rest is and do they know we are all counting on them?
Be it CBDCs and the moral implications of programmable money or the way an API-first infrastructure affected our pricing, ‘we’ haven’t necessarily claimed every space at the table because the assumption was… someone else was in charge of that bit, right?
Conversations that are ‘not in scope’, ‘above my paygrade’, ‘not for now’, ‘one for the regulator’ or simply too abstract for the right here/right now. A complex web of interdependencies, unintended consequences, follow-on decisions that are complicated further by all the interdependencies, unintended consequences… and on we go around the mulberry bush yet again.
But surely, said the panel host, ‘we’ are answering these questions.
So I asked, who is… we?
And he said, well, you know… the industry, the techies, the regulators, the entrepreneurs, the bankers… wavey hand motion… us.
Only… are we?
Because each of those is doing their bit and doing it well… but the whole nine yards? Who is doing that? And the bits in between the bits we are doing? Who is doing those?
Unless someone is specifically responsible, accountable or, frankly, interested, a lot of that stuff isn’t done by anybody. It gets impacted by what is happening all around it, but unless someone does things with intent, they are not done. How is that for a circular truism?
Unless someone has to do things, or chooses to, things remain undone.
And that last bit is important.
Because we can self-select here.
We can choose to be part of the ‘we’. In line with the job we do, the things we believe in, the things we want to be a part of.
It could be building new capabilities (core banking for the win guys, you know you love plumbing), the ethics of money, regulatory accountability, SME lending… look around you and you will see businesses, bankers, entrepreneurs and regulators getting their teeth into the things that they feel are important and not being properly addressed.
Most of the time, nobody told them to.
They just looked around and saw things that were not happening as well as they ought to, as well as they could, as well as we deserve. They looked around and found gaps in the things we hope happen and the things we want to ensure don’t happen.
If you see the gap, if you feel the urgency, if you have the ability and awareness that there is something that needs doing and isn’t getting done… you know what I am going to say…
What will you do next?
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem. She is chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!