The essence of a FinTech team

Along my short career I find myself wondering what the keys to success are. I have come to the realization that though the media will tell us stories of successful individuals, few key inventions were conceptualized and industrialized by just one person. So what makes a successful team and how would you put one together?

Along my short career I find myself wondering what the keys to success are. I have come to the realization that though the media will tell us stories of successful individuals, few key inventions were conceptualized and industrialized by just one person. So what makes a successful team and how would you put one together?

The idealist within me wishes that I could provide a recipe for the ideal FinTech team. I would like to be able to say in order to revolutionize the world you need 5 analysts, 10 developers and 17 Data scientists but this still wouldn’t guarantee success. So what is the essence of a Fintech team? I may not have all the answers but I do think there are some common elements in truly successful teams.

Purpose

The word purpose is over used but misunderstood. The true meaning of the word took on a new meaning when described by Viktor Frankl in his 1946 classic, “Man’s Search for Meaning” within the context of a World War 2 prisoner camp. Viktor was a neurologist and psychiatrist who was captured and lived in a prisoner of war camp. He shares his observation on the elements of motivation and depression that he observed in his fellow prisoners.  Personally I think Viktor does a better job at explaining it than I could.

Viktor explains that the reason people survived the Holocaust is they had something else to live for, a true purpose. Sometimes this was as simple as a desire to see their family again, in other cases it was more complex. It is this motivation by purpose is that I believe galvanizes a team.

Salim Ismail insists that all start-ups set a multi transformational purpose. These purpose statements need so be short and to the point so that there is no room for misinterpretation. If your purpose cannot be stated in one sentence, then it has not been distilled into its essence. This helps focus all team members at the same goal. Most importantly it means that all team members should believe in the purpose. Getting this right is almost impossible but I would be willing to bet that successful teams have gotten this right. My memory takes me back to South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup winning team who went through the entire tournament with the purpose statement of “one team, one nation.” A purpose that resonates so strongly in all individuals within the team makes it impossible to fail.

http://www.sport24.co.za/Rugby/Springbok-Heritage/1995-RWC-squad-honoured-for-greatest-day-in-SA-rugby-history-20150624

People

I was in awe of these start-up stories outlining how a group of people started a multi-billion-dollar company in their garage.  In the past few years I found myself in the proverbial garage of multiple different acquaintances and friends, it was only then that I realized what was driving this behavior. I found myself drawn to this group merely because we were enjoying the hard work and the time we were spending with each other. It is easier to accomplish a complicated and long goal when you have good people around you that you connect with. I’m not at all saying that you need to be best friends with all your team members but I do believe that you need to find some commonality to have a human connection.

What about skills?

I’m am by no means diminishing the need for skilled people in your team. I am however making an assertion that even if you have the best skills, without a purpose and connected team you are doomed to fail. Pay more attention to the qualitative things when setting up the team. The things we take for granted like the feeling when you walk through the office doors, the vibe in the room, the “nice to have” social interactions.

So I guess my recipe is this:

Find a purpose that resonates with you. Then find a group of people that you can connect with. If the purpose resonates with your team, I believe you have a good chance of success.

by Tyrone Naidoo

Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD1512_XJEw

Which race are you in?

As we hurtle head on in 2017 its becoming increasingly clear that no matter what generation you find yourself in – Xers embracing tech, Y’s passionately living the dream or Z pushing us all faster than we ever believed we could go – if you are not concentrating…this digital world will run right past before you blink.

http://europe2017.finovate.com/
http://europe2017.finovate.com/

At Finovate 2017 in London last week, I was struck firstly by the intensity of this pace – the leaps that tech has taken over the past year, but also, and more importantly, by the spirit of partnership.

No longer are we in a world where competition is about being the fastest or the smartest, we are living in a world where winning is about bundling those that are faster and smarter than you into meaningful solutions for the business you are in, and the clients that you serve.

In banking it’s too late for us to say “let’s build our own” or “let’s throw money at disruption”; we need to get our heads around connecting fintech dots to build the best solutions for our clients. In biometrics and authentication, the solutions are overwhelming, similarly in app design and integration.  Banking is less and less about paper trails and complicated products and more about integrating whole life solutions with ease of use and integrated platforms. It’s not at all about selling products and more about connecting the right client to the appropriate product they need for the time of their life that they are in – most often aided by a funkily named chatbot.  The world of social media and banking have converged already (yup ship sailed), payments is fast becoming something everyone does …everyone! We can already buy packaged analytics and information about pretty much anything we need.

Banking has morphed from functional practicality to gorgeous design, insightful user experience and lifestyle products that adjust to the needs of its customers. Tricky thing is that much of that “banking” isn’t coming from banks! So what on earth should banks be doing?

Concentrating? Yes. Trying to keep up? No. Collaborating? Absolutely!

Finovate entrepreneurs brought solutions to banking problems we never even knew existed. They challenged views of what banks do and encouraged us all to ask “how can we help you help us help our clients?”  More importantly though, they showed what collaboration brings.  Over and over as the 7 minute spots passed by, it was clear that these entrepeneurs are building on what each other are building.  Each using bits of what others had built, to supersize the solutions they were prototyping.

And that is the way to stay in the race! So as we train for the year ahead, we need to make sure we have the insight to navigate the way forward, the partnerships with fintechs to supersize our banking offerings and the deep relationships with clients to package this stream of incredible ideas in ways that makes them not only satisfied but thrilled with the way they interact with our ecosystem.

by Liesl Bebb Mckay

Our book is yet unwritten

2016 was a year of discovery, of adventure, of breaking boundaries. For many it’s been a year of unparalleled innovation – especially for those of us that live in experimental spaces. We’ve long known that innovation is for the brave – those souls who dare to speak out, the curious ones asking “But who says?”.
As I reflect on bravery or courage or heroism, it dawns on me that bravery in any of its forms is remarkably like crazy – or is this simply a matter of perspective?

2016 was a year of discovery, of adventure, of breaking boundaries.  For many it’s been a year of unparalleled innovation – especially for those of us that live in experimental spaces. We’ve long known that innovation is for the brave – those souls who dare to speak out, the curious ones asking “But who says?”

img_6768As I reflect on bravery or courage or heroism, it dawns on me that bravery in any of its forms is remarkably like crazy – or is this simply a matter of perspective? Much of our lives as innovators requires us to quiet the voices in our heads yelling out “You can’t do that! It’s crazy!”. And it’s exactly this act of changing perspective that allows us to see possibility and create a new future – to disrupt our worlds. It takes a special kind of crazy to question assumptions that are years old, to challenge ideals and concepts that work well enough, to be that person in the room asking “why?”

In Adam Grant’s “Originals” (if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s incredible!), he speaks about “Vuja De” –  the obvious reverse of Déjà vu – the concept of facing something familiar but seeing it with a fresh perspective that enables new insights into old problems.

In today’s world of work, one of the biggest issues we face is creating spaces where people can bring their excellence, where the uniqueness of the individual can be expressed to create winning innovation.  How do we create that winning culture?

For years we’ve followed the rules on how “work” is, a kind of imaginary Encyclopaedia Britannica of how we work. But that imaginary book was written before “we” were working! It was written before many of “us” entered the world of work! Us being women and millennials and innovators and also closet creatives, and evening gardeners and day-time-suit-wearing-iron-men and also… well, most everyone.

Let’s face it, this book was written for a bunch of folk who are now in the minority. And don’t get me wrong, it worked really really well back then, but for “us” in the workplace now, it really does fall short. Many of us feel that our workplaces just don’t enable the way we need to work. So why then are we still using that imaginary book as our core reference guide?

That way of work was perfect for specific workplaces, for a workforce that were all very similar (or were told that they had to be) and for a time that was, well…industrial revolution. We’re in a whole new time, with a whole new workforce, and yet – there is no new book!  We have moved from a world where work was about creating consistency, to a world where work is about embracing each individual’s unique contribution and, if we wish to see that reality, it means we are going to need that bravery to change our worlds of work.

img_6779And it’s right about at this point that I hear Natasha Bedingfield belting out “I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned” and then…a great big ol’ penny drops…it’s time to do some re-writing!

In 2017 I’m keen to see these new chapters take shape.  Let’s take the time to write “the Wikipedia of work” for our future, one that works for us, one that creates space for innovation, for creativity, one that allows every person to thrive, one that isn’t creating a whole workforce of ill-fitting pegs.

We have already rewritten the chapter on dynamic working (literally rewritten), but there are still many chapters that we haven’t even begun to write. We’ve only just started the chapters on what the world of work look could like for single moms? What about the chapters on working dads? Or insomniacs? Or those that live far from their workplaces? Or nocturnals?

And what about the chapter on success? Does it still mean becoming the CEO? Really? What is success if you believe in balancing family and sport and work and creative hobbies? What could that chapter look like?

And what is a career? Is it really a straight-line 20-year plan? What if there was a chapter on changing careers mid-way? Or one on taking a break from your career? Or one on how to come back after a break?

Now is the time for a massive cultural innovation.  It’s the time for new chapters. It’s time for all you brave crazies out there to start recreating, it’s time to get writing. Take it home Natasha… “Live your life with arms wide open, today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten”

by Liesl Bebb-McKay

Bank of the Future: Quo Vadis?

History is littered with examples of derided radical thinkers, revolutionaries and heretics who challenged the status quo. One of the best known examples is the Roman Inquisition’s denial of heliocentricism. The concept of the earth moving around the sun…

WHAT DOES THE STATUS QUO MEAN FOR BANKS?

“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.” – Ronald Reagan

 

status_quo_4_thumbnail
Source: http://gettingsmart.com

History is littered with examples of derided radical thinkers, revolutionaries and heretics who challenged the status quo. One of the best known examples is the Roman Inquisition’s denial of heliocentricism. The concept of the earth moving around the sun contradicted the Roman Catholic Church at a time when the rivalling ideology of Protestantism heightened the need to defend the status quo. Consequently, in 1616, Galileo was instructed by Pope Paul V to abandon his opinion that heliocentricism was a physical truth even though the well-educated of society at the time accepted the heliocentric view as fact.

While the Catholic Church’s confrontation of heliocentricism was rooted in religious dogma, incumbent financial service providers are arguably stymied by systemic and architectural impediments that make shifting the status quo a near impossible undertaking. The existing conditions in banking are defined by siloed structures built around deep functional specialisation, legacy systems embedded in spaghetti architecture, unwieldy cost bases and a product-centric market-orientation.

Source: http://banknxt.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Banks-vs-fintech-will-the-confrontation-continue.jpg

The elements of the status quo described here have a profound influence on our approach to dealing with the future. It is extremely difficult for incumbents to deal with the changes brought about by the proliferation of advances in digital technology that enable Fintech startups to challenge one of the world’s most established, tightly regulated, and mature industries.

The financial services industry is awash with more than 1,300 Fintech startups, across over 54 countries, that have attracted in excess of $80bn in funding since 2010 and they are attacking incumbent business models on the three fronts:

  • Pricing transparency through disintermediation of traditional service providers;
  • Democratisation of products and services previously reserved for exclusive market segments; and
  • Provision of a streamlined, intuitive customer experience that make the traditional service providers look like a shoddy alternative.

While the Fintech disruption has so far been more pronounced in the retail space, it would be naïve not to see this as an omen of a fire that will surely spread to corporate and investment banking.

THE ROADBLOCKS WE ENCOUNTER ALONG THE WAY

“Those things which I am saying now may be obscure, yet they will be made clearer in their proper place.” – Nicolaus Copernicus

 

Source: https://marketoonist.com/2013/03/where-complacent-brands-go.html

As clear as the threat and need to respond may be, the status quo can never be anything other than a feeble and flawed attempt of yesteryear to prepare for our future, fraught with uncertainty.

Our attempts to corporatise innovation and disruption are often informed by aspirations to emulate Silicon Valley. We all want to be more like Amazon, Google, Uber or Airbnb, so we strive to imbue our organisations with the same dynamism, appetite for failure and creative culture we regard as the panacea for deficiencies in our ability to innovate and disrupt.

What we forget is that as noble as our intentions may be, any disruptive play will face the resistance of the status quo in all its varied manifestations. Roadblocks to challenging existing conditions emanate from the vested interests of its custodians, their emotional attachments, outdated heuristics, the fear of lost revenues, cannibalization and obsolesce. These obstacles are not easily overcome.

BREAKING THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE

“The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.” – Bob Iger

 

To be successful in transforming the status quo, you need to begin by planting a seed at the heart of the organisation and nurture it. That seed is recognising the palpable risk implicit with defending the status quo at all costs. This recognition must occur at the highest levels of leadership, the custodians of the status quo who have the power to shape it. It’s well documented that the most common reason for failed initiatives is the lack of executive support. Solve this problem up front, and you have already won half the battle.

A word of caution though, recognising the risk of maintaining the status quo is only part of the solution as it does not address the systemic challenges faced by banks. For an innovation and disruption unit to be truly successful it must, as far as possible, operate within its own governance framework, unconstrained by the parent organisation’s existing circumstances. Furthermore, banks must be prepared to embrace open innovation principles and collaborate with their would-be fintech challengers. The growing trend towards collaboration between fintechs and banks is well noted and is most prominent in the corporate and investment banking domain.

These pieces of the puzzle are far more difficult to solve but are nevertheless the only way banks can break the shackles of the status quo, innovate freely and keep up with the pace of digital disruption determined by their agile couterparrts.

Counterintuitively, running an innovation and disruption unit such as RMB’s Foundery is less risky than sitting back and taking a wait-and-see approach. The Foundery is a bold declaration of RMB’s intent to challenge the status quo, at both an organisational and industry level.

by David Krawitz

5 simple steps to turning ideas into reality

Fintechs — and start-ups in general — are many and varied and, although we are definitely leaps ahead of the banking of the past, we still have work to do in creating sustainable change in the banking ecosystem. Here are 5 simple steps we believe can get you to meaningful banking transformation.

aeroplane-boyFintechs — and start-ups in general — are many and varied and, although we are definitely leaps ahead of the banking of the past, we still have work to do in creating sustainable change in the banking ecosystem. Here are 5 simple steps we believe can get you to meaningful banking transformation.

Before we get into the details, a small spoiler alert is necessary…simple does not mean easy. In many cases, simple means quite the opposite of easy…you need to lose weight? (Don’t we all?) The solution is simple — quit sugar, kill the complex carbs, eat small meals and exercise at least 3-4 times a week — you see it’s simple!

But, we all know it’s not that easy. When that alarm goes off at 5am on a winter’s morning, how easy is it to drag yourself, your internal maniac kicking and screaming, from your delicious, cosy warm cocoon? Or when that 3pm slump hits and the vending machine choccies lure you closer with promises of joy and comfort and everlasting fulfilment, how easy is it to keep the craving at bay? You get the point.

In creating the necessary change for the banking ecosystem, we can apply 5 simple (but not easy) steps:

STEP 1: BELIEVE IN POSSIBILITY

Boy in boxIf you believe that change is an imperative, and if you know that you need to create an impact in the banking space, then believe that you can change your world — and you will. A person who believes deeply is infectious — the stronger your belief, the more infectious your ideas, and the more profound the impact you can make.

Shifts always begin with a great idea and a great passion — if you have the idea or passion, trust that you can make it happen. Note to self: if you could believe in Santa Claus for like 8 years, you can believe in yourself for like 5 minutes…you’ve got this!

We have a massive amount of data in our heads that gets drowned out in the daily hubbub. We don’t need to hire a consultant or an expert to solve the problem for us…“they” or “the head of” or “the consultant” don’t know the answer that you already know — you know your business better than anyone else, you know your client better than anyone else, and you know the dissatisfaction better than anyone else — you just need the time to figure it out.

STEP 2: BUILD A TEAM THAT BELIEVES WITH YOU

There is something magical in the power of a pack. “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” ― Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book.

Once you begin the disruption conversation, you will realise the overwhelming number of others who believe that change is an imperative and who are looking for a place to make a difference.

Influence can be as powerful as the individual, but impact can be exponentially improved as a small team. Disruption in banking requires significant influence and (by definition) uncomfortable change by challenging assumptions. You will need a powerful pack with you in this journey. That may mean partnering differently or with players you have not considered allies in the past.

STEP 3: UNDERSTAND THE DIARY OF DISSATISFACTION

boxing-with-robotInnovation always stems from need. We identify needs most easily when they aren’t met. We need to be better at recording, and then challenging, our daily dissatisfactions.

Very few ideas actually happen in a flash of blinding clarity. All big solutions start with just a hunch. We circle around them for a long time before we finally hit the mark (and most often, a whole group of people hit the mark at the same time) and it’s the bravest who get the glory — think Darwin.

So what dissatisfaction exists in delivering the needs for banking as we define them? And, be brutally honest about what this dissatisfaction is — don’t just pick the easy answer. Opportunity exists when there is a frustration or a barrier to entry. What people want doesn’t change — how they get it does.

STEP 4: FEEDBACK IS YOUR FRIEND

As a leader of change, you really need to know who you are leading. To create sustainable disruption, you need to test your thinking — widely, and repeatedly! Feedback is a powerful tool in honing the product you have and the language that will be appropriate for your organisation. You’ve probably heard the rule of mathematics: if it feels easy, you’re doing it wrong.

In the rest of life, if it feels too difficult you are doing it wrong, especially when it comes to creating change. Each organisation will require its own language and its own solutions. If it feels too difficult, get feedback and tweak the strategy until it begins to feel right for you.

To make an impact, we have to accept that we will fail in some way. So, what are you waiting for? The only way to get to an answer is to experiment. Experimentation in a highly regulated industry sounds pretty frightening – but remember that if the frustration or barrier to entry make delivering the need too difficult — there will be disruption — you are going to have to experiment with how to do that yourself. We are taught from tiny that failure really isn’t a great idea, and in banking even more so, but if you are going to be a really disruptive, you need to create an environment where good and bad ideas are embraced…simple….not easy.

STEP 5: KEEP ON KEEPING ON

Rocket boyThere will be failures and mistakes and difficult conversations, but each of these acts as an opportunity to adjust the strategy and to refocus on the end goal. In these moments, remember the steps: believe in possibility, the pack is bigger than the wolf, get into conversation, seek feedback and just keep on keeping on.

We said at the outset that these steps may not be easy. So, how do you start? It’s a simple case of ready, steady, GO! Just like quitting sugar, if you know your end goal and the reason you need to achieve it, you can access the power within you and then just start. Drag off those warm winter covers, say no to the vending machine and take the first step. The beginning may not be easy, but once you’re on the road it feels pretty great, and the satisfaction as you see the change happen is well worth the effort.

by Liesl Bebb-McKay