Multipurpose Traverse

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As today’s business challenges span across boundaries within and external so too must leadership. The ever-increasing complexity of today’s world calls for a critical transformation in leadership from managing and protecting boundaries to boundary spanning ( see Never fail to fail, Giving Direction, Dance on the VUCAno) With that it’s business model reflects towards a multipurpose traverse offerings supporting the client’s dynamic behaviors and journeys ( Banking evolution: Service Innovation, Banking Today)

Under the context of digital offering(s) is its simplicity of a single-purpose business model/ offering/ app the wave of the future?

WeChat, or Weixin in Mandarin, is quickly becoming one of the most popular multi-purpose platforms, not just in China, but the world. Released in 2011 by Chinese internet giant Tencent, With nearly 800 million active monthly users, its user base has grown consistently in every single quarter to date. More importantly the point that I would like to focus is it’s actual embodiment of the app.

It’s safe to say that the most ardent of technophiles have at least 100 apps on their smartphone e.g. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, Google Hangouts and Duo for instant messaging. Uber, Lyft, Citymapper, Waze, Tripadvisor, AirBnB and Skyscanner for directions/maps. In addition for gastronomy related: Deliveroo, Just Eat, OpenTable, Zomato, Yelp or Urbanspoon. That’s 19 apps to cover three essential functions. WeChat includes capabilities above and more.

WeChat lets users do everything you’d expect it to – instant messaging, sharing life events and chatting to family members. But its feature list extends far beyond custom emojis and profile pictures. WeChat allows you to arrange a catch-up with a friend, pre-order food from a restaurant, book a taxi to the restaurant, get directions on foot, pay for the meal (or split amongst your friends at the time of payment), check movie times and book tickets, and also purchase other items. All without hitting the home button.

The possibilities for brand-to-consumer engagement on WeChat are almost unparalleled anywhere else in the world, and this is almost entirely due to the way the app manifests itself in as many aspects of daily life as possible. By knowing a person’s current location and when they usually have dinner, all in one app, fast-food brands can hyper-accurately target consumers when they’re most inclined to purchase. And by tapping into the app’s data on payments and money transfers, marketers can get a good idea of when, where, how and why users spend their money, before using this to hyper-accurately target their audience when they’re most likely to buy. With such understanding of a client’s behaviour enables to proactively provide financial wealth services be it from suggesting dynamic relevant payment methods to making recommended investments, wealth management and advisory, etc…

The need for banks to traverse beyond its current boundary is imperative to regain expediency with the new paradigms ( see Digital Tur Tur).

Dance on the VUCAno

The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world which resulted after the end of the Cold War. This applies well to the world we see today where a lot of things evolve in parallel influencing each other. VUCA stands for:

  • Volatility – fast rate of change
  • Uncertainty – as things change fast we seem to live in a world of uncertainty
  • Complexity – small things can develop huge effects, nothing seems linear anymore
  • Ambiguity – things can be interpreted differently, context matters, answers depend

People like stability and simple situations – but in reality is different. The elements of VUCA can be seen as a threat or an opportunity. I prefer the opportunistic view with observable developments within each elements of VUCA

  • Volatility – opportunity for those who can adapt, are agile and have access to resources
  • Uncertainty – opportunity for those who look at the bigger picture
  • Complexity – opportunity for those who can adapt and influence
  • Ambiguity – opportunity for those who live and breath diversity

Here are some thoughts triggered by VUCA

  • Having a vision or a longer term purpose is key to channeling activities towards a common goal. It enables all to make the right decisions at any time (giving direction)
  • Projects or initiatives must be structured as small steps each leading to a stable and beneficial state.
  • Approaches may look promising upfront but may become unattractive or even unpractical when being implemented. It s key to acknowledge, learn and move on (never fail to fail).
  • Try to travel light – adjusting direction and acting quickly does not work when we have lots of baggage.
  • Avoiding technical and business debt becomes instrumental in enabling the ability to renew systems and organizations.
  • Old patterns and theories become stumbling blocks. Be creative and innovative to develop patterns and tools which match the new reality.
  • Best practices are good to learn. They are for a specific situation – yours is different.
  • We live in a world of networks and network effects matter. Its about connections and influence not about hierarchy.
  • If one acts to isolated he loses influence which lacks the stimuli and interactions in order to drive innovation and creativity.
  • Try new things if you expect something new. Be curious and open for surprises – there is always something positive in it which can be used to build on.

In the world of ambiguity it may sound promising to try to keep and defend one’s current strong position. Why try to be creative and innovate? Why not just wait, optimize the current state and buy what turns out to be a success. This does not work well in a networked world. Such strategy typically leads to a limited time success followed by a serious threat.

Banking evolution: Service Innovation

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Not so long ago we introduced banking capabilities (see “Towards a digital barter economy?”). Then came the pursuit of product offerings from basic to highly exotic types. With globalisation and increasing market competitiveness banking institutions must now drive innovativeness in their operation to gain sustainable competitive advantage. We are now in an era of competing, not only with incumbents but new challengers outside the financial sector, on the basis of services rather than on the basis of physical products as it is hard to distinguish between products of competing brands in a given product category. It is the services offered by the banks that manifest true value. Differentiation in services must be based on the need to have a vision (see “Giving Direction“) … and not ‘just’ innovation but with the sense of purpose.

Service innovation involves intangible resources for a more innovative service(s) that challenges the conventional attribute-based view of services delivery designs. This requires going beyond current restrictions of product innovativeness that involves assimilation of improved service processes by means of designing and redesigning service delivery capabilities. The pervasive influence of information and communication technology has revolutionised the means of social interaction which will impact how banks will integrate in the client’s ecosystem.

As services become more important for society and customer’s demand more complex and personalized solutions the need to understand and build up innovative processes is vital. Globalisation, information on demand, and ubiquitous communications are pushing innovative services to become more open, flexible, integrated, complex, multi-actor, and networked-oriented).

There are various models of service innovation:

  • “4Ps model by Bessant and Todd (2011)” – 4Ps represents product innovation, process innovation, position innovation, and paradigm innovation. All four aspects formulated for “innovation space.”
  • “Six Dimensional Service Innovation Model by den Hertog, van der Aa and de Jing (2010)” – this defines services innovation as a new service experience or service solution that consist of one of the following six dimensions: new service concept, new customer interaction, new value system, new revenue model, new delivery system and technological.

Can banks use these models as a baseline to evolve future service innovation models?

Nevertheless we need to work towards sustainability competitive advantage and embracing service innovation as an integral part of the bank’s strategy in order to move continuously towards being customer-centric and services-centric. Although there will still be a wave of financial product innovation based on programmable money we should not be limited to product and/or related process innovations but we must emphasise on business model innovation, market innovation, and most importantly paradigmatic innovations.

FINthinker’s Predictions for 2018

2018 will bring …

2017 was an interesting year where many developments started to get real traction. Just think about blockchain, bitcoin and artificial intellgence.

2018 will be even more interesting and substantially more challenging.  A few predictions for 2018 are as follows:

There will be three core changes for financial services:

All three aspects levitates a shift towards a distributed decentralized financial system. This affects the core and challenges legacy status quo and its existence in the future.

In addition fueled by the increasing tokenization and availability of blockchain based systems there will be a shift towards

  • Mobile Payments
  • Holistic mobile wallets
  • Global Solutions

There will be no other options for incumbents to integrate into the evolving mesh than to provide API’s to access information and services and to start to rely on others to provide crucial information. Self contained and closed financial services companies as well as local solutions will increasingly face headwinds.

  • Open Banking / API’s
  • Global solutions

Last but not least – user interfaces will become much more natural and transparent. The users will be amplified with new sense and access to information supported by intelligent agents.

Regulators will start to come up to speed with the changes. They will find ways to agree with business changes but also ethical standards across borders acknowledging the global nature of digital eco systems. A big challenge will be on the very old tax systems which are not ready yet for the shaping economy.

  • Tax System

These changes are fundamental – there is a ongoing paradigm change where inherent distributed digital approaches start to outperform the automated legacy processes. There are two big dangers out there

Many of the current developments seem to turn time back and bring up systems again which were used in the past but difficult to apply as physical distance was a limiting factor. Digital changes this – the world becomes some sort of a global village. Have a look at Yap, The Island Of Stone Money  – the first productive blockchain system.

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November on FINthinkers

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November 2017 was the first month for the FINthinkers blog. Below is a short summary of what covered so far
Change
Our blog started with Change is inevitable looking at diverse types of change ranging from evolution to revolution. We also touched on Conway’s Law which states that organizations designing systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations. Following Conway’s law companies need to change the organization to create the systems required to stay relevant in the new normal. In Next stop – FinTechGiants ? we look at the available dimensions to outperform others and at the relevant structures which each company has. Many companies seem to apply a Tur Tur strategy to change looking giant from far away but very small if one gets closely.
Client Experience and Brand
Noisy Channel(s) to Channel-less highlights the need to think from the client’s perspective. No client talks about channels but we all like to have seamless and ubiquitous experience to reach the desired outcomes. So brand’s digital behaviour becomes vital when services are transparent in a digitally augmented world.
Security
Homomorphic Encryption started a series of posts on security and related topics.
We hope that the posts inspired you to think about the topics. The nest posts will follow soon … thanks for reading.

 

Importance of a brand’s digital behaviour

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As the digital landscape and mediums expands, the ways people experience and expectation of a brand’s digital behaviour have significant grown higher and become more complex.
Brand is the holistic sum of customers’ experiences, composed of visual, tonal and behavioral brand components, many of which are shaped through interactive mediums. The complexity of the digital landscape introduces the challenges of overcoming digital distrust and must be preserve by fostering digital engagement, showing empathy, and working with transparency and authenticity.
The emotional impact of a brand is the strongest and most reliable assets. A brand must radiate their core emotions on every digital platform at any touchpoint
Constant brand value reassessments by staying relevant requires keeping your digital behaviour up to date. Understand through assessing customer behavior and moving fast and being smart about every decision regardless minor or big.
Digital behaviours differs between generations (Millenials, Gen Xers and Boomers) and a brand needs to clearly understand its customers ( or intended customers) and its value proposition. For example millenials have the highest social networking penetration of any generation and they account for most in consuming digital content through various mediums ( eg digital video)
Change is the new constant is also relevant in the digital behaviours of customers. The dynamic rate of change will significantly increase and the need to monitor and understand the different becomes very important in a time dependent manner.
This introduces the shift from persona profiling to behavioural segmentation. Persona behavioural segmentation focuses lesss on who the individual is and more of his/her distinct actions in regards to the product or service. The need to correlate the emotional aspects become signifcantly important. Knowing whether a particular product or service becomes more relevant due a strong emotional impact. Or are consumers posting emotional responses that shows the receptiveness to a certain brand offering? Does it relate to certain moment(s)?
Persona profiling base on simplistic and static demographic data points are no longer sufficient and are poor predictors of actual persona behavior. The goal should be to get rid of generalised segmentation and replace it with data enabling hyper-personalised products and services offerings in order to maintain the relevance of a brand’s digital behaviour.

Next stop – FinTechGiants ?

Next stop – the collaboration and integration of FinTech and Tech Giants provisioning of classical banking services to their large user base?

FinTech in its broadest definition stands for technologies used and applied in the financial services sector. Progressively, FinTech has started to represent technologies that disrupts traditional financial services. There is a lot of debate about Fintech diminishing typically based on success criteria coming from incumbent companies. Let’s take an unfamiliar perspective and look at companies from a structural context. All companies can only choose to change in limited dimensions when adapting to the environment or when deciding to shape the future. Ultimately it is the users who decide if such changes are successful or even disruptive when they start to massively consume new services or products in preference over others.

Company Structure

Each company has three core dimensions available to implement change:

  • skills
  • organization
  • technology

The first dimension is skill(s) available to the company. The applied skills, not knowledge, are valued and becomes the decisive factor. Knowledge is increasingly easy to access while skills are hard and time consuming to build up. An example, chess – lots of people have an excellent knowledge about chess and its rules but only a few can play it exceptionally well. Gaining expert level skills requires time and practice. Many things will go wrong on the journey to mastership. The ambition and journey to become a master requires passion, persistence and an environment which allows to practice, fail and learn. These are essential to make progress.

The second dimension is the organization a company has composed. It defines how the individuals work together and apply their specific skills as a team. Many will immediately think about titles, positions and careers in a hierarchical structure. Within each organization there is not just one but three structures:

  •  a formal structure of power, required to perform business and ensure regulatory compliance
  •  an informal structure of social networks and communication paths
  •  a value creation structure which solves problems and produces the value for clients

Unfortunately, there is no choice and it exist in every company. The challenge of each company is to balance them in a clever way to create the maximal value for the clients, shareholders, employees and the society. Most companies focus on the formal structure, the hierarchy of power a paradigm left over from the industrial age. Employees compete in the company to make career and gain position power over other employees while the true competition of the company happens at the boundary where the interaction with the environment takes place. The value creation structure, where the income, but more importantly trust and reputation, built up for the company is not well understood.  The highly dynamic informal structure where influence takes place, is often underestimated or even ignored. The company’s culture is a result of the experiences the employees define in these structures.

The third dimension is technology – the available technology was always a decisive factor throughout human history. Now it has become essential, as the technical progress has exponentially increased. Today the need to unlearn outdated practices and learn new ways is challenging the workforce, especially the formal structure. The technology progress demands paradigm changes for things which worked well in the past leads to the opposite effect tomorrow.

The Tech Force

Now let’s revisit the term FinTech. It is an amalgamation of Financial Services and Technology. Financial Services companies have always used technology to improve service efficiency and convenience and will continue to do so. But many incumbents have the problem that they cannot focus on technology as a differentiator. They need to manage a landscape of accumulated technical organizations as they are not used to replacement ng the technology base regularly. The heterogeneous landscape binds a lot of resources and increases complication in an already complex business.  FinTech companies typically look at a few well selected value propositions and then seek for solutions using the best available technology. They may not yet feel competitive from a career and salary perspective, but offer fascinating challenges, the possibility to become a master in modern technology and to have impact in the industry. This makes them attractive for talents creating highly skilled teams and high degree of automation using modern infrastructure enabling an efficient and agile work style.

The is a significant difference between incumbents and Fintech companies in technology- the biggest difference being the organizational dimension.  Large incumbent organizations with a focus on complex formal and hierarchical structures were ideal for large labor-intensive projects which required the coordination and top-down management of big teams. The complicated landscapes forces incumbents towards centralization aiming for scale effects to achieve efficiency gains. But the future is likely to follow the structure of the internet – it is distributed, technology driven and an interconnected mesh of services. Building and running such services can be done by small teams which efficiently combine the skills to reach a shared vision. A network of smaller loosely coupled but interconnected units, each producing a specific value, fits better in such an environment than big, monolithic and complicated organizations. Such a network of self-contained units is also more flexible to adapt to the environment, to deal with complexity and to survive changes where some of its units may lose value and disappear.

Many of today’s highest valued companies – the so-called tech giants – have assumed an organization which leverages the combined power of the formal, informal and value structure by shifting focus to client value creation and offering space to cultivate the informal structure. These companies may lack the skills of financial services companies now – but they can build on a modern technology base, an extremely high degree of automation and a dynamic and empowered organizational culture. These companies also have immediate access to a vast number of users which may become clients of new service offerings.

The argument, that these companies do not want to become banks, is misleading. These companies have their customer in focus and will do what helps them to achieve their goals. They will not become banks in the classical sense but are integrating and offering financial services. When financial services are required by their customers they have or will apply for a banking license and its services are regulated like an incumbent bank. Their core focus is client value reach and each service are integrated and offerings are immediately widely available. The broad valued offerings and usage results in accumulation of valuable data insights which can be directly using to evolve their business – an example considering a platform company running shops and logistics for clients’ companies. It has deep insights and can grant credits in a much leaner and efficient way. It can choose the most promising client companies and leave the others to the wider market. If the client company grows, it benefits participating in the success of the shop and its logistics.

Conclusion

Financial services incumbents will need to perform a significant step change in more than one dimension to adapt to the new normal. A difficult transformation for status quo environments of those who currently have the power and are the ones who fear to lose most. An alternative to consider is the collaboration and integration of FinTech and Tech Giants provisioning of classical banking services to their large user base. Clients may be used to attaining certain services from companies today – but this can change very fast at any moment.

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