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Want Your Bank To Be a Tech Firm? Be Careful What You Wish For

Want Your Bank To Be a Tech Firm? Be Careful What You Wish For

The radio-alarm came on and I had to force myself not wake Mrs B with a string of F-bombs.

Why? Because I was listening to how yet another bank wants to be a tech company.

DNB are not alone. Execs at Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan and Goldman have all recently declared their banks to be or aspire to be tech companies.

Having been in tech in banking for 20+ years, you’d think I’d be singing hallelujah. At last. The dinosaurs finally get it.

Surely I should be overjoyed when Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan speaks of the bank “becoming an applied technology company” and how “Every discussion we now have within the group is about technology: compliance is about technology, audit about technology.”

Tech folk finally getting the recognition we deserve. Yay!

For so long, alternately, ignored when the ‘machines’ worked and yelled at when they didn’t.

Surely tech heads everywhere should be cheering their formerly Luddite masters to the rafters. For finally getting it.

For finally understanding that … it’s all about the tech. That business can’t do a thing without the tech. Utterly dependent.

After all, tech is the key to cutting costs.

Tech is what makes it possible to invent new products and services our customers didn’t even know they needed.

Tech is what allows us to widen choice for customers and bring liquidity to the markets.

Praise be to the Lord.

Tech. Tech. Tech. It’s all about the tech.

Except, it isn’t.

You see, there’s a reason I got so worked-up when I heard DNB proudly declare itself a tech firm.

My exact thought was: No. Fuck off. You’re about the customer, or you’re about to become fucking irrelevant.

At best, focussing on the tech will mean you become a so-called dumb pipe.

You will become disconnected from, and out of step with the customer. Scraping a living, hawking your super-efficient, tech-enabled commodity services. Chasing disappearing margins, as you race to the bottom.

Meanwhile, real ‘tech’ firms gobble-up all the value as they continue to build their direct relationships with the customer. As they continue to ‘get’ what the customer really wants and give it to them in spades. Wrapped-up in a seamless customer experience, and underpinned by innovative business models.

But what about the tech? I hear you cry.

Well, the real ‘tech’ firms understand that the tech is a means to an end. Not the end in itself.

Yes, real ‘tech’ firms employ the best tech staff to deploy the best tech. But the focus is relentlessly where it should be. On the customer.

I switched-off the radio, snuggled back under the duvet and thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t a bank CEO.