EBADay: Keep your friends close but your enemies closer

Themes were risk, and, though it irks to repeat: collaboration and investment.

Risk managers are risk averse and the leadership in banks is too slow to move and react. Banks need to let go of the hope of a business case for faster payments- there isn’t one- the drive will be to hold on to customers. Marcus Treacher, global head of innovation for payments and cash management at HSBC said the attitude to adopt to make any progress is a “fail fast approach”.

In order to act fast we should plump for the goal of good enough, quick enough. So went the advice of Paul Thomalla from ACI Worldwide. Time is of the essence and time needs to be the number one priority. That is how to get things done after all. Get it to as good a point as possible as quickly as possible and then go live or whatever you do and if it fails and you have to re-adjust you’ll still be further along than if you were meticulously planning out each stage and trying to predict the future before you even know what the live complications might be. As Marion King, group director of payments at RBS said, banks have to experiment then just plump for what they think will win out. Yes, there is a fair amount of risk in this but that is just the way it is.

It’s only through experimenting properly that unexpected use cases come about. And consumers can contribute unexpectedly to what works and doesn’t.

That is perhaps the real meaning of real time. The definition of real time was asked repeatedly- is it two seconds or two hours? If that were the only question I think we’d be in a pretty good place on the faster payments front. Unfortunately we aren’t anywhere near being in the luxurious position of fine-tuning to that detail. We need to get systems not only in planning but in live development. I say we, I mean as a global banking unit. The UK has benefited from faster payments since 2008.

Will it mean that people’s jobs will be on the line should they indeed fail fast, which is likely to the point of inevitable? That’s the attitude that needs to change then, a crippling attitude likely held by people who didn’t see half the technological advancement in the first thirty years of their career as has happened in even the last five.

Inventors were quoted left, right and centre: Bell (twice), Edison (twice), the Wright brothers, as well as ground breakers from Apple to Einstein. The message? Innovators are getting on with it in about as real time as it gets. They’re developing rapidly and fearlessly, shaping the future and are to be ignored at your peril. So much so that even PayPal is now deemed one big legacy system. Such is the pace of change. The definition of instant? When, before you know it, it’s swum up and bitten you on the ass (Jaws, 1979). Get them on board, talk with them. The old “if they’re not big enough they’re not good enough” line is too tight a rope to walk these days. Keep your enemy close and all that.

Buildings and architecture were mentioned a number of times. HSBC’s Paul Nixon said banks have built up strong, functional, utilitarian buildings and new players are coming along and building a chrome/glass penthouse on top, and throwing a party that banks are not invited to. Paypal admitted they were all very much enjoying the party and the data banks are supplying is fantastic.

There are still plenty of positives:

  • The beauty of SEPA is that there is a nice set of rails in place.
  • The slog of SEPA is (more or less) finally behind us
  • Banks’ IT spend is back to normal at last. To quote Gareth Lodge, senior analyst at Celent and chair of Day 2’s first session, “last year was the first year post crisis that IT spend was at normal levels. The tap on spending has resumed.”
  • It’s not too late (yet)