1. As the CTO of a global bank, one of the biggest challenges you are facing?
We are operating in an era where technology is transforming the world around us at an incredible pace. As an organisation not born in this digital era, we have to transition our people, processes, and technology into this era while at the same time running and growing our business of today. Whilst an incredibly exciting task to take on – it does come with both challenges and opportunities.
2. Challenger banks – friend or foe?
Initially many saw challenger banks as precisely that – a “challenger”. At Investec, we’ve never really held that view. Our Digital & Technology strategy has always incorporated a requirement to partner with the best out there to accelerate innovation for Investec and our clients. As most digitally native firms across all industries have shown – challenger banks focused on creating a frictionless experience and designing their products and services from the outside in. I am a firm believer that good competition does help us all, as it raises the bar and the end result to the wider market is ultimately a better service – you can see that change in incumbents, there is now an absolute customer obsession, and a transformation in how we think about building products and designing experiences.
3. What can challengers learn from the incumbents?
Of course it is important to note the lessons go both ways – but I suppose there is something to be said about the tenure of the incumbents. There is after all no compression algorithm for experience. Most incumbents have had the benefit of learning from many years of failures, missteps and various financial crisis. It might not be the worst thing in the world to bolster a challenger banks’ leadership team with some of this experience. Challengers are continuing to grow, which is great for the industry, and at this growth rate, those who win will become digital giants – their business models will adapt, and they will start to “look and feel” like the incumbents of today.
4. Open Banking – a slow burn or a false dawn?
I’m an absolute believer in the transformative impact open banking will have. I’ve always seen it as a way to create new services and competition for consumers and companies. It was never going to deliver that change overnight. When you’re in financial services the primary thing all firms understand is you are looking after other people’s money. So it’s not the most experimental industry, and often waits for the early adoption to happen and die down, and the second wave tends to be when momentum comes for change. Open Banking requires a level of comfort around the security, flow and storage of data – this will come, and I think with it new services in our industry we probably didn’t even know we needed.
5. An area of finance yet to be cracked?
Digital or distributed ledger based currencies. It continues to flatter, but I’ve not seen the killer implementation yet. And please could someone give us a centralised identity service to make onboarding, KYC and AML easier for the majority of clients!
6. Isn’t it just a matter of time before big tech get into banking?
They already are – Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook all have started with getting into the value stream needed to keep the world running – payments. This will provide the data they need to understand how to design the propositions that align to their corporate ambitions.
7. With a war on talent, how do you recruit tech experts into banking?
With great difficulty! There is such a shortage of technology skills in most countries. And there is a ton of literature out there where you can see the estimated GDP loss to countries because of this shortage in skills. At Investec, our approach has been to emphasise the differentiator we believe we have which is our culture and the way we work. In the UK we are also uniquely positioned as a multinational firm that’s big enough to be relevant, and small enough to be agile and responsive. We do focus on talent acquisition from early careers with graduate schemes, and apprentices all the way to our most experienced hires.
8. Covid-19 – what changes are here to stay?
It certainly has proven to be the catalyst for digital transformation in a way no one had ever expected. The hybrid and flexible approach to working is an easy one to bet on. I think we will with definitely have a shift in the concept of an “office”, where people will sometimes go to “an office” and not to “the office”.