Banking Fintech

Digital is a journey, not a destination

Digital is a journey not a destination. Image: Freepik
Written by Gavin Payne

The big challenge we have today is truly grasping this concept of digital evolution, and what it really means for banking as an industry. The problem is, we’re being sold on the symptoms of digital transformation, not the diagnosis. Story by Gavin Payne.

There’s a great slide I love to show when I speak about digital:

Cassette and pen, used in a Gavin Payne story.

Yeah, it’s an amusing way to break the ice at the start of a session. I ask my audience, “Who knows the relationship between these two objects?” I usually get a large show of hands. “Does anyone not know the relationship between these two objects?” I then follow this up with the killer ice breaker: “Does anyone not know what the strange rectangular object is?!”

The point I’m making with this slide is simple. If you know the relationship between the tape cassette and the biro, you are simply too old. Not old in terms of years, but old in terms of digital comprehension. Those of us, including myself, who can remember the joys of salvaging our favorite cassette album with just a mere biro belong to the ‘old guard’, and we have to work extra hard to grasp what’s happening around us in terms of digital and technology.

Today, we loosely bundle a number of evolving technologies, attitudes and customer expectations into this domain we call ‘digital’. It’s a space that’s constantly evolving, and this evolution naturally presents opportunities to develop, disrupt and drive business around superior customer engagement. The big challenge we have is truly grasping this concept of digital evolution and what it really means for banking as an industry.

If we were to have the above conversation a few years ago, it would be quite different.

  • We decide our bank needs a better digital experience for our customers.
  • We talk a lot of buzzwords such as omni-channel, mobile and innovation, perhaps even throw in a ‘big data’ for good measure.
  • We identify some of the global financial leaders we think are great.
  • We identify the gap, and create a plan to close this gap over the next two years or so.
  • We attempt to close the gap, working through procurement, partners, and a few select internal stakeholders to develop the new website, etc.
  • We pat ourselves on the back, tell everyone how great we are, pull up a selection of vanity metrics from Google Analytics that reinforce our existence.
  • Everyone goes back to their day job knowing we won’t have to worry about that digital thing for another four years.

The old way of looking at this ‘digital’ thing was that it’s a destination; it’s something we have to do, a box we need to tick. This simply isn’t the case. This digital thing is no longer a destination; it’s not a gap to close, or a box to tick. Digital is always evolving. It’s a journey. It’s the constant maturity and evolution of your business to support a new age of digitally savvy customers who are expecting (and even demanding) more from your business. There is even a growing sense of entitlement in how they should engage with their new hyper-connected world.

I think it’s a fair assumption that many of these new customers don’t know the relationship between the biro and the tape cassette.

Digital transformation

Probably the most over-abused topic in banking circles is digital transformation. Let me come clean and admit that I have an issue with digital transformation. The semantics are wrong. Transformation suggests we are at a particular point in time, and we will transform into something else.

  • We are Bank 1.0 … and we will transform into Bank 2.0.
  • We will transform into omni-channel.
  • We will transform into a customer-centric organization.

This type of transformation is complete nonsense. Bank 2.0, or Bank 3.0 for that matter, shouldn’t be the goal for your bank. Bank 2.0 isn’t a destination – it’s part of the journey. It should be a milestone, an indication or a symptom of your ongoing digital evolution. Putting it simply, the goal is to evolve. The problem is that we’re being sold on the symptoms of digital transformation, not the diagnosis.

I’ve talked about this in an earlier post, called What is customer centricity?. The goal for Bank 1.0 is to transform into an organization that can play in this new digital space. It’s a transformation into a mechanic that can continue to evolve and mature as a financial digital ecosystem. It’s about self empowerment and execution, and once you get moving in the right direction, you’ll start to develop momentum.

Three key strategies for digital transformation

I’ve worked in the space long enough to recognize three major strategies that banks are applying today to ‘transform’. Let’s see which box you fall into.

 Strategy 1: Bootstrapping

You start off with a basic CMS to manage your website. Your appetite for digital matures as you add an email marketing platform, integrating with your CRM. You plug in Google Analytics or some other platform to track digital activity. Your mobile app is managed by a separate platform/technology. You have no solid way to track attribution or business value from your digital media spend. The banking online environment is locked away in the control of IT, who have periodic updates.

Jenga image, used to illustrate a point about bootstrapping in a Gavin Payne article.This is the traditional and more common approach to the bank digital ecosystem. As your team matures in the digital sense, various new technologies are bootstrapped together. Even though there is a level of integration, it’s still siloed. A clear line can be drawn to match the cost of digital maturity with the cost of technical complexity and ownership of all of these blocks of core functionality.

It’s safe to assume there’s a serious friction between IT (who need to keep the show on the road and protect their realm behind the firewall) and marketing (who have been drinking the #Fintech Kool-Aid and need to become digital marketers as opposed to content monkeys).

 Strategy 2: Omnichannelopia

Yes, this a new buzzword I’ve invented, but there’s substance behind it. Omnichannelopia is a terrible affliction that’s striking at the heart of banks today. In response to the impending #fintech armageddon and a strategy of bootstrapping digital transformation, you go all in.

You want ‘Bob’. (Everyone wants Bob: best online bank). A lack of strong digital leadership has led you to cherry pick from the Gartner magic quadrant. You purchase the best CMS, the best analytics, the best email marketing tool and a ‘Bank 2.0 portal’ to manage behind the login. Probably something for mobile as well. You may have a few serious problems now.

  • You bought into the vision of a great, new digital ecosystem not thinking about maturity or evolution. You’re thinking about digital as a destination, not a journey.
  • You have a lot of technology with overlapping features and you’re not sure what to prioritize.
  • You don’t have the resource or people to get the best out of your new stack, meaning you only end up using about 20% of its potential.
  • While your new stack is the very best, you require specific areas of expertise to drive return on the significant investment you made.
  • You have little or no plan, strategy or budget to mature the bank in a digital sense.
  • Your consultants know all of the above and, lucky for you, have expensive day rates to help you move past the agreed scope of system implementation and integration.

Beware of Omnichannelopia!

 Strategy 3: Experience platforms

Banks that really nail this digital thing are winning with experience platforms (some people use the fancy term UXP). The concept of these platforms is to provide functionality that covers most, if not all of the user engagement across multiple digital touchpoints. These UXPs enable banks to deliver a true customer-centric, omni-channel user experience. They typically provide functionality across website, social, mobile, email, data, attribution, personalization, segmentation and security, and all out of one box. It’s kind of like one platform to rule them all.

These experience platforms primarily concentrate on digital engagement. You won’t be replacing your core banking systems with such a platform. They operate between your middleware and customer in the digital and brand engagement space.

The feature set is rich with these platforms, but the idea is to invest up front and mature into these features. Take analytics as an example: start with basic page analytics, then eventually mature to user engagement analytics, then on to predictive analytics. As your organization matures, you unlock the true value of the platform as you go.


When things are laid out this way, it sounds like the UXP strategy is the way to go. It’s a clear winner. Yet, it’s not that simple. Again, things come back to digital as a destination vs digital as a journey. A misalignment in vision and leadership can lead to problems such as:

  • The bank that isn’t mature in terms of digital will not understand (nor care) about ongoing digital evolution, so the investment in an experience platform doesn’t make sense. It’s an impossible sell to the business, and in most cases they’re not even equipped or resourced to use such a platform if implemented.
  • Maybe you’ve never heard of experience platforms or their potential place in your organization.
  • Perhaps a significant investment has been made in analytics or email marketing in the past 12 months, and a platform that doubles up functionality simply doesn’t make sense.
  • Making digital tangible in terms of the business is a challenge. With no clear attribution or engagement values, the business case is a hard sell up the food chain.
  • Perhaps the procurement process is driven by the IT department. IT in their nature are very project-(destination)-oriented. In my experience, UXP projects tend to be driven by marketing.

Ultimately, it all comes down to how you orchestrate your evolution. Your strategy in terms of technology and platforms must support this, but the critical factor is people, and how their roles, responsibilities and KPIs evolve with your digital journey.

This will also have a direct effect in how we all hire from now on. In this new digital age, our job descriptions will obviously mature as well. And here lies another challenge we must overcome: rules that dictate exactly how, where, and when workers can do their jobs don’t fit this age of ever-changing digital job roles, flexible hours and global markets. Everyone who works in digital, including the unions, must now relate to this.

– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. You can read the original article here.

About the author

Gavin Payne

Gavin Payne is a seasoned executive leader with a track record of success delivering digital transformation in the financial, telco and travel verticals. As a digital evangelist, specialties include the convergence of digital, data, customer experience and technology. He is recognized as a leader in crafting and implementing omni-channel user engagement, with over 16 years' experience building and leading cutting-edge digital and technology efforts.

Leave a Comment