Banking Fintech Insurtech

The excuses banks use to avoid change

Adapting to change can be a tough prospect for some. Photo: Joshua Earle (Unsplash)
Written by Shaun Weston

Shaun Weston suggests taking traditional banks by the hand when it comes to helping them embrace change and avoid being usurped by upstart startups.

I write about fintech, and before this I wrote about food and drink. Prior to this, I wrote about technology and software. I like to think I can adapt to my surroundings and bring something to a business’ personality that wasn’t there before, and I enjoy working with people I can learn from and who are also adaptable to change.

When you apply this introspective thinking to a company, the words we use can be different, but the energy behind them is similar. Being adaptable as a business is what keeps us in the game, and existing alongside your peers and competitors is what keeps us sharp and interested (and interesting).

As banks around the world are quickly realizing, it takes an adaptive approach to avoid being ‘disrupted’ by a young, exciting, confident startup that wants to infiltrate the food chain. The bigger you are, the harder you fall, unless you have the right outlook and can see quite clearly what the future holds. JP Nicols wrote on BankNXT about innovation and leadership, illustrating the differences between traditionalists and trailblazers. Of course, he concludes with the common sense that is a fine balance between the two:

The most innovative organizations in the world leverage the strengths and weaknesses of traditionalists and trailblazers, blending the necessary risk-taking with the equally necessary risk management; balancing experimentation with execution.

Yet, what if we don’t have the vision to see what’s around the corner, or we’re not so quick to adapt to change (or think we need change at all)? Let’s expand on Nicols’ assessment of what a traditionalist is, which he describes as someone who strives for ‘stability, security and predictability’.

Is change your enemy?

Institutionalized isn’t the right word, but it comes close to describing what I believe is the model of a change-resistant employer or employee. They have worked at a company too long, or have become so ingrained in the workings of a specific industry, their opinions have hardened like salty arteries. They are probably very good at their job, so long as the job doesn’t change much, and as long as someone much younger doesn’t come along and try to show them a different way of doing things. Now apply this personal perspective to a bank or other financial institution. Can you think of one?

Some traditional banks will fight change tooth and nail, while others may possess that self-reflective personality enough to know that change needs to happen, even if they don’t know how or when. This is when, instead of simply acknowledging the traditionalist in the office as an old bore, we strive to help them adapt, because sometimes the old bore could teach a fintech startup (or upstart) a thing or two about how new strategies might affect the business. They can be a great asset.

Think of that bank you have in your head right now. Perhaps they don’t deserve to be left behind in the dust of progress. Perhaps they just need someone to show them the way.

Main photo: Joshua Earle

About the author

Shaun Weston

Shaun Weston is Senior Editor of BankNXT and Backbase, and a creative content provider specialising in digital projects, marketing and social media. He has worked with businesses that focus on editorial strategy for online or print, consumer or B2B, and his work includes The Economist, SAS, Oracle, Future Publishing, and Backbase.

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