Before I start, a word of warning: if you don’t work in financial services, or a for a company with financial services clients, you don’t want to read this book. In fact you probably don’t even want to read this review. So if you keep reading after this paragraph, and find yourself getting bored, you only have yourself to blame.
OK, so that’s that out of the way. And if you’re still with me, here’s the review…
Bank 2.0 is about how the banking industry has failed to adjust to the modern world. This statement may seem bold and even a little unfair, but it’s true.
People today have become accustomed to an unprecedented degree of choice over the way they interact with businesses, institutions and with one another. It’s no longer enough to say that people do business online – people do all sorts of stuff on an ever greater number of devices, platforms, tools and services. And it’s no longer enough for a company to simply have an online presence. They need to be where their customers are, whether it’s offering service via a specific device or being able to communicate through a specific social network. And to do this effectively, of course, they need to understand their customers.
Banks, for the most part, have yet to embrace the realities of how people interact and manage information online. This isn’t down to a lack of resources – despite the calamity of the late 2000′s, most banks are turning a healthy profit – and it isn’t down to a lack of technical savvy either. Instead, the biggest problem banks have is an insular corporate culture that either doesn’t understand or explicitly rejects what it is told about how its customers think and behave.
This is Bank 2.0′s central argument and it’s one that Brett King, who has extensive experience in financial services, is well qualified to advance. The book is aimed at the right audience too, being addressed mainly to bankers and industry insiders rather than digital strategy / UXers / geeks like myself who don’t need to be convinced about all this. It’s all too easy to characterise people within the banking industry as reactionary and hostile to change, but the truth is that there are very few people who can tell them what they need to hear in a language they can understand. Brett King is one of those people.
The book contains a fair amount of case studies, mainly dealing with HSBC Asia Pacific, as well as well-researched statistics and reports that back up the author’s key points. But the book goes further than just setting out the problems banks face and King provides a fairly detailed and actionable vision of how they should be tackled. This vision includes proposals for reorganising IT departments, the creation of new divisions solely dealing with customer dynamics, a high-level user-centred-design approach, and a fairly damning prognosis for the future of traditional marketing teams within banks.
Speaking as someone who’s sat through more than a few Powerpoint presentations on this topic, it’s good to see a writer going beyond the facile slogans (“put the customer first”) that are too often mistaken for thought leadership. And the future-gazing part of the book (which has become an obligatory chapter of any book touching on tech these days) is mercifully short despite going into somewhat out-there territory – maybe I’m the reactionary here, but I suspect it might be too early to start considering what quantum computing might mean for banks.
For all its plus points I have to admit that I was still glad when I finished Bank 2.0. Because it’s written for bankers, and it’s admirably light on fluff, reading it made me feel like I was at work and it wasn’t easy to get into the swing of reading it during evenings and weekends. If you work in or around this industry you should ask your company to let you read it in the office and count it as training time, because this is a pretty useful book for anyone whose job involves advocating digital & design thinking to big banks.