The Cynical Bankers’ Trick: Show Me the Money

The Cynical Bankers’ Trick: Show Me the Money

Chris Skinner

Chairman at The Financial Services Club

Views 420

The Cynical Bankers’ Trick: Show Me the Money

19.10.2016 09:00 am

I’ve spent decades preaching transformation and the easiest way to shut me up is ask: Where’s the business case? This is the question normally asked by the mealy-mouthed cynical financial controlling banker in the audience …


They want the spreadsheet showing the cost-benefit analysis and return on investment figures.  The problem is that, as anyone dealing with innovation will tell you, there isn’t one.1  Uber, now valued at $70 billion, would have started out saying they were going to get some of the multibillion dollar personal transportation market.  The cynical banker would say: how much?  Show me the analysis?  Where are the stats?  Can you guarantee them?

Of course you can’t!!!!  That’s why most innovation comes from Venture Capital and Private Equity funds.  Venture Capital is exactly that: investing in adventures.  An adventure is unknown.  It’s a little like going back to great explorers like Captain Cook, Daniel Boone or Edmund Hillary.  They would all enter the halls of money (or Royalty in the case of James Cook) and say they were going on a great adventure.  They don’t know where they’re going, for how long or how far away, but they know they will come back having conquered the unconquerable, discovered the undiscovered and made a mark in history.

In some ways that’s what the transformation opportunity is all about: an adventure into the unknown.  The thing is, what banker in their sane mind would take an adventure into the unknown.  Bankers like to deal with known knowns and avoid known unknowns.  In fact, they like to avoid anything unknown.

Q: What’s the likely impact on our customers if we transform to digital?

A: They’ll like it.

Q: That’s not good enough.  How many will like it?

A: Lots of them.

Q: But exactly how many?

A: More than those who leave us if we don’t do this.

Q: How many will leave us?

A: Loads.

Q: Give me a number.

A: Well, I can’t today but it’s obvious that they’ll leave us because the competition is going digital.

Q: Which competition?

A: That new start-up Astro Bank.

Q: Astro what?

A: Astro Bank.

Q: Who are they?

A: A new digital start-up that is targeting to steal all of our customers.

Q: Have they actually stolen any?

A: Not yet …

Q: Ah, go away.

A: … but they will.

You see the issue.  We have those convinced that things will change and transform, and those who don’t believe it.  In fact, without a business case, there’s only one other way in which a bank executive who is cynical would work on transforming the bank, and that’s a burning platform.



A burning platform is one that shows the bank will implode and die if they don’t change.  There’s certainly enough people claiming this could happen, but is anyone in the C-suite getting that message … yes, some do.


(still doesn’t mean that they know what to do about it)

Latest blogs


How Technology Has Disrupted the Used Car Buying Experience

We’ve seen many fields change rapidly as a result of the integration of modern technological advancements over the last couple of decades. And it looks like more is coming on the horizon as well, judging by current trends. One of the markets that Read more »

Shuvo G. Roy Mphasis

Reboot 1.0: How financial services technology can enable the supply chain to support a post-lockdown boom

Ground control and Captain Tom When veteran Captain Tom Moore decided to walk one hundred laps of his garden before his 100th birthday to raise funds to support NHS heroes battling Covid-19 from the frontline, he never imagined that he would Read more »

Lisa Gutu Salt Edge

Building a PSD2 compliant channel: challenges and opportunities for financial institutions

PSD2 obliges ASPSPs including banks, e-wallets, prepaid cards and other companies that offer payment accounts to provide at least one channel for secure communication with third party providers (TPP). Even neobanks or e-money institutions, including Read more »

Thomas Pintelon Capilever

Credit origination - A lot of innovation on the horizon

While consumer credits are becoming more automated and user-friendly to request, all other credits are often still very manual and labor intensive to originate. In this (relatively long) blog I will try to give a description of the (potentially Read more »

Kelly Kearsley

Time Card Theft is a Big Problem. Here's How to Stop It.

Trust is at the core of every employer-employee relationship. You trust your people to do their jobs, and they trust you to compensate them for their work. Most of the time, it works. However, there's always the person looking to bend the rules or Read more »

Free Newsletter Sign-up
+44 (0) 208 819 32 53 +44 (0) 173 261 71 47
Download Our Mobile App
Financial It Youtube channel