20210321 – An inadvertent blog

Across the world, in almost every country that this newsletter reaches, there is either another wave of the Coronavirus pandemic or some natural disaster.

So it’s a reasonably fair bet that, in some way, something is having a negative impact on you.

This is manifesting itself in all manner of strange ways as people within companies seem to be making decisions based on trending hashtags rather than genuine commercial decisions, with the risk that conclusions will alienate existing customers and/ or be short-lived. One of the things I have noticed is the speed with which a new fad spreads – and that is slow compared to the speed with which variations in language are spreading. The pace of superficial change that can have significant consequences is worrying (not, note “concerning” which is one of the rapidly adopted variations and it’s terrible English).

There seems to be very little detailed study before changes are implemented: “fail fast” is not a culture that financial services businesses can afford to adopt in relation to financial crime risk and compliance – and yet regulators appear to be encouraging that with a push, by people who often have little real world experience of the things they are regulating, to adopt unproven technology at breakneck speed.

So, please stand back and take stock before implementing changes that can have serious consequences. Don’t let tech evangelists push your company into adopting what amount to beta-test programs. Remember that large consultancies trying to sell you integration services are struggling to find contracts: you must be careful that you are being sold what you need rather than what they need to sell.

I say that from the point of view of a technophile. But I’m an old technophile: I don’t believe what it says on the packaging just because it claims to be “new.” The truth is that there really is almost nothing that is new, only that which is a development of what we had in the 1980s and 1990s. So the cautionary lesson is to set what you are being told against what you already know. And if you don’t already know, go and find someone who worked in your IT department 20 odd years ago and find his (or her but that’s statistically unlikely) opinion of what you are now being told will be your saviour.

Learn to push back when sales people are pushing you. Ask every question you can think of and refuse to move on until you get an answer that satisfies you. But also listen because we need tech and we need to improve the way we use it. Tech will, in many ways, protect the financial sector provided that it’s set up properly. As we know, all too often, the people who design the algorithms and even the basic switches often understand their product but not the customer’s business. That’s the central message I have for you: look at the tech from the perspective of your business, not look at your business from the perspective of the tech.