FOMU is real for banks and credit unions. That’s not a typo. FOMO is the fear of missing out. You might be feeling that too. FOMU is fear of messing up. But unfortunately, when it comes to digital innovation in banking, I believe it’s holding us back.
We need to look at our fintech friends for inspiration and change how we do business. If we don’t, it’s possible we won’t recognize banking a few years from now. And worse- for the first time in the history of financial services, banks and credit unions won’t have been the driving force behind what banking is or can be.
Are you familiar with the way many fintech teams approach creating and launching a product or service? Being a banker, I’m not a complete expert, but this is how I see their process:
Have a great idea. Brainstorm. Create a minimum viable product. Launch that version to a select user group. Get intense feedback from these users. Iterate. Get more feedback from users. Iterate. Expand user group. Get more feedback from users. Iterate. And so on into infinity.
Do you know why? Fintechs don’t define success as a static, perfect state. That’s exactly what they don’t want. Instead, they work in tandem with the people using the product/service to continually build something that will evolve and adapt. Success is a moving target. There is no such thing as perfect. There is only an ongoing dance between creator and user to be in sync exactly where they are at each moment. There is no ultimate moment to be celebrated. The celebration is in the dance, the evolution.
If you are in banking and are exclaiming- “Hey, that’s how we do it too.” Then count yourself lucky and relish your high I.Q. (Innovation Quotient). My experience for most product or service launches in the industry has been more like this:
First- make sure we have this project in the budget. Consult Compliance and Enterprise Risk to ensure we can even be thinking about doing something like this in the first place. Select executive sponsors and spend a few weeks forming a working group project committee with as many departments throughout the bank/credit union as possible. Overcome a significant hurdle by finding a regular time on everyone’s calendar to meet for the project. Work with executive teams and working groups to define and confirm success metrics for the project and launch. Methodically- conduct research, meet with vendors, break into smaller working groups with SMEs, conduct more research, ask more questions, get more answers. Continue to consult Compliance. Reconfirm this is still in the budget. Pause when something else becomes the fire in the building. (This could take months until the project gets greenlit again.) Regroup with all groups and teams to get back on track and reconfirm the project’s scope. Continue to research, analyze, draft, model. After developing what feels like almost a perfect maximum viable product/service/process and a robust launch plan. . . continue to test, evaluate, revamp, tweak, test some more. Get final approval from all leadership, Compliance, and SMEs. Prepare for launch. Launch. Hope the customers love it! Of course, we will be evaluating all kinds of key indicator data points that we think will truly show us the feedback from their use and engagement. And then on to the next project.
And yes- I’m aware that many of these project steps align with agile methodologies. Except- it is only truly agile if this can all be executed quickly. Taking a year or longer to launch something new doesn’t count. And it won’t let us remain competitive when some fintech startups can spool up a minimum viable product within weeks and be far down the road to maximum innovation and evolution with users within a few months.
Is this viewpoint harsh? Maybe. Finotta generously offered us a space here in ‘Banker Confidential’ where we could be brutally honest and have a conversation. This is a chance to talk about how we feel, what we think, and share what’s on our hearts. I don’t know about you, but I love this industry. So let me say that one more time for emphasis- I love banks and credit unions- how we love people and want to help them live better lives. I don’t love how far we are falling behind in doing just that.
I really don’t like that. I think it’s because we are afraid. Afraid of regulation, afraid of cost versus reward, afraid that if we don’t do it how we have always done it- it won’t work. Most of all - afraid of changing the ways we define success and overcome our fear of messing up.
Am I suggesting we become just like a fintech? No. I think we have a chance to infuse the best of what we do by adopting some of what they do best. 1) Be more willing to start with a minimum viable product and 2) Iterate. 3) Embrace and celebrate creativity and design thinking. 4) Change the way we dance- work closely with those we serve to build and provide what they need when they need it and how they want it to be. 5) Define success by the capacity and ability to gain live-time feedback and our ability to quickly evolve.