Transformation is a hot topic and we like to speak to the people who are at forefront, helping businesses keep up with the fast pace of innovation today.
Meet Scott Bales, an international thought leader, innovator and best selling author. When I was doing the speaking circuit some years ago, I met Scott in Singapore, where we were both advocates of technology driving efficiencies, the customer being core to any change and touting a mobile-first approach, even way back then. Scott is now Manager Director at Innovation Labs Asia, an agency, guiding companies and their leaders, through digital transformation. I thought it was time to check in to see how his thoughts had evolved over the years, and find out what he thought about the future of blockchain and digital transformation today.
“The biggest thing I have learnt throughout my career is that we need to start with the customer rather than the technology. If we want to innovate we can’t just decide to “do Blockchain” we need to talk to our customers, find out what their needs are and then innovate to meet their needs.”
A little about Scott.
My career has been in banking and finance and I have more than ten years of international experience in innovation and digital transformation strategy. I have worked in Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Australia and spoken in more than 50 countries. I have also founded a number of companies and written a best selling book “Mobile Ready” and my latest book “Innovation Wars” will be released in 2019.
Tell us about Innovation Labs
Innovation Labs Asia is a boutique Innovation Consulting Agency, we work with large and small organisations helping them navigate their digital transformation, providing thought leadership content and marketing services as well as innovation workshops and consulting. We have worked with organisations such as Google, DBS, Amazon, Visa and Accenture.
What are your thoughts on the next 6 months in the finance space?
2018 has been exciting, we’ve seen a number of regulators open the door on alternative license frameworks that would unpin the next generation of banks. In Hong Kong we understand there has been up to five applicants for the new virtual bank framework. Standard Chartered has announced their interest, but I also expect HSBC, Tencent, Ant Financial, and DBS to seriously consider the new model. We are seeing similar moves in Australia, the US and more. In 2018 we stand at the start of a bright year ahead.
What businesses are doing things differently?
A key indicator of different approaches will be the organisations that leverage the full power of the public cloud providers. Given the market outlook, any bank that just applies a new skin to their existing core will struggle when they come up against the scale, agility, and service offerings embedded in the public cloud service providers. Everything from AI driven on-boarding, to insights engines, dynamic risk scoring and the development of regional utilities for non-competitive functions will make a vital part of the virtual banks and fintech that thrive in the coming years.
What are the core areas businesses mainly need support in?
While all the technology they need is already available, most stumble through mindset and cultural issues. Far too many see digital transformation through the eyes of a pessimist, hence why I spend a huge amount of time with clients to boost confidence, optimism and a strategic mindset that can endure the change. For many, this just means helping key aspirational executives to re-invent themselves as leaders for the digital age.
What about blockchain and financial services?
When it comes to new technology I like to coach individuals and organisation on a practical adoption approach. For Blockchain this means looking at it as a trust-less distributed ledger. The word trustless is a tough challenge for an industry that’s spent a century not trusting other parties, only their own verified information, so first we need to get trustless accepted. Next, the distributed ledger is extremely powerful but at the same time seen as a threat to the incumbent powers who control the ledgers. Whether its value, medical records, deeds, contracts, or anything else, we still have a long way to go in accepting the approach. I’ve been working with some exciting executives as they start to learn and embrace its power. But one thing is for certain, Blockchain will change financial services forever, it just a matter of who will gain from the transition.
What are your thoughts on governance?
Government engagement is vital, as they represent the desire of their population. While currently digital immigrants (those who had an analog childhood and digital adulthood) control the majority of voters in most countries, we will witness a quick transition as we approach 2023, when digital natives approach a democratic significance in most G20 countries. This means their issues become the issues of a nation, and can influence public policy.
Second, government engagement means assisting the typically conservative nature of government bodies prepare for change. Governments like Singapore have actively been working on educating themselves and investing in talent attraction to accelerate Singapore’s position as a global fintech hub.
What would you like to see happen in the space?
A key lever in the industry is still the analyst community, they essentially set investment expectations. To date, too many of the analyst community haven’t developed the skills to ask fundamental questions of financial institutions, questions that are key to the motivation of boards and leadership groups to support change. I’m already working with key research and investment firms, with the hope of accelerating their knowledge base and understanding on how technology decision, or in-decision is linked to the investment outlook of an industry or institution.
The transformation of the financial services sector started a decade ago, where many organisations learnt from emerging markets with new approaches to business models, technology and regulation. I was lucky enough to be working in emerging markets as early as 2007, which is where I had a unique opportunity to look at the market differently. Boards and senior executives need that new perspective to guide their transition. Some will embrace it, while it’s likely up to 50% will continue on their current path to decline.
Thanks Scott, let’s hope more and more embrace it. We look forward to the benefits blockchain will/can bring!