5 min read
The biggest problem of all, is not knowing what it is
A banker keen to stay under the radar has written us another insider’s perspective on where problems and their solutions are found in incumbent banks. The Stigcumbent, who you’ll remember from their insight on TSB and Open Banking APIs, has returned.
Read on to discover just where the problems and solutions in every bank live…
Mo’ Problems Mo’ Fun
I am a problem junkie, I crave problems. I drive an old car, mostly because I derive a perverse delight from fixing it when it goes wrong. I’ve worked for large organisations for most of my career, or at least the ‘proper job’ phases of it. For problem junkies, this is the equivalent of being on crack. You are surrounded by problems, constantly swimming in a seemingly limitless sea of them. Initially of course, your exposure is limited to why something doesn’t compile, why it just looped and burnt £23k of CPU straight out of the data centre into IBM's pockets? But slowly, along with your experience of that organisation, the problem landscape matures. Revealing long unsolved challenges far bigger than technology and syntax and seemingly beyond your influence to resolve. So you wait. Everyone else will spot these things eventually, won’t they? When they do they’ll ask for my help and all will be right with the world again. So you wait... And you wait.
Us junkies know that the biggest challenge in solving a problem is understanding what the problem actually is. It is generally accepted that all regulation has unintended consequences. I would argue this is typically a symptom of the causes of a given behaviour we are seeking to influence not being correctly understood. Simply put: we expend huge effort fixing the wrong problem. Banks suffer from this to excess. Professional consultancies surround them, brandishing their pre-prepared solutions desperately seeking a reasonable match, recycled from one client to the next. C-Level staff roll in and out, sometimes assuming that this bank's problems are the same as the last bank's problems throughout their entire tenure, without lifting their heads enough to spot the differences. Those with an inkling that someone isn’t telling them everything will set up Q&A webcasts, breakfast with the CTO, Town Halls and the like. However, instead of discovering the hotphone to problem central they are instead informed that: the London weighting isn’t being increased in line with inflation, the staff canteen has stopped serving curry on Thursdays, and Karl in networks didn't let anyone leave early on Christmas Eve last year. These are not the problems you are looking for.
Know the Problem Inside and Out
Something us junkies learn early on is that in order to fix something when it is broken, you first need to learn how it works when it isn’t. By doing this, you not only find out what solution is required to restore it to its pre-broken state, but also discover ways of making it work better. You find tweaks, some small, some large. The message for banks is: do not trust those who would sell you a solution without first taking the time to understand what the problem is. They are not solving your problems, they are solving theirs. Somewhere within your organisation today are people sitting quietly on all the information you need. The insights gleaned over decades, the human scratch-cards which once revealed could win that big problem solving lottery. Go find them. - StigCumbent