Are Banks Software Companies?

This post is slightly wan­der­ing on pur­pose. It’s a slew of related thoughts, tying together a lot of unre­lated observations.

The CEO of a large bank recently told my CEO that he viewed his bank as a “tech­nol­ogy com­pany with a bank­ing license.”

Hearsay, for sure. But rea­son­able to assume he’s not the only one think­ing this way. In fact, no assump­tion necessary:

We can rea­son­ably ques­tion whether a lot of these star­tups are soft­ware com­pa­nies with finan­cial prod­ucts, or finan­cial com­pa­nies that deliver soft­ware prod­ucts. Here’s a short list of the ones I think about all the time; the full list is long and grow­ing:

If they’re finan­cial com­pa­nies using soft­ware to deliver prod­ucts… well, then Ebay owns a finan­cial com­pany in Pay­pal. But, if they’re soft­ware com­pa­nies first… then BBVA just bought a soft­ware com­pany.

Why does it mat­ter? [Read more…]

A Business Case for Building a Software Innovation Platform

Obama healthcare fails because of failed software innovation

Agility. Cloud. Mobile. BYOD. Agile. DevOps.

Empty buzz­words. When it comes to com­mu­ni­cat­ing how tech­nol­ogy can enable busi­ness inno­va­tion, it’s dif­fi­cult to cre­ate a talk-track that brings it home. It’s hard to have a con­ver­sa­tion that takes it from buzz­word to mean­ing­ful & action­able plan in any­thing shorter than a the­sis. Per­son­ally, I make these con­nec­tions, I com­mu­ni­cate value, though metaphor or cul­tur­ally rel­e­vant observations.

This post is the lat­ter. It’s also a way to frame how crit­i­cal soft­ware is to business/policy inno­va­tion and why we’re so far away from cap­tur­ing soft­ware inno­va­tion en-masse.

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

In our case, it’s more like busi­ness peo­ple are from Earth, and tech­nol­ogy peo­ple are from Orion. As I thought through the impor­tance of cap­tur­ing inno­va­tion it became clear to me that the prob­lem is not about tech­nol­ogy, at least not at the high­est level of think­ing. The prob­lem is how peo­ple mak­ing deci­sions com­mu­ni­cate (with each other).

Busi­nesses that are agile & will­ing to embrace cloud infra­struc­ture will have an advan­tage over ones that don’t.


We’re all aware of the top tech­ni­cal trends and the top finan­cial trends1 . The trick is, how do we inter­pret these trends in con­text? How do we make the tech­ni­cal trends com­pre­hen­si­ble to the busi­ness peo­ple? How do we make busi­ness trends rel­e­vant to the tech­ni­cal staff or soft­ware devel­op­ers? How do we do this in a way that helps every­one do a bet­ter job?

My favorite exam­ple is the obser­va­tion by most non-technical peo­ple — why does it take IT so long to deliver some­thing, when apps on my phone get updated so much faster?

One of my favorite quotes on this comes from a bug AT&T has with it’s voice­mail on the iPhone:

iOS 7 came out almost four months ago. Four. Months. Com­plaints have been con­stant since then. What pos­si­ble excuse could they have for not push­ing out an update already?


It’s not about explain­ing what mobile is. It’s not about explain­ing what cloud is. It’s about explain­ing what mat­ters to the person.

Why does it take so long to deliver, and more impor­tantly, what can we do about it? [Read more…]

  1. Mobile, cloud, social, big data; Cap­i­tal & effi­ciency ratios, data secu­rity, reg­u­la­tory gov­er­nance & com­pli­ance, multi-channel/omni-channel, and ‘what the heck do I do with my branches’ []

2 Critical Questions Credit Card Issuers Need to Be Asking Themselves

2 Questions

Appar­ently, the Chicago Taxi sys­tem has been hacked. Sears con­tin­ues to insist that it hasn’t been com­pro­mised, while it’s clear credit card breaches have become a board­room issue.

Biggest sur­prises: These com­pa­nies are unsure that they’ve been hacked and they need the US Secret Ser­vice to help them fig­ure it out.

Credit card issues def­i­nitely have a lot on their minds. In par­tic­u­lar, if I were in their shoes:

Will we get to a point where peo­ple stop trust­ing credit cards?

What hap­pens when we get there?

As an aside, since the con­ver­sa­tion seems to paint chip-and-pin as the answer to every­thing, they’d bet­ter be think­ing about card-not-present fraud issues. They have until Octo­ber 2015 when chip-and-pin will “be in place” at which point fraud will absolutely be shift­ing online. If they wait until that shift hap­pens to pre­pare, well, they’re mak­ing a big mistake.

Come see me demo CA’s 3D Secure fraud solu­tion & hear our head of Fraud Solu­tions speak on the future of fraud panel next week at BAI Pay­ments Con­nect in Las Vegas (Mirage Hotel).

Monetize Your Compliance Platform

KaChingThe model is com­pelling. As a bank, you need a com­pli­ance plat­form. But it’s an over­head cost and drags down your busi­ness effi­ciency ratios. Why not built a plat­form that you can then monetize?

Think I’m crazy? We have cus­tomers imple­ment­ing a multi-channel retail bank­ing strat­egy, then turn­ing around and mon­e­tiz­ing the iden­tity plat­form they’re using to unify channels.

It’s not a crazy strat­egy these days, where many think of cloud ser­vices to aug­ment the offer­ings pro­vided by their own IT departments.

Why not do the same with a com­pli­ance plat­form? Both sides win. The bank that builds it gets greater economies of scale. The banks that “buy” into the plat­form, get a plat­form more effi­ciently than they could build them­selves. [Read more…]

API’s are the New Excel Formula

For those of you who don’t know me per­son­ally, or know me well enough, I seem to have a tal­ent for metaphor.

In fact, I think one of the things that I do best is explain com­plex ideas in ways oth­ers can under­stand, and so that they real­ize how the idea is rel­e­vant to them.

While tech­ni­cally not a metaphor, I really like the idea of com­par­ing API’s to Excel for­mu­las in the con­text of the “every­one learn­ing to code” trend.

Many busi­nesses run com­plex mod­els in Excel. In fact, Excel was, in many ways respon­si­ble for the JP Mor­gan Chase “Lon­don Whale” that cost them bil­lions. (In my opin­ion, Excel wasn’t respon­si­ble, rather it was a lack of gov­er­nance that allowed peo­ple using Excel to fail in a very big way, but that’s a-whole-other con­ver­sa­tion.) James Kwak has a smart arti­cle about the impor­tance of Excel to busi­ness, and why run­ning a busi­ness on Excel is such a mess. James’ key dif­fi­cul­ties with Excel: [Read more…]