16:30, 29 Jun 2023

Not just technology. I will tell you why a tech company builds on the culture

Launch of the new monthly format Insights - Pierangelo Soldavini's point of view. Starting with one or more current affairs news items, the journalist, formerly writing for Sole24Ore and one of the Italian leading figures for finance and technology, discusses the scenarios and trends of a constantly evolving market

Pierangelo Soldavini
Pierangelo Soldavini
Getty Images
Getty Images

If banks have become or strive to become tech companies, it means indeed that the world of financial services is changing face, aiming to go beyond mere technological transformation. Fast. 
In recent weeks, this was the case for Intesa Sanpaolo, with the launch of its new app. However, there is no shortage of examples of digital banks: international neobanks also arrived in Italy with their offerings, Revolut and N26, to name but a few, but there are also several examples of Italian excellence, starting with Hype, born and bred in the Sella group innovation sphere. Until now, they were considered visionary models that opened up an impervious and new path, in continuity with a traditional world made of gradually evolving branches with that transposition into apps ended up by reproducing the traditional banking model in the digital world. Now this phase represents a turning point, effectively recognising that what until yesterday were seen as visionary and rather utopian models, have now become the basis of the new competitive paradigm in the world of financial services. Traditional banks will never concede this, but they now, are forced to catch up: the sign, however, heralds the start of a new era, which is already evident from the technological gamble initiated by the European giants, starting with the Spanish ones, which have often been the most active in the past.

The change of pace speed is an admission of the urgency of a shift that can no longer defer.  The goal, clearly, is to align the bank and the fintech in a sort of 'fintechisation' of the bank, with an implicit acknowledgement that fintech strategy is the ideal way to intercept the new banking needs of users. It is useless to say whether innovation has won or not: the fact is that traditional banks must change their strategy. But they must not limit themselves to a simple change of facade. The above, must be clear. The promise of fintech is to develop services that make inroads based on speed and simplicity, of a frictionless, linear and all-digital user experience, capable of combining the fluidity of the digital services to which we have all become accustomed with the security that the world revolving around money needs. Knowing how to unravel the complexity of the financial world becomes crucial to winning over the new audience..

If simplicity and speed are the new paradigms, being a tech company or investing in technology is not enough to make the transformation. Skills and solutions are certainly, crucial. Without people with the right skills to rebuild processes from scratch under a new logic, one will get nowhere. And without unavoidable technological choices such as conversion to cloud, which guarantees computational capacity and reprocessing of the enormous value derived from user data, the path is arduous. But first of all, having a sound tech company culture is crucial: one that can contaminate all company divisions and inspire strategic choices. From C-levels to middle management and the lower levels, everyone must engage in an open innovation approach, capable of guaranteeing a frictionless process to the customer. Everyone is called to do their part, because details make the difference. Starting, in fact, from the shared awareness that a tiny difficulty along the way is enough to lose the user, not only for that single service, but, in all likelihood forever. Big Tech is the model of this new culture, capable of taking care of the smallest detail to satisfy the customer, knowing that any slightest obstacle becomes an excuse for abandonment. 

Every financial services operator must therefore be able to build a comprehensive offer capable of satisfying every user need, guaranteeing those criteria of simplicity and speed that are fundamental. And to do this they must be able to act competently and promptly, exploiting the enormous value of data to intercept the need for financial services where it emerges. If it is a given that today people no longer go to the branch to get what they need, it must be the bank that approaches people to meet their needs as they emerge. The above, knowing well that in this journey in the opposite direction every obstacle can become an excuse to lose a customer and that every lost or dissatisfied customer can turn into a reputational damage, going beyond the individual user.

One cannot create a tech company overnight. Culture is the true transformation: technology is not enough! That, is why those who have already developed an innovation culture in this sense must know how to exploit the competitive advantage to look ahead, even in spite of competitors and investments: personal care and frictionless experience are the real paradigms of the technological challenge.