Leading fintech and banking: A modern-day David and Goliath

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
Leading fintech and banking: A modern-day David and Goliath

The financial services industry is arguably experiencing more significant technological disruption than any other industry. Traditional banks – what were once trusted local institutions – are now the pillar of all things capitalist, eating away at us with interest rates and credit loans.


Enter fintech.


With a customer-centric obsession and innovative tech, fintech companies are redefining what it means to be a bank in the 21st century. In a modern-day David and Goliath, fintech companies are making banking simple and accessible, connecting with the masses in a way that traditional banks no longer can.


How can banks get with the times?

Going agile

According to Kirsti Jansson, THNK Class 11 participant and Vice President of Transformation Integrity at ATB Financial in Canada, banks typically have legacy environments, so it takes longer to get things done. As banks have grown, their systems remain unchanged – and those legacy systems make it very expensive to do things quickly and with agility.

For Kirsti and her bank, shifting to agile has been crucial in working smarter and faster. “A lot of work is happening a lot faster because of Agile,” says Kirsti. “You have to be willing to fail. Right now, a big part of our culture is celebrating your failures. It’s a core tenet of agile, and that’s why we’re embracing it.”

Distinctively faster-moving, adaptable, collaborative, and user-centric, agile projects yield quicker results, successes, and failures. In short, agile development allows you to “fail fast” and innovate on proven user-centric concepts.

As well as shifting to agile, the emergence of innovation labs is also on the rise. DBS Asia X of DBS is a space to collaborate with startups and the broader fintech community to “reimagine, reinspire, and create the future of finance.” At Amsterdam-based KAS BANK, Managing Director of Corporate and THNK Class 14 participant Remko Dieker has also built an innovation lab, with the aim of testing client solutions in rapid sprints. Within the first year, the lab had four initiatives that were well-received by clients as well as the bank’s management team.

leading fintech and banking
In a modern-day David and Goliath, fintech companies are making banking simple and accessible in a way that traditional banks no longer can. How can banks get with the times? #disruption #banking #finance #fintech #innovation Click To Tweet

Image courtesy of Tech in Asia.

Forget tech, think impact

However, banks should discard grand visions of becoming a fintech company. Technology is the means to achieving a greater goal and can be sourced. Instead, banks should focus on creating meaningful value for their customers and employees.

“Learning how to learn” and learning fast are notable competitive traits for financial services executives today. This sentiment was reflected by over 50 percent of said executives in a 2019 Deloitte global survey. The capacity to anticipate change and evolving trends and navigate complexity is critical for leading today’s financial services institutions. In a machine-dominated world, critical thinking using intuition, creativity, and empathetic leadership can command a premium – skills not characteristics of the banking and finance sector as we know it, yet very much necessary for future-oriented leadership in the sector.

We already see this kind of shift happening with the rise of “socially responsible banks,” who follow a values-based model and emphasize social and environmental practices in their operations. Many emphasize equal pay, transparent business practices, and community development, amongst others.

At ATB Financial, Kirsti says, “We hear from our customers that our position in the community is important in determining their banking relationship.” As a result, the Canadian bank has developed initiatives to support the local community in the hope of elevating the bank’s role.

Similarly, the financial sector players would go far by anticipating their customer needs and innovating the future of banking around that – and not technology for the sake of fintech.

To tackle disruption in your industry, join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.