Digital Transformation and Blockchain in Banking with Scott Bales

We had the pleasure of talking with Scott Bales, banking and finance thought leader, innovator and best selling author with “Mobile Ready”. Scott has years of experience in the finance industry and now helps organisations move through digital transformation. We thought we would ask him to delve a little into his views on technology, innovation and the future of blockchain in the financial space.

“But one thing is for certain, Blockchain will change financial services forever, it just a matter of who will gain from the transition.”

Tell us a little about yourself?

My career has been in banking and finance 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.

Innovation Labs Asia is a boutique Innovation Consulting Agency, where I am managing director, and 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.

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. Our purpose to help organisations through this journey.

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 2019 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.

How do you think blockchain will transform the way we interact?

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.

 

Thank you, Scott! We believe the financial industry presents enormous opportunity for disruption and we are here to facilitate that disruption.

 

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