Expert Interview with Rob Findlay on the Future of Banking for Mint

The bigger a company gets, the slower it moves. And nowhere is that truer these days than the banking industry, where top-down management and vertical silos have hampered innovation and new ways of thinking.

But Rob Findlay and the team at Next Bank hope to change that.

The organization was founded in order to bring together banking, design, and technology professionals and pave the future of how they serve their customers.

"Like healthcare and education, banking is something we all have a vested interest in, and yet the industry at its core is not well positioned to adapt to the changing consumer needs and behaviors," Rob says. "I see that as a huge opportunity for everyone in the industry to try things in new ways. It's not just that we want to be innovative - we have to!"

Rob recently checked in with us to talk more about Next Bank and its vision for the future and how it will affect you. Read on:

Tell us the story behind Next Bank...

Next Bank started as a reaction to the numerous boring conferences and conversations around banking that really wasn't including some of the more progressive thinkers in the industry - the likes of the designers, the entrepreneurs and startups, and the in-house innovators in banks themselves. The industry was dominated and decided by senior bankers with traditional mindsets.

Next Bank was born to give a genuinely democratic, accessible, and creative platform for everyone to participate. It started with events and has led to wider community formats and people connecting in various ways. We want to change banking for the better through design, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

So how does banking relate to technology and design? Where do these topics intersect?

Historically, technology has played a very central role in the ways bank operate and in the future will become almost the core capability in many banks. Adding design to the mix now creates a powerful combination of digital and data technologies with customer-centric methodologies that really test the way we've always done things. Design gives many people the permission to try new things and experiment, without fear of failure or consequence, and it also helps make banking simpler and, possibly, just a little bit more pleasant.

What are the most exciting trends and innovations in the banking industry today? Why do they excite you?

The most exciting trends and innovations in banking are multi-lateral - there are exciting new and simpler ways to pay, better and more insightful ways to manage money, and there are new sources of funding that might not be the typical way. Beyond the customer experience, there are really interesting new ways for bankers to run their businesses, make better decisions, and be more customer focused. Most of these new trends focus around the power of data and how it's gathered, analyzed, and presented. I'm also excited by the diversity of the world's banking industry, particularly those in emerging markets, where innovation contextual to their locations makes for great approaches and outcomes.

What are consumers demanding from their banks today? How are banks working to accommodate them?

Consumers, more than ever, are demanding that their needs be heard and met. Many other industries do this well already, and the consumer now expects that of us, too. They're demanding more personalization, better service that really solves problems, and channel experiences that are not just adequate, but potentially beautiful as well. Many banks are now scrambling to employ the talent and resources to understand customers better and design solutions directly against these needs. Recently adopted methodologies such as Design Thinking, Human-Centered Design, User Experience Design, Jobs to Be Done, and Lean Startup are all being employed at banks to produce better, faster outcomes.

What sorts of traditional banking practices would you like to see evolve?

I'd love to see some of the senior management practices change. Whilst many "manufacturing" and experience development practices are learning from outside industries or banking leaders, there is still a strong hierarchical or top-down leadership approach that I fear closes the door on too many opportunities. Like many large corporations, the silo or territorial nature of big banks means sometimes good things can't happen for the wrong reasons.

What was the lasting impact of the Great Recession on the banking industry? What lessons did you learn?

The 2008 crisis really sent a wave of newfound lack of trust across the industry. It also made many governments and regulators question their role, and gave many a startup or innovator a real boost of opportunity. The lasting impact here will be that banks may still hold the core license to bank, but they are now a legitimate target of the entrepreneur and sometimes the customer, too. They must now choose between roles as either the key relationship manager or simply as wholesalers of money to third-party front-end providers. I learned that this is an industry that took care of itself first and not its customers, and that's wrong. Next Bank was created to bring the customer to the center of the conversation, always.

What do you think banks are doing right today?

Many banks now understand the need to create great customer experiences, and see it as a key differentiator. Many are yet to know what first step to take, but some are making really huge strides in many areas of their organization - front office, tech and ops, human resource management, product development, everywhere can be influenced by the combination of great ideas, technology, and design. I commend those leaders embracing customer-centric thinking and practices - I believe they will be the winners.

In what areas would you like to see them improve?

I'd like to see them really go all in for making the best user experience possible - regardless of how much changes behind it, this investment will pay off. Then we need to see banks really understand their role in consumers' lives in a digital, mobile world. As money goes digital, cash and checks disappear, biometric security becomes commonplace, and data rives decision making, banks will provide a thin and quick layer of assistance to customers many times a day. This is a role they need to understand.

What banks or financial institutions do you think are being especially innovative today? What sets them apart?

The great thing about those institutions doing well is that I see it spread across the globe and not necessarily clustered in one area. In the USA, of course, BBVA have declared their intent by buying Simple, and we'll see how that goes. Moven, of course, is also playing in a similar space to Simple, and showing us new ways to think about money. Apple is shaking up payments now where others had tried before. Visa and MasterCard are now energized by the booming digital payments space as well. And across the globe, banks like Garanti from Turkey, China Merchants Bank in China, Kiwibank in New Zealand, Metro Bank in the UK, Commonwealth Bank in Australia, many banks in Singapore, Sub Saharan Africa, Scandinavia, Spain and Colombia are doing great, new interesting things. What sets them all apart is despite their position in their market places - leader, challenger, smaller player - they're all creating exciting new experiments and experiences for their customers, and the whole bank is supporting these efforts. But of course, there are thousands of amazing startups waiting in the wings to take their chance, too - they really inspire the Next Bank vision!

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