29 July 2014

Elizabeth Lumley

Elizabeth Lumley - Finextra

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Disruption Rocks! There are loads of jobs in ... Warrington

15 January 2013  |  5480 views  |  2

So, the UK has woken up to, yet another, casualty on its high street. While the US is still sobbing into their glucose monitors at the loss of Twinkies, the UK is waving goodbye to suburban town centre identikit stalwarts such as camera retailer Jessops and CD dispenser HMV. (Thank God for Starbucks and William Hill or I'd never be able to find my way home) 

Another old fashioned 'branch'-based store knocked off their perch by the consumer digital revolution, correct? Well, the staff at the Warrington branch of Jessops know exactly who to blame (and it isn't that it is easier, cheaper and more likely to find what you want on Amazon)

Taped to the inside of the store window (next to picture of the five, soon-to-be-unemployed staffers) reads:

"At what stage will the government and banks be answerable for the devastating effect they have having on the economy and more importantly people's lives with their radical decisions?"

(Picture below - because that is where pics end up in our blogs. 'Dirk...!)

New bank and non-bank disrupters often cite the impact Amazon had on Borders and Barnes & Noble books stores when arguing their case for a complete dismantling of our old, creaky, greedy global banking system. 

This point was made, yet again, in a Twitter conversion between @shamir_k (of Simple) @aden_76 (HSBC) @rshevlin (Aite Group) @jjegher (Celent) fallowing the recent New York Times article profiling Simple. 

The exceptionally lovely Shamir Karkal, one of the founders of Simple, Tweeted: "Mainly electronic businesses like banking should be more susceptible to Amazon style disintermediation." (I'd provide the screen shot, but we're only allowed one pic per blog. Dirk*!!! *he loves it when I do that)

Of course, Shamir is talking about kicking the great, hulking legacy banks off their greedy, monopolistic perch - not making five people unemployed in the North of England. But isn't that what disruption really is? If we, as a Western Capitalist society are in the midst of a digital consumer revolution, why can't we pick and choose which company deserves to be disrupted and which don't?

At the end of the day, it is not the banks' board of directors (or Jessops' C-Suite) that will suffer the effects of digital disruption - its people who work in the branches and those five smiling faces in a store window in Warrington. I'm no Occupy-style liberal, but I can't think of anything less 'hip, cool and trendy' than that. 

As for whether the 'banks' are to blame for the latest swath of closures on Britain’s highs streets? Maybe, maybe not. Banks, through actions they mostly brought on themselves, are the most convenient 'evil bogeyman' in which to heap most of the blame. (We’re even hosting a special dinner debate looking at this topic next month! *plug)

However, if you are the founder of a cool, disruptive, start-up (and located in the Lancashire or Cheshire areas of England) take a look at the CVs of five people taped inside a 'soon-to-closed' shop window in Warrington.  

When in doubt...blame the banks. Am I right? TagsMobile & onlineRetail banking

Comments: (4)

Andres Fontao - finnovista - Madrid | 16 January, 2013, 08:56

Here's my take on the subject - the Spanish banking crisis has already eroded 25,000 bank jobs and shut down 6,000 branches. Another 30,000 bank employees will be let go in 2013 together with the closing of 5,000 branches. And I would say we are just at the foot of the Pyrenees (no pun intended) in terms of disruption in financial services. Historically the mecca of innovation in financial services, there is a plethora of talent available in Spain with subject-matter expertise in financial services and technology. With the proper start-up ecosystem in place we can expect to see disruptive business models being brought to life in the very near future, most of which will creat jobs for some of the 55,000 individuals who have been put on the street since the crisis began in 2008. Disruption rocks!

Elizabeth Lumley - Finextra - London | 16 January, 2013, 10:02

I hope so Andres. We often forget the human cost of change. 

A Finextra member | 16 January, 2013, 15:03

Andres, "disruptive business models" do not create new jobs, individuals do.  The key issue is whether among "55,000 individuals who have been put on the street since the crisis began in 2008" there is one or two who is willing to take the risk to start up disruptive business banking.  My own experience in dealing with Spain and that of some colleagues is that most of 55,000 will whine but nobody will be willing to become an entrepreneur to create new jobs.

I fully respect Elizabeth but believe she is quite wrong in this case.  I have little symphathy for the 5 in the window, as they should be able to create their new workplace by adding value to the very people they serviced for ages, whom they know well and who do not own them a living (they obviously all vote with their credit cards by going to Amazon).  We are almost all in the same boat here and experience the same situation time to time, being pushed out of the old jobs.

A little bit more of tough love in new disruptive economy, Elizabeth, will go a much longer way here in helping these fortunate people.  You were able to create a new work place far from Idaho or whatever, and so could they, if they put their mind to it.  (In some sense it is actually good that they at least advertize their challenge rather than drink it out at the local pub sitting on a dole; I salute them for it).

Elizabeth Lumley - Finextra - London | 16 January, 2013, 15:25

That's rather cold. Are you suggesting that these people should have branched out and started their own camera store? Or that they should uproot their families and lives and, what, move somewhere else? 

A point is that the people that pay the harshest price when a bank or a retail store fails to adapt to a changing consumer marketplace and creatively respond to the 'disrupters' are the wage slaves out in the trenches of suburban and town centre shopping malls, not the people at the top of the executive pile.

Are you saying that's not 'tough' enough?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a comfortable part of the Northeast US (not Idaho - sorry - although I have been there), to middle class parents who paid for both my mine and my brother's university education - leaving us with no student loans yoked around our necks. 

I moved to the UK, following my job covering the financial services sector, when I was 25, single and childless - a much easier move than it would be now (40, married, mortgage, child in school).

Although I would argue that I worked hard for everything in my life, I am smart enough to realise that my life has been far easier than most people’s in US and UK. I would never think to sneer at those recently unemployed, not because of their own actions, but by ineptitude of senior management or changing market conditions. 

I do think that good workers will find jobs, (or start their own) eventually. But you can’t be saying that times aren’t hard right now. I think there has been quite a heavy dose of ‘tough love’ at the moment.

My other point – which I probably didn’t express well enough – is that disrupting the banks is often touted as ‘cool’. After all, banks deserve our scorn – even the ‘Warrington Five’ blamed the ‘banks’. But the face of the consumer digital revolution is not someone paying for Starbucks with an iPhone – it’s a high street filled with bookies and 99p shops and store managers photocopying CVs at the soon-to-closed local library.

Entrepreneurs, especially FinTech ones, need to ditch the ‘disrupt and destroy’ rhetoric. We need a consumer world that is meeting the changing marketplace with ‘create and build’. 

 

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name

Elizabeth Lumley

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Multimedia and Special Projects Editor

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Finextra

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2009

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London

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I am the multimedia and special projects editor at Finextra.

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