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How can a Star Wars fan help make banking of the future better?

I am a father of a six-year old kid.  He is in preschool and he has been learning English for a year now. He has been exposed to different content in English since he was two and he can understand it very well.

He is also a big Star Wars fan, like me. The Force Awakens was the first movie which was new to both of us. You probably remember the hype around it. In this movie, Disney introduced a new droid - BB-8. We fell in love with it at first sight.  

A company named Sphero recognized the potential and produced a toy that brought the Star Wars magic to life.  As a young father and a big fan of the series I just could not resist it, so I ordered one.

And, for me, this was magic.  The droid could move in predefined patterns, could be driven with remote commands, play the BB-8 sounds and also create videos and play them as 2D holographic projections. The thing even followed voice commands!

To my surprise, for my kid this was wow for about two weeks. After we tried everything, explored all the options, played all the videos, the poor BB-8 ended up on the shelf with the rest of the “not interesting any more, but don’t throw away” toys.

I was really shocked. How could such a great toy end up being boring? The answer is simple - the world has changed. My kid’s generation is simply raised differently. From an early age, we train their minds to be inquisitive, to always look for options and not to go for the standards. We reward their creativity and also teach them to be special and have an opinion.  So for them, having something that will just obey commands over and over again, and always do the same thing is not very amusing. And if we talk about magic, they are used to seeing unbelievable things like robots, zombies, and dinosaurs. It is a part of their everyday life. I realized that BB-8 was doomed to stay on the shelf forever.    

Fortunately, Sphero also understood that new patterns, more voice commands or preloaded videos would not keep the excitement for a long time once you opened your BB-8. They planned to do more. 

At the beginning of 2016, Sphero released an app that allowed the users to define the BB-8’s behavior by themselves using visual programming blocks. They removed the toy boundaries and opened up a world of possibilities for user’s imagination.  New things and features didn’t have to be programmed by Sphero - my kid could do it by himself. BB-8 was off the shelf and rolling again. It was exciting. We could really make him do whatever we wanted.

Once we learned the basics, our first program was to turn BB-8 into a disco ball. It would turn every three seconds, change the color and beep. I imagine Sphero would never release such a feature, but that was what my kid wanted him to do and we could do it. With the new app, Sphero created a platform so that BB-8 could be personalized by everyone.   

How is this related to banking? Well, looking at my kid I can see the future customer. Digitally native, multitasker with programing skills and expectation to personalize everything by himself. And he will be able to do it because programming is a part of his life. 

Today we are all excited about big data, analytics and AI, which are at the top of our agendas. We try to understand customers, provide them with personalized options and offers, and tailor our services for each and every one of them. And there are lot of challenges - engaging customers to be willing to share their data and process that data at the exact moment when the customer wants the result. Personalized banking based on analytics requires preparation, scalability and flexible solutions that can provide this kind of offering. On the other hand, regulators are focusing on customer protection and the window for data processing is narrowing.

Watching my kid and his BB-8, I realized that along with building our capabilities to understand our customers better, we need to focus on opening our platforms and services for our customers’ creativity.  Like Sphero did -by providing easy-to-use tools and enabling customers to use them in a way we never imagined. 

The technology is already here. Open banking hubs that offer services through APIs in a secure and safe way is just the foundation we need. With existing tools like IFTTT that can connect services and automate the work for us, or with some tools that we can create, our customers could finally build the services they need on their own.

For those who are not familiar with IFTTT here is a short description. The acronym stands for If This, Then That. Using IFTTT you can connect all your "services" together so that tasks are automatically completed.  Each recipe on IFTTT has a trigger, a condition and an action. These recipes are called applets. Applets can be used to automate any daily workflow. Whether it's managing social network posts, your emails or even smart home devices. For instance, you can get a notification when there's an update on your favorite team, get an email whenever the U.S. President signs a bill into law, or turn off the lights and close the garage when you leave home.  

In the future, app features built around task automation like account sweeping, bill payments, automatic top-ups, recurring payments, automated savings, spending limits won’t be developed by the bank. The customers will create such features by themselves and they will be integrated with other services used in their everyday life to trigger them.  This is the personalization our future customers expect.

Open banking initiatives like PSD2, UK open banking and similar, will not only liberate customer data or open the market for new competitors, but they will also allow customers to program the banks by themselves. With the proper platforms and tools, banking, like my BB-8, will be off the shelf again. 

Do you think programmable banks are the future?



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Nenad Rankov

Nenad Rankov

Product manager


Member since

12 Aug 2018



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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

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