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A conflict of interests?

I've been thinking a lot recently about the different pressures that banks in Europe are facing. It's a tricky business working in payments in a bank today - trying to decide on strategy and how the bank should move forward. Every bank exec I have spoken to recently is having to balance many different challenges and work out which ones they should prioritize.

Obviously there are legal and regulatory updates, or mandate requirements. No question - these have to be met.

But what's next? Round every corner someone telling you to 'be a good EU citizen' - embrace European initiatives and help drive the critical mass to make them a success. Or perhaps you are being told to be a ‘good country citizen’ and focus on local initiatives - 'most payments are domestic - that's where volumes and revenues are so that's where you must focus'.

And then there are the banks-specific projects - especially if your bank is part of a much larger global organization you could have challenges of becoming a good international player, or working on specific technology projects that are dictated from above. I'm sure if this were a conversation rather than a blog we'd come up with a whole list.

So how do they balance all these different pressures? There are lots of things I believe can help, and absolutely I am confident that with the right technology in place the bank will have the systems that give them the flexibility to meet changing demands from customers, regulators or internal. But actually it is more than that. Technology can only do what you want it to do, it can't tell you what you should do.

Therefore the conclusion I have come to is that communication internally is the answer. It is essential that all the different champions and stakeholders come together to agree what they all need and to jointly prioritize what order things should be done in. Often, when these conversations happen, we actually find that there's more overlap and duplication of necessary functionality than anyone expected.

Once you know what you want to do and have got buy in from the people who care, it is essential to review the priority list on a regular basis, and to keep everyone updated on progress. If you decide that the first step has got to be consolidation of existing systems before you can roll out your country specific initiatives, but in doing so it will tick the boxes for the EU advocates, then keep telling them how things are going, and when you will be delivering what they need.

It isn't an easy job (but hey - nobody said it would be) but I definitely think that it doesn't have to be too difficult as long as everyone internally understand that it isn't who shouts loudest who wins, it's what is best for the bank in the long term.


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