‘Digital lipstick’ will not make banks ‘sexy’ enough to become tech companies

‘Digital lipstick’ will not make banks ‘sexy’ enough to become tech companies

DBS Bank’s chief innovation officer Neal Cross has warned the audience at Fintech Connect 2018 that European banks are getting digitisation and open banking completely wrong by failing to adequately address customer pain points.

After dubbing the Asian bank as “the world’s best bank”, Cross pointed out that while “most banks are doing an okay job, others are not doing particularly well” because “making your bank a bit sexy” is not enough when serving the customer.

Technology is “like sand and cement” and banks should focus on innovation which is “about finding the right problem and solving it in an elegant manner and being successful.”

Cross believes that a shiny new interface - or "digital lipstick" - on its own will not help banks beat off competitors. Better still to collaborate with third parties who are addressing real customer needs, highlighting DBS Bank’s collaboration with an Indonesian ride hailing company Go-Jek after Grab announced they would give their customers pre-paid cards - an exemplar of this trend.

Alongside this, the most important asset that a bank has is talent and Cross suggests that focus should not be on digitising the bank, but digitising the staff, breaking down hierarchies, taking risks and becoming more agile.

His final message for banks is to “stop using regulation as an excuse not to innovate, because the best innovation happens when you have constraints”.

Comments: (2)

Jorge Prado
Jorge Prado - PwC - Berlin 06 December, 2018, 08:36Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Excellent opinion piece!

Sadly it is the reality of many clients I worked with as a consultant. No transformative initiatives to address the underlying challenges facing the bank. Rather, cosmetic changes to appear as a modern player.


Enrico Camerinelli
Enrico Camerinelli - Aite Group - Boston 11 December, 2018, 18:39Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

We don’t have much to add to a crisp and clear message. This is much truer in the wholesale banking space, in which “digital” means “straight-through processing,” i.e., seamless machine-to-machine interaction that goes beyond fancy front-ends to entice consumer experience, which the article tags as “digital lipstick.”