Your background, how did you end up doing what do you now?
My first job was programming punch cards for IBM mainframes and last job running global marketing and strategy for Unisys financial markets. In that last role, the company went through a reorganisation and I was offered a job I didn’t want so took redundancy. Whilst looking for a ‘proper job’, I started some hobbies: writing articles about the future of banking and drinking with bankers. Those hobbies became what I do today: writing a daily blog about banking and drinking with bankers across Europe through the Financial Services Club which I founded back in 2004.
How well are conventional banks responding to the changing Fintech developments? What should they be doing better?
Most are responding, and doing so by creating projects or designating a leader to be the digital guy. My issue is that I think they would be better by bringing technologists into the Executive Team – most banks do have financial leadership rather than digital leadership – and stop thinking of Fintech and digital as some function, project or person, and more as part of the fabric and culture of the bank. The latter requires the whole bank leadership team to be immersed in and advocates of the digital future, not just some token person or project.
In your lecture you mention traditional banks have to change rapidly or become obsolete – do you think the future will involve a hybrid of emergent fintech companies (the 36 unicorns) and more traditional banking organisations, BBVA, Santander etc?
Absolutely. How many consumers or businesses want to sign up for their finances with 36 or more new, untested, unproven, unlicensed and unknown companies for their financial needs? Surely, it makes more sense for their existing proven provider to aggregate and integrate these services for them. That’s going to be the future: Value Systems Integrators, where banks become integrators of best-of-breed Fintech.
What Fintech trends are you excited by?
I seem to be never-endingly talking blockchain these days, as there’s a news headline every day that relates to it. I guess it’s because that’s the technology the banks are now developing around to build the future internet of value. Once we have blockchain everywhere in a form that works and that is institutionalised, we will have real-time value exchange for everything, everywhere, and that’s what excites me. Not the blockchain, but what we can do with the blockchain once it’s proven.
How soon do you think bitcoin (or something similar) will achieve wide spread adoption?
Never. I don’t think any digital currency has a viable future unless it’s backed by governments and financial institutions, so bankcoin has a future but bitcoin doesn’t, unless it’s a bank system that runs it.
You mention possible future developments in fintech and IoT, quite soon it seems their goals will converge, as well as cyber security, to ensure a seamless user experience. Will this mean things don’t happen quite as soon as we think they might?
I think we’re looking at 15 year cycle, where Fintech gradually builds an internet of value that supports the internet of things. It will take five years or so for blockchain-based systems to become embedded in structure and then another five for all the use cases to be built and accepted, and finally another five to see widespread adoption. So by 2030 all the things we talk about today in terms of blockchain will be normal, but it’s going to take time.
Digitize -> Disrupt -> Demonetize -> Democratise = cycle of tech change in all industries. Where are we in banking? pic.twitter.com/2CujAlt587
— Chris Skinner (@Chris_Skinner) October 6, 2015
In your map of the future you discuss reaching the logical point of Machine to Machine communication. Any scope for a skynet scenario, where the machines decide servicing human needs is not the best use of their time and resources?
No. That’s great science fiction but the Terminator is not a likely future. It’s far more likely that 1984 will be the future than Skynet. 1984 is all about everything we say, think and do being monitored by the thought police. The thought police is the internet of things reporting to governments any thoughts that are undesirable. Unfortunately we are already there in that process – just look at Ed Snowden’s revelations – and it’s just going to get worse. However, I don’t think the thought police will attack you for looking at porn or writing how you hate the government; more likely is that you will get caught if you are looking at child porn or writing about your actual plan to blow up the government.
— Chris Skinner (@Chris_Skinner) October 8, 2015
You mention Ray Kurzweil and his belief in reaching intuitive behavior by machines, delivering us with enhanced artificial intelligence. Do you also agree with his belief in machines reaching ‘the singularity’ in the near future too? If so, what could the implications of this be?
We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.
Your plans for the future?
I have a new book coming out called ValueWeb in early 2016. I think the new book is even better than my previous 11, including best seller Digital Bank, so am very excited about the new work. We are also looking at other countries to expand the Financial Services Club, which currently operates in Austria, England, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Slovakia and Sweden.
Blogging / thought leaders, who do you follow / like?
I don’t like anyone but I stalk Brett King.
How do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?
I don’t have a life, just work.
I love watching old tomorrow's world clips. Here's the future bank, as forecast in 1969 https://t.co/LyY9anArgr
— Chris Skinner (@Chris_Skinner) September 29, 2015