How did you end up doing what do you now?
I’ve been in Management Consulting for Sales and Marketing my entire career and have also been an entrepreneur myself and in 2010 when my former CEO approached me asking if we can take Meniga international I had just finished doing the same thing for an American software solution provider in the Telco industry so I was excited to change industries. This was at a time that FinTech was practically born – banks were only starting to consider being anything else but a grey excel table on the web to the consumer; a time where all the Titans who shape it were writing their first books and there was no talk of unicorns.
Meniga was the second PFM offering in Europe and was a pioneer with a product that was solid, needed and engaged customers like nothing they had experienced before so we decided to take it to the first European Finovate in 2011 and we won Best of Show. It made our pipeline explode. Over the years we kept Finovate in our dance card as our innovation standpoint of the year and it paid off. We won twice more but more importantly, we kept thinking of what we are building and why, how does it honestly fit into the consumer’s life.
— Duena Blomstrom (@DuenaBlomstrom) October 5, 2015
When I left Meniga earlier this year it’s at its absolute height – a new office in London I started, around 120 employees, amazing things to announce soon, part of the digital strategy of 27 major international banks and reaching nearly 20 million consumers. I left because I wanted to focus on a concept we had arrived at while growing the PFM offering – Emotional Banking – EX instead of UX – how to have banks stop and think of consumers’ feelings about money.
London, UK. Pros and cons of working there?
I’ve moved to London to start Meniga’s UK office from Stockholm and I have done so with glee. While I am skeptical about our crown of being the FinTech capital of the world and critical of the hype around it, I’ve travelled 2M kilometres around the world in the past few years and there is absolutely no place like London. There is a buzz of truly multinational drive, creativity and IQ that surrounds you when you walk in the City and Canary Wharf that is different and better than Wall Street or Central Singapore and all that while being within easy reach of a poetic village life in the suburbs. I’m still in my honeymoon phase with London so the only major negatives I can think of are the appalling quality of the 3G signal!:)
How was last 12 months, what went well?
I’ve only become an independent consultant 5 months ago so I’ll only refer to that period. It’s been the rollercoaster I expected it to be with many surprises thrown in along the way. On the one hand I had more time to spend with my own investments – some product companies, the amazing teams of eRipple and Loot Bank and have had time to consult and further some awesome FinTech companies and sit down with some banks with no agenda other than to be frank and crystal clear even if that makes me a frightening oddity in the industry.
With that said, I left Meniga to pursue Emotional Banking but with all the positive response that proved harder to make into a full time engagement than I initially anticipated. It’s CX, Strategy, Innovation, Transformation all in one. A concerted effort to transform a bank into a brand and have consumers love it. By any measure that’s a monumental ask. The thought needs time to take roots. Heads filled with acronyms and numbers need to be wrapped around how we have to give consumers something that will grab them by the heart and that takes time to happen. I’m not a particularly patient individual and often get frustrated with how long it takes to do the right thing by the consumer but I rationally understand the pace.
Anything you’d do differently?
Yes, it seems my years with a product company have chipped away at my consultancy wisdom. I had thought my in-and-out approach around EX where I was offering banks a short and highly packed two days workshop to discuss how to apply psychology and behavioural elements into concepts such as Money Moments ™ and Invisible Banking while finding a way to leverage Empathy Design and Human Centred Design was the way to go. I was proud not to be offering a lengthy amount of time prior the workshop to customise it or a million consulting days after to help realise the vision of a bank becoming a brand and this turned out to be an off-putting approach to many banks who are perfectly comfortable with consultancy and serious about wanting the help so I am in the process of understanding those needs further and offering a better proposition.
— Duena Blomstrom (@DuenaBlomstrom) September 28, 2015
You are active on twitter, how has it helped you?
I wish everyone in Social Media today could take a trip back in time to 2010 and listen to the conversation then. It used to be a pretty small tight knit group and the level of insight in the exchange was nothing but stupendous. It was a time of even greater excitement than today and a lot of what we see in the industry was paved by those conversations, those books, those meetings at industry events.
From my perspective – one of the companies I used to own had developed a method to maximise B2B engagement on Social Media when I started with Meniga so I tried to practice what I preached and got involved as a self confessed FinTech groupie back then. As time passed and I was meeting on average two international banks a week, had become a mentor for new startups , had helped build a product and a FinTech company I grew into my voice and started writing and these Titans listened and thankfully liked what I had to say, so they became close friends. Outside of tight knit twitter groups such as the infamous but utterly amazing FinTechMafia there’s now solid cross over with our personal lives and we meet as often as we can albeit 90% of conversations do return to FinTech no matter how we try to stay away from it!
— Duena Blomstrom (@DuenaBlomstrom) September 23, 2015
Fintech and beyond what are you excited about?
I’m excited about the backend potential. Blockchain will change a lot as we understand it better as will the extreme data crunching capabilities available to the industry today. Artificial Intelligence is exciting but it’s just an enabler. None of these will change anything on their own of course, what will make for true transformation is new mindsets firmly anchored in what it is that the consumer wants and thinks at all times to understand what business models we can build to serve that.
You haven’t asked but I’ll also answer what worries me – the industry’s obstinate persistence in keeping it non-real. Part of it is due to the inflation of new half-interested band-waggon-jumpers who complicate things by not adding value and not understanding core concepts which spills into new propositions, FinTech accelerators and labs inflation as well as the wrong advice to banks. Another part of it is due to years of stiff, meaningless, consulting speak and the banks’ lack of mandate to be emotionally invested and passionate. We have to collectively find a way to cut the BS or none of the promise of cool technology and a space with real impact on people’s lives will be fulfilled.
As an Angel investor what are you looking for?
Passion and brains. Not product, not even necessarily a full team. One founder superhero who has those two elements in spades is often all that matters.
— Duena Blomstrom (@DuenaBlomstrom) September 18, 2015
As a mentor your top tips for startups to do well?
Tough question. First and foremost read and watch all there is to know about FinTech before you even start. The amount of startups I’ve seen in selection days who had not known what Finovate was is staggering and while I blame it on the industry for artificially calling for more start-ups to fill in the tens of labs, competition and accelerators without asking them to do the educational groundwork – there is still little explanation why if you have an idea for a FinTech startup you don’t binge watch all the videos from all the Finovate shows and read the “Bank 2.0″s and “Digital Bank'”s you can find over a weekend! Lastly the same advice I give banks too: don’t lose your religion. Boil it down to what you can not live without, what your honest mission is and the way to do it, the people to do it with will all be part of it and fall into place if you hold on tight to that.
CX Dublin – what will you be speaking about and why will it be awesome!?
“Everything is a brand. Everything but a bank” – I wrote a series of blogs around how every other company in the world works hard to build a brand people can love and be addicted to, while banks have a massive amount of brand capital invested in them already and a very low degree of churn and they have no idea why or how they got to it and spend nearly no effort dissecting it and cultivating the positives. This will need to change or the real brands will start leveraging their relationships to offer banking too.
Blogging, who do you follow / like?
I love every voice in the FinTechMafia group – then again who doesn’t (Brett King, Chris Skinner Bradley Leimer, Jim Marous, JP Nicols, David Brear, Simon Taylor, Alex Jimenez, David Gerbino, Lisa Kuhn Phillips, Ron Shevlin, Michal Panowicz, Cherian Abraham, etc) and read them every day but also great minds like Daryl Wilkinson, Andra Sonea, Liz Lumely, Conor Ogle, Matteo Rizzi, Nektarios Liolisos, Alessandro Hatami, Claire Calmejane, Roberta Profeta, John J Sills and others who should write much more whether on Twitter or their own blogs.
Being a big user of social media, how do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?
What do you mean “offline”?:) I’m fortunate that my work and my fun are comfortably digital and it doesn’t worry me at all. The only time when I am firmly offline and out of my professional persona is when I spend time with my amazing FirstAndLastBorn who is only 5 and surprisingly interested in practical, physical activities rather than FinTech for now.