A Handy Introduction to Digital


I hated Latin at school.  Don’t know why – Latin is very structured and as a mathematician by training I like clear structure.  Maybe because it’s rule based and I’ve always had a thing about rules. Not that I don’t see the need for rules, it’s just that a rule is a decision made in advance of the facts at the time.  So sometimes rules have to be broken. I don’t mean breaking important rules like driving on the left (or right, depending where you are). But rules that are essentially good advice, best practice etc.  Here’s the conundrum: if you follow best practice, you’ll get – guess what – best practice (at best).  But no better.  You won’t be a leader. But if you don’t follow best practice, you’ll get – guess what – something less than best practice.


But sometimes, just sometimes, people find a new way, a new best practice, that upends received wisdom.  From this flows progress. GBS put it better: “the reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Quick aside

One reason English is so difficult for machines to parse and understand (and I suspect other languages are the same) is because you have to have some knowledge of the world to interpret it correctly.  Consider the differences between these two “rules”, (1) on a building site: “Helmets must be worn” and (2) at the top of an escalator “Dogs must be carried.”  Do I have to go and find a dog?

Anyway, back to my main point.  Latin.  I think the real reason I didn’t get on with Latin is that I spent two years learning it the “traditional” way – bellum bellum bellum, bli blo blo, bla bla bla, blorum blis blis – I can still remember it (strange, I always thought, that they call it declining – I would have, if I could have.  Declined, that is) – and then they changed the scheme and we started learning it more organically, conversationally, as if it were a tourism language course before a trip to Latinland. Had to read little newsy stories about fictitious Romans doing ordinary everyday things.

So when I spend my time hearing everybody talking about Digital – digital this, digital banking, chief digital officer, – basically it has become THE word you must get in your job title and THE word you must put in every utterance (“why have you sent me this for review…it doesn’t say anything about digital?”), and also have spent a life time of crusades against anything manual (“how do you do that?” – “oh, it’s manual” – “oh!”, hollow laugh, “I see the problem”) – some education must have penetrated my skull because I am inescapably drawn into thinking about fingers (digital) and hands (manual).

Digital good, manual bad.

Fingers good, hands bad.

But it’s all true, interestingly.  Getting your hands dirty is sometimes necessary but suggests something unpleasant, risky, ought-to-be-unnecessary and full of effort.  Just like manual processes.  Whilst getting your fingers in the pie is often associated with something beneficial and making sure you get involved.  A bit like what we’re all trying to do with Digital.

Of course, like any fashion, the word means what you want it to mean.  One digital conference I went to recently was all about marketing.  Another was all about the product experience (as banking is essentially what they call an invisible product it is especially ripe for digital). Still others follow our “Digital 360” definition – Digital Outside being the access to the organization by digital means, from the outside-the-firewall (marketing) experience through to the inside-the-firewall (product) experience – oh and face to face channels are just as digital as purely electronic ones, because the teller, relationship manager and call centre operative are all dependent fully on the digital systems they have access to (sometimes called Digital Outside In).  Digital Inside, however, is where it gets really interesting, looking at how the banks transforms all the products it sells its customers (letters of credit, property finance, single debit multiple credit payments, whatever) into the things that (should) happen as a result – usually some sort of cash or asset flow, through clearing, SWIFT or other industry scheme.

Some thoughts on this whole thing:

Best practice says look at user journeys. I disagree: look at customer journeys.  For example, looking at what the accounts payable clerk’s journey is presupposes all his or her needs are a given, blocking us from challenging them root and branch. Our mantra is “What if your e-banking actually understood what you (ie the business client) were trying to achieve?”  We define the customer journey as activities that are there to promote the health and wealth of the business customer. Not preserve the job of the accounts payable clerk.  If we can find a way not to need the clerk, whoopido. Manual bad.

Best practice says you must present the customer with all the data and let them have access.  I disagree: more data ≠ better information.  Less is usually more.  Also an incorrect fundamental assumption: that the business user knows what they want to do always – often true but not always, they often need guiding, especially for SMEs.

Best practice seems to be to share with the client all the inner workings of the product.  I (and, to be fair, all the people I know) disagree.  You don’t know how your cell phone call gets routed to the other side of the world to make a call; you don’t need to know all the airline protocols to make a multi-leg journey. Yet you seem to have to understand what SWIFT Field 72 is just to pay a bill, don’t you?  At least banks are now, slowly, beginning to use the “When do you want it paid?” approach.

Best practice says clients won’t divulge other data to their banks.  I disagree.  Research shows repeatedly that people will disclose data to trusted parties – provided doing so gets them a clear benefit. In consumer land this effect reaches dangerous proportions. In business land, I was talking to a small oil company manager the other day who would be happy to share their client, invoice and other data if it means he had fewer activities and clicks to make to get his oil to his clients – whilst securing the payment he needs.

Best practice says  the back office doesn’t need as much thought and skill in its user experience as the client portal.  I disagree.  The bank itself has things it is trying to achieve (sell more, for example, or comply). That’s the digital outside, but inside. Not just customer facing staff, but also operations staff and managers with their dashboard needs.  How can the back office be digitised equally as  well as the front?

Best practice says that the bank digital access channel is all about banking and nothing else.  I disagree.  The web (i.e. DigitalLand) is full of clever capabilities – we are now using artificial intelligence techniques for customer screening, we are now able to use natural language parsing to anticipate events that affect our cash flow forecasting, we are now able to use predictive modeling to fill in otherwise blanks in corrupted data and, more simply, we can look up a ton of information – find out what sort of car it is from just its registration number as a simple example: what will be possible when LEI really comes in?

Best practice says clients won’t change bank however good the digital experience is.  I disagree.  Changing cosmetics won’t.  But giving real value can.  Like all these provocative statements, the ‘best practice’ is not exactly wrong, it is just not always true, at face value.

Anyway, you get the drift.

By the way, customer or client?

Customer.  Just, don’t get me started on what client meant.  Not what you think, that’s for sure.  Latin, again.  If you were my client – in Ancient Rome – you’d have to do whatever I wanted.  Not the other way around.  And I would be your patron.  And patronize you. Try explaining that to my banking ‘clients’.  No chance!


An Advisory Event in Dubai Unlike Any Other

This is not a typical conference

This is not a typical conference


Here we go again.


Another day, another city, another GTB Advisory event.
Well, not just any advisory event but the biggest, longest and first publicly advertised client Advisory event!  Held at the stunning Park Hyatt hotel (think typical opulent Dubai, lush, green grass everywhere, golf course…er hang on I thought you said Dubai, as in sand, desert, no water etc?  Ah but no this really is Dubai, not-a-problem Dubai, yes there was a huge sandstorm two days ago, nobody could see ANYTHING, but not today, clear, beautiful blue sky, gentle sun – what I call a glorious warm summer’s day and the locals call ‘cold’ – sand, not a problem, no water, not a problem, desert, not a problem, where there’s a will there’s a Dubai way, as I sit on the terrace overlooking the creek, thousands of $m+ yachts bobbing gently as seaplanes land and take off for my personal entertainment…well for five minutes anyway I can sit there, no more, before back to check the room etc…) – where was I? got a bit carried away there…yes…held at the stunning Park Hyatt hotel (etc etc) and deliberately timed to precede the EMEA Finance Awards dinner where our great friends Mashreq Bank would that evening sweep the Oscars with three trophies.
But I get ahead of myself.


So over 60 registrations from ALL the key, top UAE and many regional clients and banks, and in each case the right people, the right contacts, the right level, CEOs, COOs, top product managers, etc.  Fab job to the local team for mobilising the region and a tribute to both them and to our excellent standing in the region. Plus a few select corporations, from foodstuffs to ports to manufacturing etc.  And press, the editor of Cash and Trade magazine a speaker, even the Financial Times’s Gulf correspondent put his head in, and Government, David Kaye from the UK mission.  Plus us.


So here’s the thing, and this was my opening address. We meet as equals. We vote.  We discuss. We create output.  This is not a typical conference, with bepedestalled, bigged-up, gracious ‘presenters’ (performers) patronising count-themselves-lucky, lap-it-up, sit-back-and-relax, passive ‘listeners’ (delegates).  Oh no.  You can’t snooze at these events, check your email.  Pay attention!  Here’s another question for you…get out your voting machines. For example, the group decided (50% of them) that ME banks lag significantly in technology!  91% felt some sort of catch up was needed.  So I threw out the pompous ‘top table’, threw out seating ‘the speakers’ (bow now, please) being on a separate table, threw out fanfares for introduction, and instead we had fun making each table choose a name and contribute to the discussion.


What’s in a name?  We had ‘the Middle Eastern Wonders’ was one, modest table.  One was ‘the 7 Ds’ (a blatant attempt to upstage our own (now) Andrew England, who presented ‘the 7 Cs’ but only half hearted else they’d have been the ‘8 Ds’ or even the ‘30,000 Zs’ – that would be real ambition), the ‘Almost Arab Table’ and the ‘All Arab Table’ – enough of this nonsense, I named one table, where I was perched, ‘Phil’s Table’ and one ‘Next to Phil’s Table Table’.   Oh and I also showed them how to be rock stars, that is, how to hold a microphone (and why).


So Andrew up first.  His pedigree shouts and demands respect (running transaction banking at Lloyds, same for CEE at Unicredit, cash and trade at Deutsche, Citi before that, now holding down Senior Advisor on TB with McKinsey at the same time as our own Strategy Director, see last week’s press release) but what REALLY demanded respect and attention was what he said (and how he said it).  His devastatingly simple but insightful breakdown of the Transaction Bank’s head’s to-do list in terms of seven ‘C’s – made brilliantly memorable by Nancy’s ‘seven seas’ map graphics – all backed up by solid data from McKinsey, BCG etc, hyperlinked into the Powerpoint, drew great praise from the audience.


His pedigree shouts and demands respect.
Andrew England: His pedigree shouts and demands respect’


Mashreq Bank have done great things, winning three awards just yesterday, but showing a David-and-Goliath story taking on much bigger banks with their mashreqMATRIX – powered of course by iGTB.  Harshit, their product manager who turns out also to be a University Professor, took us through some learnings including how to buy bread, a well-appreciated turn of phrase ‘not growing is riskier than growing’ and reuse of Michael Porter’s ever-relevant warning about trying to be best in more then one of product leadership, customer intimacy and operational excellence (hang on, has he read our ‘key proposition’ slide?  Harshit, I mean, not Porter….though maybe….).


After lunch we had two iGTB sessions, from Phil and Henry.  Phil deferentially spent most of his time wagging his finger at the bankers and saying ‘you must do this’ and ‘you must do that’.  Reminded me a bit of KS’s spirited approach to negotiation ;-). But he was talking about regulations so got away with it. Henry gave a laconic and I-don’t-know-if-you’ve-ever-heard-of-lit’l’ol’-Oklahoma sort of talk on payments with a southern drawl explaining how backwards we all were in banking payments.


After a provocative talk from the Deputy Chairman of the Kanoo group – which divided the audience – we drew together the themes of the day from the various interactions and votes, courtesy of Hani al Maskati, editor and publisher of Cash and Trade magazine. Some interesting results came up you’ll no doubt read about there.   A veteran of, you’ve guessed it, Citi!  Also transaction banking consultant with the excellently named company Cash Management Matters.


Manish closed, emphasising our strength and depth in the region (first time really we talked about us) then Henry knocked their socks off with Onyx.  And all the time we were tweeting, filming, recording, interacting, overacting (in my case, at least) and we announced already the NEXT ME CLIENT ADVISORY EVENT – WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY, 2016.


My special memories:


– Dinner with Hani, a very interesting man.


– The Financial Times interviewing Manish.


– Meeting the classical trio we sponsored at the Awards dinner.  (Competition time: Irena plays flute.  The girl from Argentina does not play violin.  The girl from Belarus has a bow.  Clara’s Cello comes from the flute player’s home town in Macedonia. Olga speaks better English than the girl on either side.  The flute needs space on its right hand side.  Work out who plays what, from what country, and in what order they are sitting. And yes they really ARE their names. And instruments and home countries.)


Lara, Irene and Olga

Lara, Irene and Olga


– Silversmith course and childrens’ cause. To get people used to the voting machines we had a ‘fastest finger’ competition – who could first guess the correct number of companies in the world?  The winner was a banker, Neena, and her prize is a free four hour course with a silversmith making herself some jewellery. This is something we bid on and won at the charity EMEA Awards dinner, and so all the money will also go to the Save The Children Fund.  So two good things at one go.
A marvelous evening.

A marvelous evening.

Bibles, 4 fundamental freedoms, mattresses, funding, shadows, scandals and a declaration of love: the Gresham lecture had it all

By Phil Cantor,

Chief Marketing Officer,

iGTB | Intellect Design Arena Limited


Verena Ross at the Sir Thomas Gresham lecture


Ah, regulations, doncha just love ’em?

And regulators, too. Well, yes, actually, in one sense, but we’ll come to that at the end.

At the Sir Thomas Gresham lecture run by Gresham College and hosted by the gentle, piercing, forensic polymath Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, Emeritus Professor of Commerce, Verena Ross, the German-born, UK-careered, now Europe-centered Executive Director of the regulator the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), gave a clear and powerful dissection of the state of financial markets and Europe. Here’s my take on this: any credit goes to the speakers, any errors/howlers, all down to me.

In short, three things: one, how to make sure the financial markets flourish, are respected (tall order that one, have you heard of Wall St – Occupy, that is) and be more open; two, how can financial markets contribute to growth and three, what role will Europe play in world financial markets? One, London is and will remain Europe’s and maybe the world’s top financial centre (the capital with best access to capital), but the “dangerous cocktail” mixed by the lack of a single rule book contributed to a few small financial crisis issues: now we are much stronger by avoiding the divergence between countries and resultant friction seen elsewhere; two, we need to find money if we are to grow – EUR 2 trillion to be exact (well, to be approximate) – and bank lending ain’t gonna cut it – so retail investors have the money and must step up to the mark, but how do we protect them, how do we educate them and how do we increase their risk appetite: it’s not about shrinking banking but increasing diversity; three, an already big role for Europe can get bigger – as a more attractive market itself, benefitting from the single rule book and access to nearly one billion consumers, and as a contributor as other markets develop: achieving things individual states could not achieve such as TTIP (whether TTIP itself is a good or a bad thing).


ESMA has just 160 people doing the regulating, compared with over 3,000 in the FCA (hope I got those numbers right). Impressive. Reminiscent of the statistics about how few were needed in the Civil Service to run the British Empire compared to needed now to run only a small island. Regulations, regulations: Basel 3, MiFid 2. (James Alexander Gordon, where are you when we need you?). MiFiD, the Bible of the securities market. EMIR in EMEA. You’ll betray yourself if you mistake one for t’other there, luv. Regulating benchmarks: historical, fairly straightforward. Judgmental, not so simple. LIBOR was a scandal because what had been a historical, factual, reportage benchmark became judgmental, an opinion, and so susceptible to manipulation. But all of this is crucial to nothing less than shoring up one of the EU’s four key pillars of freedom of movement: of people, of goods, of services and, in this case, of capital.

More regulation, that’s not the aim, nor is the EU the aim, but the development of society and of the economy, aka wealth. All of us – you, me, your next door neighbour, invest these days in vehicles not much different from putting the money under the mattress. There’s the cash. How to put it to work? So financial innovation, and it’s rife, and they want to encourage it…er, but then it gets to a point it gets a bit risky – risky for the investor or risky for stability – then the regulators start to consider acting. Here’s the issue – and this is me, Phil, talking now, not paraphrasing others – here’s the thing. If we have to regulate – or even just consider regulating – every new financial product, every financial innovation and if, if, we encourage and promote a flood of new innovations, whether from traditional players, from “shadow banks” (that triumphant nomenclature devised by banks to suggest any competitor they don’t like is somehow evil), from entrants like supermarkets or innovators like Amazon, Google and Paypal, from crowd initiatives from the real Amazon or Africa (mobile phones anyone?) or from would-be disruptors like Blockchain, Ripple, Bitcoin, Payswarm and their derivatives, so if, if we encourage this flood of innovation, can’t we atomise financial products? Can’t we put some science to this and identify and isolate the key components, the atoms, of financial products and regulate at that much simpler and more effective and more cost-effective level of granularity? Then any new combination of atoms will come ready-regulated, the regulator’s job becomes simpler (= possible), the risks of over-regulation and playing catch-up are lessened and, quite frankly, the humungous number of closely-worded pages that have to be scrutinized to play in this market might be lessened (or at least the rate of growth lessened).

As Michael himself said at iGTB’s own Advisory Event last month in Boston, is the regulator the banks’ best friend by making the sector well nigh impossible to enter? On which point he made another good, rather robust sally forth. Is regulation the only tool (reminds me of a favourite nostrum: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail). Let’s compare. The food safety industry uses regulation but also voluntary standards, 800 ISO standards. Shipping? 300 ISO standards. Financial services? just around 50. Why so few? Er…yes, good point. Or Chris Skinner’s rapier thrust: why not just make sure banks are smaller, small enough, then we won’t need to regulate them so much. Small enough to fail, as in Matt’s famous cartoon.

Back to one point. If the saviour of growth and capitalisation in the EU is to be the retail investor, and this means relying on the retail investor to be prepared to take risks and “be educated” so they can judge what to invest in, er, how does that work then? How, as a retail investor, am I expected to gamble more accurately (or even avoiding-disastrously) on what to invest in, what risks to take, when there are professionals out there who spend their whole lives doing this and still, still get it collectively, spectacularly wrong, from tulips, South Sea, black swans, Wall St 1920s right up to the global financial crisis and whatever new mass hysteria is currently brewing? Educate? Who’s going to do that then? “I know, I can explain how to invest well – tell you, what, I’ll go educate people. I could go make pots of money, but no, I’ll go tell others how.” Really? I don’t think so. In any cases 99% of the retail investors are reluctant investors. They don’t WANT to be educated, to judge a good investment. They just want some way to keep their money safe and not look a fool 5, 10, 20 years later when they look round and find their pension has withered away because of “management fees” or their mortgage is still not paid off because of getting some dim out-of-market rate they never checked. Actually all they really want is to have an old age for however long chance (or God, if you’re like that) grants them and have somewhere to live. If they could avoid financial services entirely, they probably would.

Anyway, I’ll declare my personal passion. At dinner I declared my love, publically. In front of 30+ serious, besuited and betie-ed men (well there were precious few women) after a lovely dinner and ding-dong chat, I stated loudly and firmly I was in love. The table was shocked, they asked with whom or what? With Verena of course. Er…nervous laughter. I explained. “The more she regulates, the more systems I sell.” There you go. I’ve said it, I’ve made it public, can’t say fairer than that. I’m in love. After all, iGTB sells systems to banks so they can help corporations create the wealth of the world. Personally I’d like us to have fewer, more precise and less reactive regulations, but professionally it’s in my interest. This is all tongue in cheek, of course – actually my mission is to make it EASIER for banks, not revel in and profit from their discomfort. But it got a good laugh anyway and if you can’t have fun discussing bank regulations, you’re in the wrong job.

Looking forward to next year’s lecture.

(For the hugely wide-ranging programme of free Gresham lectures that always stimulate, supported by Z/Yen and – continuously since the 16th century the City of London and the Worshipful Company of Mercers, see http://www.gresham.ac.uk).



It’s only a b***y bit of rock

By Phil Cantor,

Chief Marketing Officer,

iGTB | Polaris Financial Technology Limited


You really must lose weight, said my wife, so I bought a new bike. After a while, I found it much easier to get up hills. Between me and the bike, I think we shed a good 5 kilos. Not evenly split, of course, I did my bit, and the bike more than made up for it since it was a good 6k lighter than the last one. So that didn’t work. Got away with it for about a year, then my wife suggests a holiday. That sounds good, I thought. I didn’t realise it, but this was actually just another “you really must lose some weight” conversation. It was several weeks later that I worked that out.
“Let’s follow the Rhine!” were her actual words. I thought that might be quite fun, a glass of wine on a boat. “By bike!!” “Oh,” I said. Thought a bit. How far is it? “Just under 1500k.” Oh, I said, thought a bit more. “Which way?” I asked, thinking that would be the key question. “Oh, downhill, of course”. So we did. All of it.

I won’t tell the whole story of how that didn’t lose me any weight either or how we did manage to get to an Alp with just a bike each and under 5k of luggage each for over two weeks pedalling, or of how many surprisingly uphill elements there are to a river made of water which I had always thought only flowed one way, the down way…BUT here’s the point, the real point, we went past the Lorelei.

Now as you approach the Lorelei you can see the river, which has grown quite wide and well, full of water, gets narrower and faster and there is a really ominous piece of rock sticking out where you can see it would be treacherous – bits of rock sticking up with water flowing round them and logs and twigs getting swooshed about, and…………


Read the complete article here.

Global Transaction Banking – Stability in an Unstable Environment

Customers today are more sophisticated, tech-savvy and complex than ever before. Companies need to create highly innovative and superior IT strategies and business models. To implement these strategies, they require the banking industry to provide financial mobility, flexibility, accessibility, control and visibility.

Moreover as economic pressures continue to affect the banking industry, banks need to gear up for continuous changes in the expanding roles of banks, corporate treasurers and regulatory landscape. In the banking fraternity, global transaction banking is considered as one of the more stable and profit-making business sections. It is important that banks stay tuned to the latest trends to stay a step ahead in the industry. Some of the top trends in the global transaction banking industry include:

  1. The rising risk of digital currency adoption: There is increasing adoption of digital currency like Bitcoin owing to the reducing confidence in banking systems. As peer-to-peer technologies are introduced and open source P2P Money is being used, widespread adoption in corporate banking is highly unlikely. For banks that have a footprint in many markets, it may be necessary in the future to support emerging digital technologies such as digital currencies, to stay a step ahead in global banking.
  2. The convergence of corporate-centric, multi-products and services: Driven by the expanding role of corporate treasurers, there is an increasing expectation from banks to provide integrated solutions through a single point of contact. As the responsibilities of corporate treasurers have extended to a wider range of activities, they expect their banks to support them by providing cutting edge, on-the-go service and products.
  3. The increasing demand for international banking services in emerging markets: As developing countries emerge as key players, banks need to extend their services to meet the cash management needs of their clients. As corporate clients look at increasing their global footprint and FIs seek solutions to support expansion, banks need to upgrade their capabilities. They need to adopt emerging banking technology to provide clients with payments and liquidity solutions, internationally. With the expansion of operations and transactions, what is expected from banks is the need for centralized functionality with easy accessibility, flexibility, control and visibility.
  4. Compliance with the ever changing regulatory landscape:The banking industry today is not only pressurized by a challenging economic environment, they also face the never-ending issue of keeping up with changing regulations. As FIs and corporate clients expand into emerging markets and look for worldwide transaction banking solutions, complying with different regulatory requirements is complicated. In order to comply with many regulations, which are different across geographies, corporate investors are interested in sourcing solutions from global banks and banking technology providers.
  5. The shift of expectations from core banking services to value added services: Cash management is a critical component for companies, and banks that are involved in cash management maintain a long standing relationship with their clients. However, unlike traditional banking, corporate clients today expect their banks to be more than transaction service providers. They expect additional value added services such as accessibility, flexibility and security.

The way ahead in global transaction banking, is for banks to move beyond their core service and product offerings. As corporate clients shift focus of their IT budget from basic compliance of regulations to creating a competitive edge, banks need to adopt emerging banking technologies in order to provide advanced services and products.

With focus on gaining a single platform to support high-speed banking activities, an ideal platform is required to provide an advanced highway to run customer payments services, receivables management, cash management, liquidity management, trade finance and supply chain finance thorough an integrated system.

Know more in this year’s annual conference of Sibos, where iGTB will be showcasing its core comprehensive products, from Corporate Banking Exchange, Customer Onboarding, Payments Services Hub to Liquidity Management.

Enable corporate clients to be…

Financially mobile, flexible and accessible…

With a high-speed banking platform. 


Phil Cantor on the iGTB MindCloud – An EBA Day Special

Phil Cantor on the iGTB MindCloud - An EBA Day Special

Phil Cantor on the iGTB MindCloud – An EBA Day Special

The MindCloud – An innovative concept, proposed by iGTB, at the EBAday 2014 conference held on 10 & 11 June in Helsinki, Finland was a resounding success. See iGTB CMO Phil Cantor’s interview at the event and read the summary of the MindCould findings, that gives us all a new insight into the breadth and depth of European and Global Transaction Banking.