A ..scary.. brick and mortar experience


A week ago the internet connection at home started acting up. Goes down, then available for a couple hours, then down again.

A big problem!

We’re all so used to have internet that all at once we started being a bit … anxious is not the right word. A bit stressed.

My wife works from home 2 days a week, and she’s heavily dependent for her job on being connected. So she started using her iPhone as a hotspot. Works but not ideal.

I started being uncomfortable as all the bills, home banking, investments (all these things I’m responsible for… ;-) ) are all electronic, so I started feeling a little late for everything. I also began using my own iPhone as a hotspot. Not ideal – slow, some things somehow don’t work. Granted, I could do some of the stuff from the internet connection at work, but it’s kind of in between meetings and things, no time to concentrate.

The boys (and girlfriends) –  when they are around – started clamoring about all their contacts waiting for them on Facebook, that couldn’t wait, so they all went to friends and cafés where they could connect.

A big problem, I tell you!

So I asked one of my sons, who is in between jobs and thus has some free time, to call our internet provider – Scarlet in Belgium. He tried over two days many times, at all periods of a working day, without success. Call the hotline, wait with music for 20 minutes, then the line disconnects.

Impossible to get in touch with these guys. #Scarlet #Fail

So I was sitting and thinking what to do. One of these solitude moments ;-)

And I figured: maybe it is some hardware, wiring, problem… I’ve never paid attention to where the phone wires were – as a matter of fact I don’t even recall ever seeing phone wires in the 25 years we live in this house.

So I took a flashlight and went down in the cellar. Indeed very quickly I found a whole mess of wires on a wall, to which I had never paid any real attention at all before. There is one wire coming from the street into the cellar. It connects to a hub where clearly many people had a go: the phone guys, the alarm system guys, the digital TV box guys and god knows who else. It looks like a wild cat!

But I figured the key thing is this phone wire coming from outside. A big, thick, many times painted over, nailed to the brick wall, wire.

I poked it a bit, took it in my hand, pulled a little …. and there it goes: breaks free! The solution is near!

The house we live is from 19th century, so god knows how old is this wire. For sure more than the 25 years we live in the house. Very brittle, kind of falling apart from age. I took my swiss knife, cut out a 10cm piece of it. Still very brittle. I cut 10cm more. Looked better. Connected the wires to the right spots in the big mess of wires.

Ran up the stairs to the office where the Time Capsule router is.

And miracle: the green eye of the Time Capsule is on! And has been now on for 2 days. Clearly, problem solved.

I ran an internet speed test: I have 20Mbps download speed. We connect the 5-6 computers in the house on this wire. We download all sorts of music and movies all the time from iTunes. And Skype. And digital TV. And Internet radio. On and on and on.

Think about it. All of this on this piece of brittle copper wire coming off the street into my cellar. From another age and generation.

And this wire choose a particular day to start acting up. Isn’t it amazing?

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This work by Kosta Peric is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

“The Artist” movie and the parallel to the financial industry


I watched “The Artist” movie yesterday.

It’s a movie by Michel Hazanivicius with Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. I recommend it highly for its idea, visual style, the beautiful actors performance. And I do wish them luck tonight at the Oscars for the first ever non anglo-saxon movie to win the best movie award.

I was under the spell of the movie all day today (while cooking with friends on a gray belgian day – but that’s a story in itself).

The story is of a silent movie star who is facing the advent of the sound movies, all of this in the context of the 1929 crisis. The character – George Valentin – does not understand the new technology, has not seen it coming, and in fact doesn’t understand why the change is happening. His idea of the beauty and artistic value of silent movies is being stormed away.

It struck me that in fact that’s where the banking industry is today.

There is an established order, arguably since centuries, about how banks process money and loans and the products and services they provide.

But the banks are under pressure today -

  • the ongoing crisis
  • the advent of the new  connected generation on social media
  • the advent of easy, cheap person-to-person international payment schemes (Paypal and others)
  • the advent of new business models, dubbed banking 2.0 (see Movenbank, SImple, Fidorbank)
  • the advent of telecom operators as payment processors (mobile payments schemes not involving banks)
  • new business and artificial intelligence technologies.

Exactly as the silent movie world – of our character George Valentin – is under pressure.

But George doesn’t see it. Perhaps he doesn’t WANT to see it. And so the sound movie “happens to him”.

In the same way as the “digital banking” may happen to established banks.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, so a very quick summary. Eventually George, with a help of Peppy Miller (played excellently by Bérénice Bejo), realizes the predicament he is in. He can’t cope with the full change of things, but he adapts and in the end rides the wave of change, in his own and different way.

As you can imagine, this ending fits perfectly my eternal optimist take :-)

I do think that if banks realize the massive change going on, they can ride the wave out. Propose new products and services for the connected generation, to enable them to manage their digital assets (and not only money), to help them be more accessible (through APIs), to establish them as core business intelligence processors.

All of these trends, pressures, changes and opportunities for the banking industry are summarized  here (a prezi).

Do you think I’m exaggerating by comparing the rate of change of today to the change of silent to sound movie in the 20′s? Am curious to know.

Kosta

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This work by Kosta Peric is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Innovation Sandbox – the place where “heads of innovation” meet


It’s been a while that I have on my to do list to network with my peers – the people who have the same job as I have.

The job I have (and love!) is “Head of Innovation” at SWIFT (www.swift.com), and co-founder of Innotribe (www.innotribe.com) – SWIFT’s innovation arm. In my particular case, I lead a small (10 people) team – or should I say squad ;-) – of incredibly talented people whose overall mission is to “enable collaborative innovation” in the company and also in the financial industry surrounding SWIFT.

I’ve in the job long enough now (3 and a half years) to know that every “head of innovation” out there has a different mission and objectives. Some are like me (enabling), some are about new product development (R&D), some are about skunkwork “under-the-cover” projects, some are about people and culture.

Of course, I do meet them at our Innotribe events and other occasions such as conferences. What I meant by networking in the introduction of this post is something different. A forum where a quality discussion started at an event can continue and a place where we can share experiences and help each other. Where we keep in touch.

I remember when I started my job. Lazaro Campos, my CEO, told me:

“I want the company to be more innovative and creative”

And right after he told me -

“Go away and do it”

He is like that ;-). I remember going into a period of deep research. What does it mean, to be innovative? Who is who in innovation? What conferences should I go to? Who should I talk to? I remember I would have paid top dollar to have some enlightened advice and yes, sometimes I wished for a fellow “shoulder to cry on”.

So here we go – I have created a Yammer community called “The Innovation Sandbox”.  This should be the place where “young” heads of innovation can find coaches, where “experienced” heads of innovation can find inspiration. And also, where heads of innovation of any kind can find a partner for a beer when visiting a city where they don’t know anybody, and get some ideas as a bonus.

DM, tweet, email me to get access. And you will be able to invite other fellow heads of innovation. Let’s see where this takes us.

Why this name – the sandbox? It comes from this post, where I explain my own “recipe” of how to innovate in established companies.

Just a final word on why I’m doing this now.

This idea was simmering in my (long) list of to-dos somewhere far down from the top. You know what happens with these, don’t you? ;-)

Well, I mentioned coaches earlier in the post. There’s one person out there who very kindly and periodically provides some advice to me.

Tony Fish, of AMF Ventures and also the author of the “My Digital Footprint” book, is one of our Innotribe Enablers. For those of you who don’t know what this means, suffice it to say he is on a team of very experienced people who advise the Innotribe team on the projects we do. As such, Tony observes my team and me periodically. And he is kind enough to provide to us and me, on top of his business advice, some coaching about how to do things. Very simple advice, straight to the point.

He asked me recently:

“How do you keep in touch with your friends?”

Meaning my peers. And he sort of electrified me to dig this to-do from the long list and bring it to the top.

The other influencer here is Leo from zenhabits.net. I’m a long time follower of this blog, and the one lesson I have learned there is that all major changes start always with very small, easy steps.

So while I had (and still have) some big ideas in mind about networking the “heads of innovation” community, I figured I’ll start small.  A very easy step.

“The innovation sandbox”  yammer community. See you there.

Past and future innovations: a “long” moment with London School of Economics


My colleague Maria-Eugenia (@eugeniaforcat) is working a lot with the London School of Economics. She recently put me in touch with two people from the School who are particularly interested in SWIFT for a project they are working on – Susan Scott, who is a senior lecturer in the Information Systems and Innovation group, and Markos Zachariadis (@macsugar) who is working on his PhD with Susan.

I’ll not elaborate on the project they are working on – I’ll leave it to them to talk about it ;-). Suffice it to say that they are interested by the history of SWIFT. And so they talked to me mostly as an old hand of the company (this coming April it’ll be the 24th anniversary of my joining SWIFT).

So we went back to some very old history – why and by who SWIFT was created, the expansion, the SWIFT I and II networks and some difficult times around that, the SWIFTNet network for which I was the chief architect, my own career coming from IT to Product Management to Sales to Marketing and now Innovation.

At a particular moment I felt this intriguing feeling and went into kind of observation of the conversation. Here I am, head of Innovation, always looking forward and – in fact – very rarely looking back.

The moment lasted a bit, as in slow motion …

But of course, talking about this “long” past, looking at the last 37 years of SWIFT, we all got inspired and started taking about the next “long” future of 37 years :-)

Those of you reading my blog know my opinion – that we are in a period of change equivalent to the printing press and that the deep driver of this change is the digitizing of everything around us, and in fact us as well and the economy around us. And this will and must drive a massive wave of innovation in the financial industry.

The full story of how I see this change happening and what are the opportunities brought by it is in this prezi.

It is rare for us to look “long”, so thank you very much Susan, Markos and Maria-Eugenia for the opportunity.