The Digital Disruption Of Financial Services

I’m lucky to have a job where I have the opportunity to meet a lot of innovators in financial services and fin-tech. As a consequence I build up a sense of the state of the industry and the key trends ahead, and I love to share these insights on this blog.

Of course, I had the finger on the pulse of the fin-tech startup community in my Innotribe job in the last 4 years. Now, working for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, I focus on building financial payment platforms for the poor people and thus meet a wide range of stakeholders – governments, banks and central banks, telcos, mobile money operators, technology giants and startups. I can tell it makes for a very wide perspective and I do spend considerable time thinking and integrating this rich input.

I love doodling as well, so when inspiration comes I take my iPad and my faithful Jot pen and I try to capture this in a drawing. Here’s the latest one – a cartoon depicting in a funny way what I think is the state of the consumer financial services industry.


I’ve posted it on Twitter and it generated an incredible amount of interest, so I thought I’d share some more about the underlying thinking, and also some additional insights coming from the numerous comments on Twitter.

philip1 Well, optimist that I am, I really thought of my drawing as a cartoon, exaggerating a situation to make a point. Philip rightly points out that sometimes real life is itself an exaggeration!


Indeed, I don’t think someone will acquire a global bank with 2 trillion US dollars in its balance sheet. But the point is not about acquisition, it is about who will eat these bank’s lunch if they don’t pay attention. Telcos are tempted to provide financial accounts, even though it makes them getting into the murky (for them) waters of financial regulation. In fact, in my focus countries (Nigeria, Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), telcos are probably best placed to reach out to poor people in remote, rural areas.

By delivering financial accounts and person-to-person payments, telcos and other mobile money operators are developing the next generation of low cost payments platforms. My belief is that these new platform will simply prevail in the traditional financial system (often referred to as “the rails”) – why in the world would we continue to use more complex and costly variants? In other words, if banks don’t embrace these new recipes for lower cost rails, they will be in dire straits. The readers of my book (“The Castle And The Sandbox”) will recognise this argument – banks will need to step out of their established “castles” and innovate and experiment in “sandboxes” to understand and adopt these new platforms.

The bounty, the vision, is the volume that will be brought in the system by the 2,5 Billion people who are currently out of any financial system.



Agreed, the predators are everywhere. Just to prove the point that banks can indeed step out of the castle, Simple was recently acquired by BBVA. I knew this when I drew the cartoon, and voluntarily included Simple in the “startups” cloud, just to show that nothing is really simple in the fin-tech eco-system :-)



There is a show on French TV (“On n’est pas couché”) that used to start by introducing who is NOT invited to the show. Similarly, I’ve had a number of comments about who is not shown in the cartoon, and notably Paypal, Visa and MasterCard.

For me, the core business of these companies is really part of the current “rails”, so in my mind they are included in the “banks” cake in the cartoon. I know this is a big shortcut, and I can hear all the objections coming. But hey, as the author of the cartoon, I can choose who to invite in, right? ;-)

More seriously, I do think Paypal, the card companies, and indeed many banks do have innovative products and services “on the rails”. If you are following my blog you know that I’m a big fan of Paypal for international payments.

Now, on to the “hot” topic!



I hope Philippe will comment on this post and explain more. I love the way Tomasz has captured my meaning – “Bitcoin slowly but surely heats up the pan”. I’ve written here why I think Bitcoin is important for the fin-tech industry – in a nutshell it’s not about the Bitcoin currency (which may or may not become one of the trading currencies on par with the RMB or the USD) but about the bitcoin (lowercase) inspired technology: the bitcoin blockchain and its massively distributed architecture. I believe this architecture will influence how the financial transactions are performed in the future. I used the opportunity of this post to add Ripple to the cartoon – I’ve also written about how this company uses the bitcoin blockchain architecture to perform very low cost international money transfers.


Gigi has the last word on bitcoin – financial technology, all electrons that it is, needs to contribute, as all other industries, to the massive ecological problem we are facing as a civilisation.



Danièle, Sam, and all the numerous others who have retweeted and favorited my tweets – many thanks for your kind words!

And I give the final word – pardon, picture – to Jorge. And Jorge please comment below and tell us more on your thinking!



Bank Innovation 2014 In Seattle

I had the privilege to be invited to the Bank Innovation 2014 event in my home town. I 2013-09-09 at 07-41-17loved the theme – “The future, in focus”. The theme was beautifully illustrated by a photo of Seattle’s Space Needle partly in clouds (the photo is mine, albeit similar to the one of the conference). I found it very catchy – now that I’m used to the weather of Seattle, I know that very often a day may begin in fog and end up in bright sunshine: Good metaphor!

The organiser and host of the event was JJ Hornblass. JJ has been a longtime follower of Innotribe, and we maintain over several years a dialogue about innovation in financial industry.

JJ invited me to come over for a “fireside chat” – a relaxed format where we indeed talked about a wide range of subjects and also invited questions from the audience. I loved the format. We did prepare for it but we also let the inspiration of the moment prevail, so the result was, I think and hope, entertaining and fresh.

I was very honoured by the way JJ introduced me – he retraced briefly my career at SWIFT, and emphasised the Innotribe experience. He then briefly explained my current job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and wanted to explore the perpectives on the financial industry from these radically different perspectives. Thank you very much JJ!

Here are some links resulting from the fireside chat -

The event was very well attended (my estimate was about 250 people), very rich in topics – I appreciated a lot the focus on the fin-tech startup community. It was also very lively on Twitter (#BI14) and I made a lot of Twitter-friends.

Finally, it was also a  pleasure to meet Matteo Rizzi, my fellow Innotribe co-founder and dear friend. We haven’t seen each other since we took off on our respective ways after SWIFT, and it was such a thrill to have him visit my new home town!


Lots of buzz and happenings

I feel a bit guilty about neglecting this personal blog for quite a while. I’ve been busy with many projects -

- of course the maelstrom of projects at work

- an intense offsite with the Innotribe team

- the Innotribe@Belfast conference

- several speaking engagements, including a recent Kuala Lumpur trip to develop my digital transformation of finance story

- the Forbes blog

- the book!

But, but, but – two more days and then off to Greece first and the Alps afterwards.

Going back to Greece’s Peloponnese beaches, sun and the big blue will be a thrill! Its been more than 3 years, much overdue. And then the long walks near my stronghold in Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise.

I’ll have some time to blog about personal things and hopefully post some drawings.


The 5Ws of my blogs

Why, What, Where, When, Who?

I’m facing a little bit of a challenge at the moment as I’m contributing to an increasing number of blogs.

There is this blog, and the innotribe blog, my usual hang out places.

I used to blog occasionally on, but that is changing for Still transitioning.

I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute to BankThink, the blog platform of American Banker.

And most recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to be a contributor to

There are some other writing projects that I’m pursuing. Some very good friends (? ;-) ) have convinced me I should write longer pieces about Innotribe and innovation in general.

So I’ve been spending all my recent plane time writing – not sleeping or reading or watching movies. It turns out planes are good places to write things. And I’m just back from a 2 day long week-end from our retreat on the Belgian sea shore, where I spend a lot of time …. writing.

I did discover this – I like writing. I thought I would be too impatient to *really* write, but it turns out I can do it. I like it – so far I don’t love it. But let’s see where it takes me. On to new adventures.

Anyway,  I need to put some order into all these blogs and writing, figure out the 5Ws of each. So just wanted to let you know this is happening, and I hope you can track me down in the meantime.


Interested to join the Innotribe? Job opening in NYC

Hi there!

Here’s a job opening in the Innovation team @ SWIFT!

I’m looking for an entrepreneur/intrapreneur, located in SWIFT’s NYC office, to be part of the Innotribe. Below is a more detailed job description. In a nutshell – I need energy, belief, drive, evangelisation, creativity, charisma.

Spread the word!

55681 – Innovation Relationship Manager – Intrapreneur to Foster Innovation

Do you like working with people? Do you enjoy networking with colleagues?  Are you well-versed in the latest technology trends?  Have you worked to create cost-effective technological solutions to meet the demands of a growing company?  If your answer is “yes” to all of these questions, then this is the opportunity of a life-time.

We are looking for a talented person to become our local Innovation Relationship Manager. You will establish innovation as a driver to assess the potential and the deployment of new products and services within the financial industry in your region. The ideal person will have experience for with the following:


You will enable entering new markets with new products and services.

You will participate in finding collaborative ways to adopt new initiatives and trends.

You will engage with your regional communities to engage in co-creation, co-investment and collaborative developments of new products or service ideas.

You will determine the best initiatives to be pursued in your region and feed these into the overall Innovation activities centrally.


Responsibilities include:

·         Building a solid and reliable regional network with SWIFT customers and partners in order to establish the playground to foster innovation and co-creation

·         Keeping abreast of financial and technology trends, assess the role SWIFT might play in that context and share the insights with the innovation team and your local colleagues

·         Mapping new trends and initiatives with customer needs, and transform this input in business opportunities

·         Representing SWIFT in its ‘Innovation facilitator’ role in the broad financial industry sector, be that customers, vendors, partners, regulatory bodies, or external audiences, and of course the company itself.

·         In close relationship with the markets and product teams, consult and assess the impact of new trends and technologies in the future development of SWIFT products

·         Assessing new ideas originating in the SWIFT eco-system and deciding whether they are candidates for Proof of Concepts (POCs) or Incubator


Additional Attributes:

·         Establish and maintain warm and supportive interpersonal relationships with co-workers, clients, customers, etc.

·         Develop creative solutions to problems on projects that he/she believes in and where positive results of efforts on other people are visible

·         Enjoy being part of a team of other creative people

·         Thrive in an active and challenging environment where several projects need to be juggled at the same time

·         Like being exposed to new ideas and explore new approaches

·         Qualifications:

·         University degree, MBA or post-graduate specialization required. Marketing or engineering with a marketing experience would be a plus

·         At least 10 years experience in financial operations/products or services development, project planning, management role, of which 5 years as a product manager.

·         Previous experience as an innovation process leader, product development manager, advanced concepts team manager or R&D team manager will be required. Experience in bringing projects from idea to production, including financial assessment and incubation highly desirable.

·         Ideally, the candidate should be familiar with the financial sector with a considerable technology exposure (in software and telecommunications).


Want to know more?  Click on the link -

We Offer:

  • Competitive salary and bonus with exceptional benefits /100% company paid Medical/Dental/Vision/Life Insurance
  • Excellent training and career development opportunities
  • A friendly, professional, stable working environment where one can grow in their career.
  • SWIFT is an  Equal Opportunity Employer

Qualified applicants please apply via   or please forward resume to