Tanya Andreasyan: Banks need to be ‘attackers’ to survive in the digitalized world

16.02.2018 | 09:37 Home / News / Interviews /
#Tanya Andreasyan #FinTech Futures
FinTech Futures (previously known as Banking Technology) is a British digital platform reporting on the fintech community, from veterans to new players. Banks.am has talked with FinTech Futures Chief Editor Tanya Andreasyan about the prospects of fintech.

Tanya, is it difficult to be an editor for the website that tells about rapidly developing technologies, in the financial sector at that?

It is definitely fast-paced and never dull! The industry is so hot right now, with so much happening – every day our editorial team writes about (and learns) something new. The way technology is changing the world and our lives is fascinating and the pace is unprecedented.

In the financial services space, as in many other industries, technology is democratizing the services, making them more affordable and accessible, improving people’s lives and providing them with more choice, so it’s very interesting to research, monitor and report on.

I think that to be successful in a job of an editor at a B2B publication in fintech today, you need to be resourceful, dynamic, collaborative and innovative. The world of media and publishing has changed a lot in the last decade. So, in my view, on the one hand, it is important to preserve the traditional core values of journalism, such as independence and solid research, and on the other hand, to be able to keep up with today’s demands, for example, quick access to information, visuals and social media.

Quality and quantity: you’ve got to find the right balance of producing high quality content and doing so swiftly and succinctly (particularly when it comes to news).

And of course, you have to understand the market trends and the interests of your readers – to be relevant and useful, to bring breaking news stories and insightful research, to stand out in the ocean of information on the internet, and to build and maintain the reputation of a trustworthy resource that is worth our audience’s time.  

What are the most demanded topics for your audience? How popular are the stories about cryptocurrencies? What is your personal opinion on bitcoin?

At present, the hot topics are around artificial intelligence and machine learning, cryptocurrencies and blockchain, and of course, anything to do with digital.

The cryptocurrency stories are very popular, but it’s neither surprising nor unexpected. The markets worldwide are flooded with new cryptocurrencies and ICO offers. Some are genuine, many are not. And the market is volatile, as you can see from the recent events - it’s like a rollercoaster ride at the moment.

Bitcoin, I feel, has lost its original purpose (according to Satoshi Nakamoto’s original white paper) of being “a peer-to-peer electronic cash system”, an “electronic coin” that would replace money transfers currently controlled by the financial system and be almost immune to fraud.

The extreme value fluctuations of Bitcoin has made it useless for anything else than speculation. There is a great article, in my view, supporting this opinion on our website, written by the chief digital officer of Nordic bank S-Banken.

The majority of experts, even the opponents of cryptocurrency, see a big future for blockchain. How revolutionary do you think it will be for banks? How will blockchain change our daily lives?

I think blockchain as technology has a bright future, but we are yet to fully grasp and apply it. There are plenty of tests and proofs-of-concept taking place at banks around the world, but nothing concrete beyond trials.

I am not sure it will be “revolutionary” for banking, but other sectors are likely to benefit from it on a massive scale, such as governments/identity.

In the financial services space, I see potential applications for it in areas such as trade finance, which is still relying heavily on old-fashioned paper. You can find some good examples here.

We hear more and more often that fintech startups are competing with banks. Do you think this is a challenge for the banks? What are your predictions for the next developments in this area?

Absolutely! As Swift CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt said, “Fintech will eat our lunch unless we adapt and innovate ourselves, and keep up with the pace of innovation.” And now it is even more pertinent across Europe, with the introduction on the Open Banking and PSD2 (the revised Payment Services Directive) regulations. Australia is now also planning similar reforms.

And of course, there is also so-called “bigtech” – the likes of Google, Amazon and Alibaba. Many in the industry believe that it is not fintech but bigtech that is a real threat to banks. Speaking at a recent conference, Elisabeth Rochman, financial services chief technologist from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said about the bigtech firms: “They are big, smart and very hungry companies. And they are investing billions of dollars in R&D.” Very true!

So yes, banks now have to decide what path they are taking: competing and/or collaborating with fintechs with new services, products and so on, or becoming merely a “dumb pipe” – a utility.

And digitalization has a huge role to play in this.

In the words of Ram Charan, an eminent business advisor, speaker and author, “the old path is dead”. He says banks have to completely change their mindset from “build it and they will come” to “outside in” – to have the customer pull. In another words, it is no longer about the products as it used to be. Now it is all about customers and their experience.

Charan calls it “an unstoppable trend”. There is no escape from it, so banks must not resist it, but instead they should embrace and master it, and do it fast! To survive and thrive in the new digitalized world, you must become “an attacker”, says Charan. Otherwise, you will perish.

What needs to be done then?

•    Make sure digital takes priority over traditional innovation, as it is digital that enables you to innovate.
•    Identify the right partners to create an ecosystem, as this is how all businesses will eventually operate. Gain competence to govern and manage it. Competition will come from the ecosystems.
•    Make sure you oversee the end-to-end customer experience.
•    Make room for new core competencies and technologies driven by algorithms.
•    Slash your internal costs by one third to free the budgets to invest in digitalization. The speed of cost cutting is vital.
•    Create the talent pool that understands customer experience.
•    Make sure transition time to digitalization does not take more than two years.

Do not resist the speed of change, see the opportunities, have the mindset to accept the new, and attack. The old path is dead. Long live the new path!

What advice would you give to fintech journalists?

You’ve got to have passion for learning and discovery, be able to multitask and be flexible! The more you know, the more you can share with the readers.

And finally, we would love to hear a little about your relation to Armenia.

I have Armenian roots on my dad’s side of the family. My paternal grandfather came from a small village in Georgia, which had an Armenian community.

I was born and grew up in Russia, in a lovely mineral spa town of Pyatigorsk in the North Caucasus.

I am a mix of many nationalities – Armenian, Russian, Georgian and even French!

Tatev Hovhannisyan talked to Tanya Andreasyan
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