Hitting the Beat

November 8, 2017

There’s an entertaining story flying around the internet that during the 1960s space race, NASA commissioned its scientists to create an ‘anti-gravity’ pen that the American astronauts could use whilst in space. Millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money was spent on the invention to great public outrage, so the story goes. The Soviets, on the other hand, provided their astronauts with pencils.

Alas, it’s a myth, but a beautiful metaphor nonetheless for big organisations spending millions on providing services and solutions that aren’t what their customers want.

Every now and then, innovative companies break the mould in understanding what their customers want and need. I didn’t know that I needed an iPad when they were launched and couldn’t really see the point of them at first. It didn’t take long before I realised that my iPad was unique to me, like no-one else’s. It evolved into being my morning newspaper, my album of happy memories, my kiss goodnight to the kids from my hotel room, my app to help me to sleep and my music to energise me in the morning, my catch up with friends, my breaking news, my map, my inbox, my office on the move, my book when I’ve time and my Scrabble when I’m bored.

But for every company like Apple and every game-changer like the iPad, there are thousands, probably millions, of examples of businesses and public sector organisations missing the beat and creating products or ‘solutions’ that don’t solve the problems that their customers or constituents are facing. Think ‘New Coke’, the Betamax video and the Sinclair C5 electric bike in the 80s alone.

Let’s bring it back to today and consider financial services and more specifically banking. As I’ve written previously, view more here, the global banking industry has been shaken up in the past decade since the start of the global financial crisis. You should never waste a good crisis. A crisis offers an opportunity to drive through change. Most people and organisations tend only to change when it becomes easier to change than to keep the status quo. So, to what extent have the banks used the last ten years to learn their lessons, to change their ways and to focus on their role in the communities and markets that they serve?

Well if you judge that by customer satisfaction, providing access to start-ups businesses and various sectors of the economy, there remains a lot to be done. One really positive development is the explosion of FinTech competitors. These tech-enabled, digital organisations are providing new alternatives in banking, payments and other financial services to challenge the old guard and to drive a new alternative in how people and companies organise their money and support their businesses.

Here at Capital International Group, we’re pushing ahead along similar lines with our plans to open a new bank. Thanks to the Isle of Man’s Alternative Banking Regime that was launched in August 2016, we’re in the process of applying for a 1(2) banking license which, all being well, will allow us to open the doors to the bank in the second half of 2018.

We’re going to focus on corporate clients (the license precludes retail customers) in the fiduciary sector, SMEs, family offices, eCommerce and eGaming companies and we are building a leading-edge digital banking platform that will feature an efficient client onboarding process, transparent pricing and high functionality. We’ll provide core banking, savings, foreign exchange, payments and lending via an online platform. We’re focusing on sectors that we understand in markets that we already operate with pragmatic, speedy, local decisions being made by my senior team and I.

We’ve built our plans on feedback from scores of meetings with existing and target clients in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Ireland, UK, Malta, the UAE and South Africa. We’ve tested our product range, we’ve tested our pricing, and we’ve held workshops to gather feedback on our processes and technology.

There’s still a lot of work to do until we’re ready to open the doors, and naturally we require the sign off from the island’s regulator which we’re constructively working towards with them. We’re not looking to defy gravity with our inventions; and you can’t plan to have the same impact as the launch of the iPad. However, you can certainly research exactly who your target customers are, the problems that they face, what they want from their corporate banks, how they want to be served and what they’re willing to pay. That’s what we’re working on.

Greg Ellison
CEO, Capital International Group

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