Tech is em­pow­er­ing, we should stop calling it dis­rup­tive

Yorkshire Post - Business - - BUSINESS - Mark Casci Email: Twit­ter: @MarkCasci

JIM WAT­SON, the great molec­u­lar bi­ol­o­gist, came up with one of my favourite quotes when he wrote: “Some­time or an­other, some­one will tell you that you are not ready to do some­thing. If you are go­ing to make a big jump in science, you will very likely be un­qual­i­fied to suc­ceed by def­i­ni­tion.”

In ef­fect, what the Amer­i­can sci­en­tist and au­thor was say­ing was that if you are pre­par­ing or con­tem­plat­ing do­ing some­thing amaz­ing, you are do­ing so with no ex­pe­ri­ence or back­ground, the very essence of be­ing a pi­o­neer.

This morn­ing I will be in the very fine sur­round­ings of KPMG’s of­fices in Leeds to help host an event staged by NorthIn­vest to bring to­gether our old­est and new­est fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

The #Leed­sFin­tech Sum­mit will look at how fin­tech firms can work more ef­fec­tively with the es­tab­lished fi­nan­cial net­works that we have in York­shire.

And no doubt dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tions we will hear fin­tech firms de­scribed as dis­rupters.

Many peo­ple work­ing in tech tend to ref­er­ence them­selves as such, al­most wear­ing their dis­rup­tive im­pact and in­flu­ence as a badge of hon­our. The Sil­i­con Val­ley mantra of “move fast and break things” is one many hold dearly.

For me, how­ever, it is a word which I have never liked.

Fin­tech, like many tech firms, in my opin­ion is a force for good, a step in the right di­rec­tion to do­ing things in a bet­ter, more ef­fi­cient and con­ve­nient way.

When used cor­rectly it can give a voice to the voice­less, democra­tise some­thing pre­vi­ously only avail­able to elites and bring peo­ple from all cor­ners of the globe to­gether.

This does not feel dis­rup­tive at all to me but rather en­abling and em­pow­er­ing. A ques­tion of se­man­tics I guess but one that irks me each time I hear it (in­clud­ing from my own mouth).

When I talk to banks about fin­tech they vir­tu­ally all see it is ex­cit­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing.

Many, of their own vo­li­tion, are happy to talk on record about closer co-op­er­a­tion and al­liances with the sec­tor is not only ad­vis­able but es­sen­tial if they are to re­main com­pet­i­tive on a longterm ba­sis.

And al­ready this process is start­ing to bear fruit.

Take for ex­am­ple the re­cent an­nounce­ment from York­shire Bank that it was to work with fin­tech Ezbob to of­fer lenders an ap­pli­ca­tion process of just a hand­ful of hours rather than up to two weeks.

Us­ing the fin­tech’s soft­ware along with the bank’s al­go­rithm and brand, it can now help SMEs ac­cess cap­i­tal rapidly, mean­ing they do not need to rely on credit cards or other high in­ter­est lend­ing fa­cil­i­ties when they need cap­i­tal on an ur­gent ba­sis.

As David Duffy, the bank’s chief ex­ec­u­tive said to me: “It is old and new but keep­ing both and not re­plac­ing old with new. That bal­ance is very im­por­tant.

“We are re­ally cre­at­ing a bank which is ready to adapt to the fu­ture and the re­ally ex­cit­ing part to start that with is this fin­tech.”

The ques­tion is now how we can ex­trap­o­late this one ex­am­ple of co­op­er­a­tion into a model that is mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial to the es­tab­lished and the mod­ern prac­ti­tion­ers in fi­nance, as well as ben­e­fit­ing the whole of the re­gional econ­omy.

If we get this right we can build a fi­nan­cial sec­tor which is fu­ture proof and world-lead­ing but also one which also sub­scribes to a healthy moral code, a wel­come move away from the lever­aged and ma­cho sec­tor which caused so much eco­nomic hard­ship a decade ago.

Again I come back to the use of the word dis­rup­tive and how pe­jo­ra­tive it sounds. When I think of dis­rup­tion I think of in­con­ve­nience and ir­ri­ta­tion. I do not think any of these tech firms are mak­ing me feel ei­ther of these emo­tions.

And of course, the prob­lem of mov­ing fast and break­ing things is that some­times things can get bro­ken which you wanted to keep. As Jim Wat­son would say we are not qual­i­fied to start map­ping the process yet but we are mak­ing a healthy start.

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