Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A National Grid for Banking - radical thinking by Errol Damelin

The article below is an extract from an opinion piece published in the Times of London from Errol Damelin, founder, CEO of Wonga. It appeared on Monday July 16th. The complete article is here: http://thetim.es/NcY9Ee
Image representing Errol Damelin as depicted i...
Image by Wonga.com via CrunchBase

What Errol proposes here would require a radical shake up of the way in which banking works in the UK - or anywhere else for that matter.
Radical does not, however, mean it is impossible to achieve. The idea, is in essence, the reverse of privatisation and suggests that the infrastructure, the backbone, the networks of the banking system be placed in public ownership (or at least independent ownership from incumbent FS companies) thus creating a level playing field for businesses to build services on top this infrastructure. A little like the National Grid - for bits, bytes and packets rather than  for electricity and Gas.

Wonga as a business has begun by shaking up and transforming the murky world of unsecured consumer lending and I would not bet against Errol and the team at Wonga doing similar to other financial services.

Errol writes (in part) as follows:
"It would help to think of high street banking services in the same way as basic utilities such as water or electricity.
Just as millions of us depend on the water companies to keep the water flowing and our lives working, so we rely on the banks in the same way. Indeed, when a bank's computer system fails and customers cannot get hold of their money, we feel it as keenly as a burst water pipe.
And just as water that flows from our tap comes from a sprawling network of tunnels and pipes, so our ability to withdraw cash at an ATM depends on vast interconnected information networks 
There is a strong case, given the convergence of these computerised systems, to create one single super-bank to look after our basic banking needs. Just as we have one interconnected network for water and energy, or standardised systems for road, rail and air transport, or uniform protocols for the internet and phone systems, so we could have a single, transparent and easy-to-access platform for basic banking services.
This super-bank could be founded and overseen by the Treasury. It would only provide bread and butter services such as a safe place to deposit your money.
You could think of this super-bank in the same way as iOS, the operating system for Apple's iPhones. It is always there, running smoothly in the background, and most people don't even know about its existence.
Similarly, this super-bank would flawlessly send and receive data, facilitating everyday banking needs.

Of course, customers also have more specialised needs — they want mortgages, pensions, loans and ISAs. As individuals we need a wide array of services to suit all kinds of situations. That's why we would need a second layer of services, developed by private companies, on top of the super-bank's superstructure. These companies would compete with each other to offer products at different rates.

Just as the smartphone platform has unleashed apps for everything from telling you when the next bus will arrive to ordering groceries, so the super-bank platform would stimulate cost-efficient solutions to everyday needs on a vast scale. For Wonga, linking our technology systems to a super-bank would let us make consumer and business loan decisions even faster and allow us to bring ideas for new products to market in a fraction of the time.
Our expectations have rocketed since the advent of the internet. We expect to have 24/7 access, to easily be able to make comparisons, to crowd source, order or apply online, pay electronically and receive goods at our home the next day. Although online banking has brought improvements, there has been a lack of fundamental change in banking overall.
At this time of economic torpor, we need to inject new life into the finance sector more than ever.
Ever since the establishment of the Bank of England in 1694, Britain has led the way in financial innovation, and the country has profited from it. Surely it's time to take the lead again."

For the complete article in the Times go to: http://thetim.es/NcY9Ee
TAG is an investor in Wonga

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1 comment:

  1. There is a strong case, given the convergence of these computerised systems, to create one single super-bank to look after our basic banking needs.
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