How Social Media is Democratising Banking
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 9:40AM
Ralph Kerle in Innovation, Innovation, banking, creativity, leadership, social media, technology

Recently I was reminded of how social media has emerged into the mainstream of organizational life along with our personal lives. How it is disrupting all forms of business and organizations in the most dynamic, uncertain and yet optimistic way I think I have ever seen over the 30 years I have been involved with organizational innovation.

Over the past weeks, I have been working in the financial services industry assisting an organization’s team of future leaders develop their creative thinking around the organization’s design of future products and services. And I am surprised to report, there is a high level of creativity amongst the leaders in this large traditional governance dominated organization and a high level of belief the leaders can bring themselves to work and make a difference. More importantly the new generation of leaders coming through have a social conscience with more than a passing curiosity in social media and innovation.

Banks, in particular, are under threat because web based technology platforms built by PayPal, Amazon and eBay, based on social media technology and principles and the notion of personal trust in commercial transactions, have begun to democratize the flow of ordinary funds in the global economy. Banks' positions as controllers of the flow of global funds has meant they have been able to dictate market terms and conditions on a whole range of financial services products. However, their position as the central processing hubs for payments is now under severe threat.  As a result, banks have an urgent need to innovate to maintain their position or have funds flow away from them all together to other technology savvy non bank players entering the payment's market. Yep, a future where money is an instant code on a technology platform – no bank or cash needed.  It’s much closer than you think!

Suddenly the financial services industry as a whole understands the metaphor "innovation is the mother of necessity".

Synchronously, banks have begun to recognize that governments, at least Western Governments that is, have performed so badly in their responsibilities towards their middle class citizens and the less fortunate in society as a result of continual cost cutting to reduce national debts they created, that banks, at least in Australia, can see new market opportunities based on the theories of social innovation rather than economic rationalism.

Of course, Mohammad Yunus, one of my personal heroes, has been working away in this area in third world countries for over 25 years so social innovation in financing is not new. It is new in advanced economies though.
The future leaders I worked with over the last couple of weeks are no different from you or I or for that matter their third world counterparts. Accountants, actuaries, administrators, marketeers, mathematicians, operational managers, sales managers, underwriters, IT coders, lawyers, process managers, statisticians, all well educated, some working mums with families, all with mortgages, concerns about job security, aged care, superannuation, cash liquidity and an unknown and uncertain working future ahead of them. For them to be able to bring their personal stories to the creation of new products and services and to influence how the essentials of financial services can be packaged and marketed in a more transparent and socially meaningful manner became a personal crusade. What’s more, these young leaders are inside the system and they are in a position to affect change.

They know people distrust banks and see financial planners as nothing more than commission taking salesmen. As part of the programme, they were all required to go on a discovery tour, spend time at the local shopping centre, after school when Mums pick up the children, at the tuck shop, in poor areas to hear people talk firsthand of their concerns about their financial future. They also all knew people personally who were suffering financial hardship. One future leader, a single mum with a child had had to sell her house to assist her mother and father, both suffering poor health with no funds, to move into old age care.

This generation of future business and organizational leaders has a genuine desire to find socially equitably solutions in a dramatically changing world and I found it quite inspirational. Not once did the concept of profit as king or growth surface. The focus was on the cause first, with the intention they wanted to make it happen. Approximately 180 ideas were explored over three weeks and refined into 4 business cases articulated in infographics and multi-media presentations for board presentation and approval. 

What was most impressive was the way social media as an information and research enabler rapidly broadened, enhanced and influenced their ideas and their ability to collaborate and prototype across different departments, functions and locations. Social media is the new edge in democratising organizations and the way we work and it is from here the revolution is coming. If your organization is not currently exploring as part of this democratisation social media business models, leave before it dies!

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out?

Don't you know it's gonna be

You say you've got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan

John Lennon, Revolution

Article originally appeared on (
See website for complete article licensing information.