Technology always comes at a price, even if that price isn’t immediately obvious. Invisible and seamless payments, and people’s financial lives now being far less homogeneous and more complicated than they used to be, brings its own challenges. Financial literacy has never been more important in helping people navigate these challenges.

The way we bank has changed dramatically over the last decade. It was not too long ago when you had to wait in line in a bank to deposit money. Today things are totally different. You can do your banking without ever walking into a bank. In addition, the whole concept of money has changed. In the recent past, money usually meant bills and coins. But today, the concept of money has expanded to include digital currency and NFTs. What other innovations should we expect to see in banking in the short and medium term?

To address this, we are talking to leaders in the banking, finance, and fintech worlds, to discuss the future of banking and money over the next few years. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fiona Roach Canning.

Fiona Roach Canning is the co-Founder and CEO of Pollinate Global. She has over 20 years’ experience in delivering consumer engagement programs, across industries. Previously, Fiona has held roles at Nectar (the UK’s largest loyalty scheme with 20 million members) and Visa Europe. Fiona is driven by customer-centric design and by the idea that business in the digital age can, and should, be easier.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I love to travel. I’ve always chosen roles that allow me to experience new cultures. Early in my career I was running training programs for a white goods manufacturer across the world. Having been through Brazil, Colombia, Croatia and a few other countries, I landed in Almaty (Kazakhstan). The manufacturer was surprised that their freezers were not selling well, so I ran some focus groups, using an interpreter.

Everyone was very polite about the freezers, thought they looked great, were energy efficient and well-priced. The concern that came up however was that they were far too small. Now these were big freezers. In the end the interpreter explained to me that in Kazakhstan, families bought a whole horse and then kept it in a freezer and ate it bit by bit over the winter. These freezers would never fit a horse, he said. He was right! All of which goes to shows the power of travel to open our eyes to new cultures and perspectives.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Growing up, I was a gymnast. I remember on the wall of the gym I used to train in was a quote from George Bernard Shaw which said:

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it”.

This really stuck with me and has had a big influence on my approach toward both my professional and personal life. When it comes to leading teams and businesses; it’s always easy to point out the things which are wrong, but using that to fuel innovation and see better ways to do things, that’s where the magic happens. Simone Biles is a great example of this. She is someone fundamentally changing gymnastics. She’s not just slightly better — she’s doing things in a fundamentally different way and charting a course for others to follow.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

“We are at a fascinating stage in the Pollinate journey. We’ve built a solid presence in several key markets and proven the value that we bring. We are now beginning to work with banks in the US. This is a hugely exciting market, but also brings it’s own challenges.

While the UK and the US have much in common, there are also some significant differences. First, there’s the sheer size of the industry — the US has around five thousand payment providers. This creates an interesting opportunity for Pollinate, but also comes with a lot of complexity, from business development to product development. The Pollinate team in North America and in our HQ in London are relishing the opportunities afforded by our expansion into the US. Having spent several years living stateside, I’m hoping my firsthand experience of the banking landscape in the US will continue to benefit us on this journey.

How do you think this might change the world?

SMBs are the backbone of economies and communities around the world. By democratising access to financial data and insights for SMBs, Pollinate can make doing business both easier and smarter. This will help SMBs around the world, and the employees, families and communities who rely upon them.

What most excites you about the banking or payments industry as it is today? Can you explain what you mean?

We set up Pollinate over 5 years ago and even in that time the payments landscape has changed massively. The pace of change excites me. For SMBs however, while variety and competition in the payments market is to be welcomed, it can also be overwhelming.

In AI, we talk about the ‘singularity’, that moment when the pace of technological innovation becomes exponential, with the time between breakthroughs shrinking with every iteration. In payments, it can feel like the same dynamic is at work. It took decades to move from physical money to card payments, but the proliferation of new payment options in recent years has been seen the industry advance at breakneck pace.

This brings huge opportunities of course, especially for those who embrace the full potential of this innovation. The government of India for example has embraced seamless payments and committed to building the infrastructure to support them. For individuals, businesses and communities across India this means the opportunity to sell easily to a global audience. From the big cities to the rural hinterland, seamless payments give everyone access and the opportunity to plug into the global economy. This means financial independence and opportunity are achievable for an ever greater number of people, all enabled by tech and supported by policy makers.

By making access to data easy and affordable for SMBs, we hope to give businesses the tools they need to manage this complexity and lighten the cogitative burden of running a small business in today’s highly complex world.

What most concerns you about the banking or payments industry as it is today? What would you suggest needs to be done to address that?

Well, the other side of the positive story of seamless payments is that the global marketplaces that offer access to customers are controlled by a small number of platforms. These platforms are enabled by cost and channel effective payments. However, small businesses are paying up to 30% of purchases to these platform for the access to customers and controlled logistics and distribution networks.

Where seamless payments is democratizing the retail landscape, and opening it up to smaller businesses, the costs incurred on these platform and to reach consumers is inhibiting entrepreneurship, all while enriching those who control the big platforms. There’s a huge gap in the market for a new player in this space, who can drive competition and bring costs down for consumers, therefore growing business for the retailers.”

How would you articulate how the concept of money has changed in recent times? Is it really a change? How is it still the same? Can you explain what you mean?

Money’ seems like a narrow definition to me, something we’re inevitably going to associate in our minds with notes and coins. Money hasn’t always been there, and may not be there in the future, but what has always been there is the idea of value. Once that value was tied to real world things like gold, but, especially since the coming of the internet age, we’ve seen value be ascribed to a much wider range of things such as cryptocurrencies, NFTs and similar.

The declining use of physical money too, means that how we conceive value is changing. Payments have become largely invisible and this means that we are becoming more detached from a solid sense of value. Technology is making payments and money more convenient, but also maybe more abstract. I often find myself walking out of taxis without paying because for example, because I’m so used to using apps like Uber, Gett or Lyft.

Technology always comes at a price, even if that price isn’t immediately obvious. Invisible and seamless payments, and people’s financial lives now being far less homogeneous and more complicated than they used to be, brings its own challenges. Financial literacy has never been more important in helping people navigate these challenges.

Based on your vantage point as an insider in the finance industry, what innovations should we expect to see in banking in the short and medium term?

I think a significant innovation we’ll see in coming years will be identity as a service. People’s financial lives are more complicated than they used to. Logging into your bank account, your loan, your mortgage, your savings account, your funds account — all require different details, different processes. All are massively disrupted by the loss of a password or a changing phone number or email address.

Alongside this, we also see a growing and ever more complicated regulatory landscape. Regulation is trying to keep pace with technological innovation, while also trying to steer the world toward social and environmental goals and with no overarching international framework, staying compliant is becoming more difficult for businesses. As such, regtech too will be a growth area. Solutions which make it easier for businesses to be compliant and to enter new markets seamlessly will be very popular.

How has the pandemic changed the way banks interact and engage with their customers?

The pandemic in many ways accelerated processes and changes that were already underway. Responding to digital natives and an increasingly tech savvy population, banks have been shifting away from the high-street branch model and toward being an online service. Locking down cities and economies around the world turbocharged this trend.

This necessitated a greater embracing of technology by the banks too, which has led to further uptake of efficiency driving innovation such as AI chatbots that can triage customers and means human customer service agents can focus on dealing with the more complicated cases.

This is all well and good, but it’s important for the finance sector to remember those who, for a variety of reasons, might prefer analogue to digital banking. If we’re going to build a banking system that works for everyone, it’s important to remember that technology isn’t a panacea, some things still require a human touch.

In your particular experience, how has the pandemic changed the way you interact with, and engage your customers?

In some ways nothing changed. Just before the pandemic we signed a contract with a new client in Australia for example. And, despite not being able to travel and see the client in person for the next two years, we still managed to successfully work with them to implement our product, all completely remotely. So, there’s no doubt these things can be done remotely, enabled by ever better software for meeting and collaborating.

Nevertheless, as mentioned above, the tech always comes with a price. From a customer relationship perspective, I feel something is lost if the entire relationship is virtual and I think this is a key consideration for banks too, as they embrace the opportunities technology affords.

I’m very interested in the importance of user experience. What happens when all interactions move to digital such as chatbots, encrypted messaging apps, phone, or video calls? How is this shift impacting user and customer experience? What challenges do these apps present when used as a customer engagement tool?

What happens if we lose the human connection completely? In a world where we move to AI writing all our emails potentially, I think genuine human interaction might, counterintuitively, become more valuable.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

For me it’d have to be teleportation. This would give us all the upsides of being able to communicate with anyone, anywhere, instantly and in real-time, while also not losing the human connection. So, to all the physicists out there reading this, let’s build a teleportation device. Having seen The Fly however, I do worry if this technology would also come with a hidden cost!

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Modern Finance, Banking and Fintech industries? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Well, there’s no one formula for success, but five thing I always try to let guide me are:

Learn from history. The world of tech is obviously very future focused but, we should always remember the past too. There are countless market examples of organizations that have threatened to disrupt the industry but are still waiting to turn a profit. It’s easy to get caught up in the zeitgeist and as a society we’ve become very focused on the here and now, at the expense of feeling a wider connection to the people and things which led us here. I think it’s important to learn from the past so that we don’t repeat mistakes made in the past, and this applies to business as much as any other walk of life.

Tied to this, I think it’s important to cultivate focus. The pace of innovation and change I mentioned earlier can be distracting if we allow it to be. Then we have social media, families, colleagues and so much else going on in our lives. Cultivating focus is something of enormous value in the world we find ourselves in, and attention has become a rare but powerful commodity. My advice to anyone, is rediscover attention, and use it.

Build and nurture your network. Human connection is incredibly important and lots of brilliant people are often to be found in a relatively small space. Get out there and meet these people, learn from them. Understand you’ll never know everything and be OK with that. Use the different views of those in your network to challenge your own perspectives — and make sure you build a network outside the space too as many of the best lessons come from other industries.

Know your end customer. Who are they and what problem are you solving for them? The answer to this is really the essence of your business, so immerse yourselves in their lives. Understand how they solve that problem currently and the value you’re trying to bring. You’ll likely realise you have a whole different set of competitors to the ones you originally thought.

Passion. Again, this is about motivation, not just your motivation but also that in the team around you. If you’re not passionate and dedicated, then neither will be the team around you. So, stay passionate and remember why you started in the first place. It’s easy to forget, and to get bogged down by day to day detail. So, take the time to check in occasionally and remember what brought you here and what you’re aiming for.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think that the greatest change we can make in the world is the spreading of opportunity. Give people the chance to achieve, no matter what circumstances they’re born into. This is the greatest route to individual and wider social success that we have. Recently however, we’ve seen social mobility declining. The reasons for this are myriad and complex, but for people working in tech, fintech, finance and so on, we can make an impact by sharing knowledge. It’s easy to forget that, from the outside, what we do can be something of an unknown. Kids may want to break into this world, but have no idea how. So, we need to find better ways of making tech and payments more transparent and of increasing access to anybody who wants to try a career in this world. I’m proud to say that Pollinate runs a successful and paid internship program designed to achieve just this, by opening the doors of our business and demystifying it.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

Read the original article here.