Next Bank: Banking, Design and Technology

Dragging my bag through Singapore's Changi airport, I reflect on the week that has just passed. What was merely only a dream in Rob Findlay's head a year and half ago has grown to a global benchmark community and events, amongst one of the oldest industries feels the stress of an uncertain future amongst a rapid digital evolution. I'm referring to Next Bank, a community created by my good friend Rob Findlay to give the industries pioneers, innovators and disruptors a place to collaborate. Next Bank's first creation was the ground breaking 'Next Bank Asia' conference held in Singapore's Red Dot Museum last May. Followed up by Next Bank Europe in the ancient city of Rome. Since those magical events, the community has grown from strength to strength. And now seen as the 'place to be' in the annual financial services calendar.

This week we saw the third installment in the story, as Next Bank Asia returned amongst the back drop of Hong Kong.

Opened by Standard Chartered Bank's Ashley Veasey, better known in the circles as @DucatiAsh. He gave us a glimpse of a bank that truly understands what its going to take to remain relevant through the industry's digital transformation. Ashley introduced us to the bankers version of Siri, a charming young artificial intelligence lady named Zoe. Is it possible that AI avatars could lead customer service on mass scale? Who knows. But Standard Chartered is prepared to try. Bold, yes, but its a calculated move to 'have a go' and learn. Lessons that will prove valuable in the coming years.

A crowd favorite the previous year, Shift Partners returned for their outright attack on the legacy approach to bank marketing. This year Sudha Hari coined the term:

Old White Men she showed the clear pattern of themes in large budget bank advertising that orients around Stale, Pale and Male ideas. A theme that haunted throughout the remainder of the agenda, only to be 'Asianised' by Jason Huang of TANG Consulting as 'Old Yellow Men' as he referred to Chinese Banks.

Evidence of Next Bank's growing #Klout, they were able to attract the likes of Design Guru Tim Kobe. The guy behind the guy. His company 8 Inc. is the design brains behind Steve Jobs hair-brain idea for the Apple Retail Stores. In Hong Kong, Tim shared with us the rising relevance of design in the modern world. Something bankers wanting to stay relevant are having to pay attention to.

Crystal Quek, A.K.A. @Ladyxtel, a top ten in the social medias 'people to watch in 2013', took us on a heart warming journey as she pleaded to banks to stop trying to bank Asia, instead bank Asians. Reminding us all to consider the human factor when affecting change in markets.

A personal favorite of mine, PlayMoolah's Dream Architect Audrey Tan (@audreytan) shared her vision for engaging kids in the world of banking. A place with monsters, space and rewards are injected into a game aimed at educating kids about money, and building real savings deposits at a young age.

The dynamic duo of Ted Killian and Stefan Hirsch from SapientNitro played out a finely tuned duet. Drawing from the creative inspiration of brands like Cartier, Mont Blanc and Burberry, we were taken on a fascinating journey. Showing how traditional and legacy brands have maintained the nostalgia while digitally transforming. Many of them using it as a key opportunity to deepen their brand and product character through engaging stories of history, craftsmanship and traditions.

The event in Hong Kong, really showed that the community has grown up from it's startup roots, and is a serious player in the annual calendar of bankers, particularly those wanting to effect change.

Looking forward Next Bank is due to return across the globe in London, San Francisco, Sydney, and more. My tip... get to an event if you can. Definitely and eye opener amongst banking.