Book Review: <i>The Complete Banker</i> Series

The majority of banks, including major brands like BofA and HSBC, are still, unbelievably, not engaging customers through social media because they are applying old-world advertising and marketing metrics to the medium.
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I've just read through most of Chris Skinner's new series The Complete Banker, where even the rhyming slang title tells you from the get go of the unique style that Chris brings to his latest five-book series. The five books in the series have different themes with book one focused upon payments, the second book on social media and retail banking, the third looks at where banking is headed in the future, the fourth the nature of investment banking and the fifth is a review of the credit crisis from all angles: politicians, regulators and bankers.

The Complete Banker is an ambitious piece of work and it shows the value of a regular blog commentary. Chris has been blogging daily since 2007 and by collating together his thought leadership in a Clarkson-esq fashion, Chris has been able to build a diorama of the changes impacting the banking and payments space today. There are some real gems here.

For example in the second book Socializing the Anti-Social Bank Chris highlights some great stats such as the fact that Facebook's audience is bigger than any TV network that has ever existed on Earth and were it a nation, it would be the world's third most populous after China and India. He puts this in context nicely with a quote from his Finanser Blog from 2009:

Social media is like mainstream media but user-generated. It's blogging instead of newspapers; YouTube instead of TV; and podcasting instead of radio. It's media, but social media. Social networking is like real-world networking but online...

And yet, as Chris points out, the majority of banks (including major brands like BofA, HSBC) are still, unbelievably not engaging customers through social media because they are applying old-world advertising and marketing metrics to the medium. In the first book of the series, "It's banking Jim, but not as we know it" Chris gives some context to the impact of changes like social media, rapid technology adoption and so forth:

Society, meanwhile, has completely lost confidence and trust in bankers and policymakers... Technology continues to develop at a pace meanwhile, with everything completely transparent. Nothing can be hidden anymore. As a result, new models of access to financial services are arising, such as Zopa, Prosper, Wonga, SmartyPig, the new MTFs and clearing systems for trading, the Barter Network, complementary currencies.

On page seven of the first book he's got a great chart describing the potential scenarios for the future given these upheavals. But for me one of the key messages comes out of Chris' analysis of the sector's response to the financial crisis in the last book The Extraordinary Madness of Banks:

This is nothing to do with the credit crisis, but the response of the banks to the credit crisis, which is to trash all trust and confidence in their ethics and approach... The real issue is a lack of internal market leadership within the banking industry. Nothing to do with regulators, politicians or press. The most significant failure has been the inability for the industry to act as a cohesive whole to respond to the issues arising under their watch.

Chris' clarity is refreshing, but his humor and his attention to detail make this series both compelling and easy to read at the same time. I'd highly recommend it. It's also in eBook format so you can read it on the go...

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