FinTech and Blockchain: Financial Services In Transition

FinTech startups and technologies such as blockchain are disrupting the financial services industry. On this episode, we talk with a financial services leader about transformation in this important global industry.


Nov 04, 2016

FinTech startups and technologies such as blockchain are disrupting the financial services industry. On this episode, we talk with a financial services leader about transformation in this important global industry.

Our guest is Oliver Bussmann, former Group Chief Information Officer of UBS from June 2013 to March 2016 and currently head of his own advisory firm. At UBS, he successfully led a major IT transformation effort, instituted a new group-wide innovation framework and established UBS as a pioneer in the development of blockchain for use in financial services. Prior to joining UBS Oliver was Global Chief Information Officer at SAP for five years, where he also spearheaded significant technological transformation, including as an early champion of enterprise mobility, and was CIO for North America & Mexico at Allianz for nine years. Previous roles included executive positions at Deutsche Bank and IBM.


Michael Krigsman: Welcome to Episode #202 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman. I’m an industry analyst, and CXOTalk brings together the most interesting, innovative businesspeople in the world to discuss disruptive ideas, and the impact of technology on the organization. Today, I’m speaking with Oliver Bussmann, and we’re going to talk about Blockchain, we’re going to talk about fintech startups, and we will talk about financial services. I’ve known Oliver for many years. He is a superstar Chief Innovation Officer and he’s now advising large financial institutions on these innovative topics. Oliver Bussmann, how are you?

Oliver Bussmann: Good! Thank you so much Michael. Thanks so much for having me, glad to be back, and thanks so much for the opportunity!

Michael Krigsman: Well Oliver, it’s great to see you here on CXOTalk once again. Last time we spoke, you were the Global CIO for UBS Bank, which of course is one of the largest financial institutions in the world. Since then, you have formed your own advisory firm, so tell us about your focus. Tell us about what you’re doing.

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, I’m helping financial service companies, high tech firms, IT firms to stay ahead of the digital disruption curve. The industry, especially the financial service industry, is going through a lot of disruption. Helping them to identify those megatrends’ impact, help them to do the orchestration: “orchestration” meaning managing the innovation for research, identifying what are the projects for a company, how to do the ideation, how to invest in certain ideas, test-drive them, and integrate them in their normal product lifecycle management. Helping to do the orchestration and help them closer to the fintech ecosystem, which is a lot of startups, government, university, research institutes. So it needs an orchestration like any other industry, and leveraging my experience for the 25 years in the high-tech industry, and also in the financial services industry.

Michael Krigsman: So when we talk about financial services, what does that encompass?

Oliver Bussmann: It is a wide range, different sectors. You know, I’ve been through all sectors in the last 25 years. That’s one of my experiences’ benefits is from insurances, live PNC, probity and [...] insurances, to all sectors of a bank from asset management, retail and institutional asset management, to the retail banking business, helping the consumer banking business, to wealth management: the high net worth, ultra high net worth to serve them; to the capital markets, corporate banking, commercial banking, etc. So, its’a wide range of kinds of businesses, different needs, different level of devolvement over the last few years from a maturity level perspective, and it’s … I would say the industry is in the middle of a big change.

Michael Krigsman: And, what are the changes that are taking place in financial services right now? We are, of course, exposed to online banking, but it goes much deeper, much farther than that.

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, it’s multiple dimensions that the financial institute has to cope with right now. It’s definitely after the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the amount of regulation is significant, I would say. To protect consumers afte 2008-2009, a lot of new regulations in all jurisdictions, put a lot of effort into controls, risk management, compliance, to avoid any misconduct in the future. And, to give you data points, today, usually large players invest between 50% and 60% of their IT investment change [in] the bank just to stay in line with the regulatory requirements. That is significantly higher over the last 3-4 years, and a lot of the potential investments that you need for new services, new products to implement, improve certain customer services, that is now absorbed by the regulatory requirements. And, there is definitely also then a push for certain software. If you run a global business, you have to stay in line with most local requirement, regulatory requirements. So the regulation is a piece which will stay, I don’t see that amount of investment requirements will come down.

The second is definitely consumer behaviors. Everybody has different preferences now to access information, making decisions. There’s definite patterns, the generation that is now becoming highly networked, they don’t go to the front anymore, they want to talk to their financial advisor over the phone or video, they want to have automated information. The decision-making process is different. So, the consumer preference, how they like to be served in in the middle of a big change.

The third dimension is new technology. We are going to another major change even bigger than the first one, 2000-2002. There’s significant venture capital and resources coming into the whole innovation, the startup community. You know, I saw at UBS a few years ago, the VC spending was at that time $3 billion US dollars. That number is from 2013 up to 2015 up to $20 billion. And the projection for this year is going to be up maybe to $24-25 billion. And so that should be enough time, and if you compare that with the internet investments 20 years ago, there was $500 million in 1995 spent on innovation in the internet-related companies. You see the amount of resources and capital coming into the environment.

And then, from a macroeconomic perspective, there is a significant pressure on banks, especially European banks, because there is limited growth opportunities. If you cannot go because interest rates are low, and the transaction volume is also because in the market of uncertainty, is low. So, there’s a revenue pressure, the pressure even on the cost side is going up significantly. Cost side meaning your cost-income ratio is under pressure compared to US banks. US banks are at 55% of your cost vs. revenue, most European banks are at over 70%. So there is a significant pressure on those banks to be very careful to reduce your operating expenses, which has also an impact on potential investments going forward. So it is constrained and stressed environment, and the new technology is even triggering, from my perspective, even bigger, significant change.

Michael Krigsman: So the financial services industry is changing because of regulation, then you have an economic environment, which is putting tremendous stress, because banks have in some cases negative interest rates, so you deposit money with a bank, and the bank loses money on that, and at the same time, you have consumer expectations that are increasing. They want greater flexibility, they want tools, they want the bank to invest in a different type of relationship, and then you have technologies that are enabling a whole new set of competitors. So, is that a reasonable summary of what’s going on?

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, I think we walked into a major storm here, from my perspective, which will change also the banking structure, the structure of the industry, the market structure because there is belief that business models will change. There’s more that banks have to think about, what kind of business model they want to play with, meaning there’s a discussion about [how] banks will focus on the kind of relationship and advisory role, and will be open for product providers like Blackstone, that is a product provider. They’re integrating them. And then there will be [the] transaction champion, that they are able to, with large scale to process the amount of information structure to [...] from your scale. There could be a different market structure going forward, and then you have to think about how you want to play, because for example if you want to integrate different product supplies, it needs an open architecture, open APIs, you have to integrate different office suppliers, and that has an impact on how you operate and how you drive your applications and your architecture.

Michael Krigsman: This intersection of the changing consumer expectations, combined with shifts in technology, and therefore the emergence of new business models is very fascinating. So, can you elaborate on how changing expectations of consumers, and how the shifting technology forces the banks to change. Why does that take place?

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, first of all, I think as a consumer, you already have a different user experience today now than in other industries, like in music and e-commerce, and you find the same expectation now also towards the banks. And, there are now coming out of the fintech community, new service offerings, and what we see, what I see is that first of all, startups go in after a portion of the entire retail bank, they are focusing on part of innovation from the inner area, lending, the whole investment management perspective, then the whole cross-funding, providing capital. Those are major areas of disruption that startups will pick one portion of the variety, try to leverage new technology, technology from mobile, from artificial intelligence perspective, try to digitalize that piece as much as possible, and try to also provide different use aspects, so that everything should be accessible over the internet. And those startups try to, like in the probit advising business, business that is now going after a retail customer that usually demands getting sophisticated investing advice. And those regular advisors are able to cultivate your assets across different banks, usually if any of it’s very sophisticated aspect, and now they do this in an automated fashion so you have everything in one place. And then, based on your risk profile, based on your desire of … what kind of return you want to see, they put for you the right one and tell you how to rebalance, so that the whole use expands to do account aggregation, advice, and then provide information alerts over the time. And then, the potential next generation of probit advisor, embracing artificial intelligence to run their quantitative models based on how the see the market will play out, and based on their due rebalancing of it for you, that usually achieves a really well-educated experience, to achieve investment offers that will drive your portfolio composition, will leverage more technology going forward to drive up performance.

So right now, it’s more convenience, easy doing of business, and over time, this new technology like artificial intelligence, you will see even the investment performance could be happily driven by engineers, scientists that have a better understanding about how the market is reacting, and try to understand the drivers in models more than your quantitative models. So the entire business is getting disrupted, and this is happening in the payment business, the retail business, it’s happening in how do you get your credits and loans in the lending business, how we provide capital for SMEs, or small business, or startups from a core funding perspective. So, there is a significant activity out there, and from that perspective, it’s really changing how you do business today, and banks now try to work with the startups and try to partner, which wasn’t always the case a few years ago. So, this cooperation is now coming more and more into play.

Michael Krigsman: Now, some of the technologies you mentioned, but we all hear about blockchain. And, of course, that’s not the only technology that’s changing banking and financial services. But, tell us about blockchain, for those of us who don’t know, just give us a very brief introduction. What is blockchain, and why is it so important?

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, for me, it’s a great experience in discovering the blockchain technology in an early stage. Remember, Michael, we’ve been through the mobile enterprise maybe 6-7 years ago, that consumer advisors in the mobile space came up, and then at that time, SAP realized that it will have a significant play in the enterprise too. So you learn over time to discover those megatrends, and see in an early-stage the potential, and then put the best team on that: a small team to explore, to understand, and then become a leader in those trends. I can say that from my time at SAP, very successful, and mobile advisors tapped the early stages, and also applications. And then also here, let me share the store that happened to me also, that I discovered, or we discovered that blockchain is simply ignored, because we got it pushed by an entrepreneur in Switzerland that [...] is saying we can do FX trading, foreign exchange trading online, settle everything in real time. And usually, if you do stock trading, it takes at least 2-3 days to first settle, the exchange of cash and security takes time, and this immediately bold statement that we can do this in a few seconds, everything is settled, the cost of doing business would be low, plus the real-time execution would reduce operational risk, risk capital would come down, and we said, “Hmm, that’s hard to believe.”

And then we discovered that, you know, that the underlying technology of Bitcoin, the blockchain, is the key driver, because it’s so normal for most of the banks, and still with Bitcoin with the reputation to even discover that, and to discuss that. And then we discover that the blockchain technology, based on Bitcoin, at the end is a major simplification of our business. And let me explain a comparison: today, if you do a trade, it goes to different parties. You sell something, they have the buyer, there are different banks in place, stock exchange, clearinghouses, I would say between at least almost ten parties involved, and they have to reconcile the investment business. They have to exchange messages, raise my cash, raise my security the right way, they have to reconcile; it’s a major effort to do that. And, blockchain at the end, in a very simple way, you store information over the internet that both parties can point to. It’s almost like a reference, a database reference that you can point to. And there is a mechanism in that if you do a transaction, it’s first of all locked, it’s recorded, you cannot manipulate that. Plus, there is a software at the end, making sure that this transaction only is unique, verifies it. So you don’t need a third party to verify your transaction, but the software is doing that.

So that business logic is part of that ledger, and at the end, the whole messaging goes away, you have a direct impact, a third party is not necessary anymore, and so complexity goes away. The low speed of doing business is going away, plus the accessibility of blockchain and Bitcoin is public ledger at the end, it makes it easier to access that information from anywhere because it isn’t stored anymore behind firewalls, it’s accessible for the different marketplace, and there’s encryption in place to make sure only the relevant parties have access. So it’s a game-changer from my perspective, and game changer not only for the financial services industry, for insurance, for trade finance, you see this also for the internet of things. You have a lot of information, send some information, and what do you do? There must be certain events to happen and there should be like a smart contract that you can act on that. It’s like, you have sensors in your fridge and your fridge is empty, what do you do then? And, there should be a clear definition if those kind of events are happening and triggered, then you buy something online immediately, right? So that technology, this is why certain high-tech firms like IBM, for example, and other firms see this combination from dedicated business to make it happen.

So what I’m saying is, it is like the internet 20 years ago, a game-changer that has a major impact on the financial service industry, and I believe also in government, healthcare, supply chain management. Every time you have multiple projects involved and they need to be synchronized, that is the way going forward.

Michael Krigsman: Are there examples of banks or other large organizations that are using blockchain in a meaningful way today? Or is it too early yet?

Oliver Bussmann: No, I think you see the first use cases coming up. Use cases like in general, the fintech area, the payment area; it’s a target section because payment, the business is profitable, there’s a lot of profitability, there’s a need to simplify that from a use access perspective. And the uses that I think will come through in all their stages is the cross-border payment. It’s complicated because you have to go through a lot of central banks to do those cross border business for retail and institutional finance, it takes time, and it’s on average roughly you pay $25 for each additional transaction. And parts like Ripple for example, other ledger providers, they will simplify that, and there’s a collection of six banks already working on that. They are using the technology for their cross-border business within the bank. The next step is they build a network to exchange those transactions and the infrastructure will be simplified for that, speed is different, and then also the cost to market because the projection is that a transaction that will cost today $25 will come down to less than a dollar.

Michael Krigsman: Wow. Amazing.

Oliver Bussmann: That’s exactly what is a major change that will drive that, because if you’re an institution or corporation doing international business, and you sit on stage with your corresponding bank and say, “You know, I’m paying $25 on average, domestically I’m paying less than a dollar,” that is a clear amount to bring it down below that. But then, you understand the revenue is coming down, the banks that are able in moving earlier and adopting it will have a change to get more market share. So if you’re not part of the train, it could hurt you significantly.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Arsalan Khan on Twitter, and he asks a really interesting question. He says, “What about the ability of these financial institutions to absorb new technologies and changes created, business models and so forth created by technologies such as Bitcoin?” What about that? I think it’s a big deal.

Oliver Bussmann: I think, first of all, that these changes will not go away. The fintech changes used new technology coming up, new services, so as a bank, you have to prepare yourself for it. And, it’s almost like you establish an R&D person, which I did at SAP and also UBS to do this almost institutionalize this. It’s your day-to-day job to understand what are the new technologies, new trends in the business in those markets. Number two, to see what is your own priority and define what is your focus area: is it an appearance area, is it a scoring [area], is it investment management, etc., and then you have the business as a CIO how to develop ideas. It’s all about what kind of ideas can be leveraged on the new technology. Then you do a competition like with VC funds, and the best ideas should be test-run in the lab, or accelerator, or incubator. And then you have different to-do’s. And then based on that, you see the impact on your product or your service aspect. That organization has to get closer to that ecosystem of startups, regulator, etc., expand the area of your solutions base, because if you have limited visibility what’s going on, … you just do incremental changes. And the moment you have a view on what’s possible, and if you provide an environment that you can, I would not say “play,” but test-drive, and understand, and expand your creativity, and how this could impact your own product portfolio, new products, how existing products can be involved, etc. That is a competitive advantage.

But, it needs, based on my experiences, orchestration, it needs a clear working environment that’s allowed to fail, failure is important, and then the best ideas. Like in venture capital, the best bets will take off and have a significant contribution. What I’m saying to you is it doesn’t help if you have a fancy label. The business has to be there, there has to be a clear way you do R&D, like the pharmaceutical, like the other industries too that’s part of their significant R&D investments.

Michael Krigsman: But how does a bank, this would be true of any large organization, how can they organize themselves to remove or put aside, you know, I’ll say this, there’s a big company kind of arrogance sometimes. And you say, “Well, we’re the large company, and we know best! And so why should we listen to that tiny little startup that’s in a proverbial garage?” So how does a big company overcome that kind of attitude in order to really get the benefit of the innovation relationship that you’re describing with startups?

Oliver Bussmann: Well first of all, it needs that you spend time with the community, the ecosystem community. My experiences is that the biggest impact that you have is if you bring the executive team into those startups and give them full insight, how their service offering will hit you maybe today or the next few years? So to give an example, if you go to this investment advisor, these automatic ones, word advisors, and if you understand how they generate leads, how they manage a lead and convert into customer, how they serve those roles, what different roles they have, what kind of toolset …  Today, I would say, “Hmm… It doesn’t pick my business model, my ultra-high networked business.” But you know, the average age of these, I call “affluent customers” are 40-42, and you can set up the call with customers that are a million or more [in] assets, in 2, 3, 4 years. But, then they have a clear preference how they get served. And, so you can already imagine that the way you provide services, over time it will get there should they have to get more sophisticated products, lending business, employee composition, etc. That’s clear, but what I’m saying is, you can see that the way they serve clients is, for their customer base - and that customer base will grow, it’s a major change.

Michael Krigsman: So, it’s very interesting. So the client relationship seems to be a fundamental factor in this transition, and underlying both the change in business models, as well as their relationship that a large organization like a bank might have with the startup. So that client relationship seems to be the constant driving force, or one of the constant driving forces.

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, exactly, because the generation that’s sticking to the potential wealthy clients going forward, they’re used to leveraging technology as a consumer, to the maximum. You organize your life around apps that help you to organize your day-to-day life. So that’s the expectation also going forward is that the way you get access to financial services, to products, etc. has to be also well-integrated in your day-to-day life, and should be accessible, consumable, easy to make decisions, that use to also, in another, in the e-commerce business. And so, you are absolutely spot-on. That change of preferences and the customer experiences and the expectation at the end has a major impact in the customer interface, so the customer experience is important, and then also, the level of automation. Also, if you, for example, go to a branch today, and there’s a big change, and you want to open up an account, the future is, and it’s already happening in certain countries that you can do video onboarding. They check your passport, etc., biometrics, in other ways, and you can open an account in a few minutes instead of days, yeah? It’s effortless.

Then the next big wave will come with the legislation in Europe called PSD2 called “Payment Directive” that gives access to two-year accounts to third-parties. Now in the US, the standard that your data as access to, if you use those services, access to different bank accounts. So, what’s happening starting in 2018, there will be more transparency: how are your different accounts, different banks performing from a cost perspective, from a portfolio performance perspective … So, the level of transparency, because those interfaces will be then open, and comparison part of that you see already in traveling and other services, will have access then also to your banking business. And, then you have a different benchmark: how well you’re performing compared to other banks, and then if the ability to change your banking relationship has also been simplified, relationships that are out there for 12-20 years on average could change because the level of transparency and the ease of doing business and changes will trigger a change of customer behaviors.

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan from Twitter, again, has another really interesting point. So, when you talk about technology, it’s the combination of the, as you said earlier, the technology, government regulation, and consumer behavior and expectations that are driving these changes in financial services. So, inside these banks, how does it work for example you were a CIO in your, several, a number of times in several large organizations. So what’s the relationship between the technology folks and the business folks, and IT, and how does that all get sorted out in the right way? What’s the right way to handle that?

Oliver Bussman: Yeah, I think what you do is … first of all, my experience is you have to align the business agenda with whether you want to be in the next few years, with whatever you do on the IT side. So you cannot run your IT planning decoupled from what the business is planning for the next few years. So alignment of what’s the business strategy, what is expected, what kind of capability you need to be successful and identify where are the “white spots,” or where are the spots of complexity, and mirror this into your IT strategy and plans, is absolutely necessary.

Number two is the speed of change, and the different speed levels, you know, if everything customer-related customer touch points. Second area is that you have a differentiated added value service, with IP, intellectual property. You try to spend more time with IT and business results together in a more agile, close relationship. You try to do this in a more fast-moving, agile way. The normal heavy lifting is more in a standard way. So there are different speed levels how you embrace the change on the customer interface size, on the side that differentiates you, that drives revenue, and then there are the normal activities. So, what I’m saying is alignment of where’s the target state, what does success mean, and also the way you collaborate from a day-to-day portfolio perspective is absolutely required to make sure you’re not working in an isolated way or decoupled from each other.

Michael Krigsman: What are the characteristics of organizations that do this well? Because in theory, what you’re saying, obviously is right, but it seems that many companies have an extremely difficult time doing this.

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, it needs starting now, for me is that starting from a midterm planning perspective that the business strategy and business development organization is very close to business and the IT organization. So you don’t do separate planning between the two organizations and you bring this to an organized, coordinated effort and do a cross section [to make sure] those parties are in-sync. And that has an impact on the financial section. So some companies are doing both, and those are my experiences: you need this kind of dialogue on a regular basis, and it should be reflected in how you do planning and how you build a portfolio.

Michael Krigsman: Is that fundamental to the job responsibility of the CIO, to be able to do that?

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, absolutely, because if you just do your IT plan in an isolated way, yes you can drive impact but the impact that a successful CIO is measured by is how the business is impacted, how the company is doing from a revenue, from an efficiency point of view, from a security and from a risk perspective, that’s a measure. The second is, I believe also the CIO has to be a champion also for innovation. And innovation in a way that you become a real expert what is available out there form a technology perspective. You are a facilitator for how you bring the business closer to the startup community, for example, and help them to embrace those kinds of possibility. I’m a strong believer that the business has to embrace, and be in the driver’s seat, because at the end, if that knowledge with the business has a product or a service [...], that is the highest maturity that you have. If it’s just in IT, what’s possible; then you do this in your own governance, for your infrastructure, whatever is under your control, but the moment you cross the business line, you will have a hard time getting buyer-end support. So in my preference, it’s being an innovation champion and facilitator, but you know, business ownership, you happen to build up those kind of capabilities.

Michael Krigsman: We have just about five minutes or so left, and what about on the business side? I’m very interested in your advice for how companies can take best advantage of strategic IT? Again, my point of view is that for many organizations, they want to do this, but the relationship is quite dysfunctional.

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think that first of all, you have to look at this as, it’s a partner. Because if you look at certain banks like Goldman, they have a significant amount of spending on IT. And, so they believe they are a tech company, and I think that’s the direction that the industry is going, so you believe that your critical success factor is technology. That’s for me the fundamental belief, and also as a business executive, you have to invest time and you have to be up to speed what’s going on in that space. You don’t have to become a tech expert, but what is possible from a technology perspective is absolutely clear and necessary.

On the other side, Michael, the risk is if you just only talk tech, you miss an opportunity to question your current business model, because the worse case is you go for state-of-the art software and you use only the standard offerings. And, if you don’t spend enough time on what “good” looks like how you do business, how you operate, what kind of complexity you can reduce, the same way you operate today, the same complexity, the same challenges, will be reared on new software, but you don’t leverage what state-of-the-art [techniques] how you run business, how you can leverage the benefits out of that. So there is a frustration level, if you go straight into a tech implementation that is just IT’s doing, you need time with, as a business leader, to think about how my business will change, how can I reduce my booking centers, is there a way new products will come up? Is there a way to reduce complexity from a process product client perspective? And spend significant time to challenge this, then use this as design principles to implement new software, and if this kind of pre-work is not there, yeah, you see changes, you see benefits in using new technology, but you’re not leveraging that to it’s fullest extent, yeah? And that’s something I believe that future understanding, how to drive change: understanding what is possible in the marketplace, spending time on that, and having a discussion on the executive board level, and also on the board of directors level, is, I believe, necessary, mandatory, to stay competitive going forward.

Michael Krigsman: That’s really interesting to look at the CIO role as a foundational skill, so to speak, is understanding how to drive change. {Yeah.} And it makes perfect sense. What about the, again, we have just a few minutes left, but, while you’re here, I want to really pick your brain on some of these topics: so what about the relationship between CIO and titles like Chief Digital Officer? How does that play out?

Oliver Bussmann: From my [perspective], you know, I’ve been through some different companies, etc. Chief Digital Officer and the Chief Information Officer, they have to work together. They are depending on each other, and I believe if you achieve Digital Officer, and if you believe you can do the change without IT, then it will be very, very hard.

If you have somebody like a Chief Digital Officer that understands the business process, the business goings, etc., and with IT let’s say you can leverage that, that’s a perfect spot that you want to be in. So, my recommendation is definitely that you have to look at this as a partnership. If you run this in an isolated way, then you will fail.

Michael Krigsman: And, changing gears here, but just as, again, we drive towards the end: What advice do you have for startups who want to do business with larger financial services companies, banks, insurance companies, what have you?

Oliver Bussmann: You know, I think that’s a very good question, first of all, because I do mentorship. I mentor startups, I’m part of the 1139 fintech accelerator in London, and spending time with the startups there and give them expert advice. And, my first advice is, yes, good understanding about the technology is important, but business domain expertise is critical. So, say if you talk to bankers, if you don’t understand how the business is working, products, processes, etc., if you don’t have that expertise, that’s a communication breakdown, because you talk tech versus how this could help my business to improve. And, finding that to make sure you absolutely have tech engineers, but also building that expertise is a critical success factor. That’s my number one advice that I did also in Financial Times, Financial News, articles that believe domain expertise, because it helps you to sharpen your value proposition: “What’s different? Why should I work with you?” And you have maybe, I would say 20-30 seconds time if you approach a business executive to convince him to spend more time with you. And it’s all about how does it fit, or is that from a business term perspective, business language perspective, what is the biggest value in working with us.

Michael Krigsman: So for the startups, you’re saying, “Yes, you may have great technology, but you need to be able to talk about the technology in terms that the bank on the other side cares about.” So maybe in terms of their customers, or what have you, customer relations.

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah, exactly. There’s a reason why a lot of banks, especially UBS, were successful in opening innovation challenges and competitions, and inviting them. And the best startups, they get mentorship or training and how they can improve their value proposition, their business plans, etc. So it’s not only a tech play, it’s a way how you position the foundation of a firm at the end that you work on, and how you manage the relationship with your clients. And so, that’s a reason why a lot of banks are investing in those startups and investing time and resources, because it would be a mistake that you have a brilliant technological idea, and you’re not able to convince the other partner, the customer, that will have a significant impact on the improvement potential for your business.

Michael Krigsman: I like that, no matter what the technology, it’s not just a tech play.

Oliver Bussmann: It’s not a tech play, it’s a communication like between me and you, it’s between people. And, it’s a people business. And, if you’re able to communicate this, if you talk the same language, it’s a sender-receiver, speak the same product call, then the probability that someone is supporting you and would like to work with you is pretty good.

Michael Krigsman: Well. And that, for sure, are words of wisdom from Oliver Bussmann. Oliver, thank you very much for taking the time and speaking with us today!

Oliver Bussmann: Yeah! Thanks so much for having me and thanks so much for the great discussion today.

Michael Krigsman: We have been talking with Oliver Bussmann, who previously was the CIO of SAP, and then Group CIO at UBS Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the world, and today is advising financial services companies, as well as startups, on how to evolve together, and work together. You have been watching Episode #202 of CXOTalk. You can check us out on the web at, and see our episodes at We have two shows next week, please join us, and a special thank you and shoutout to Livestream, because Livestream provides our video infrastructure and man they are great. And, I mean that. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you again next time. Bye-bye!

Published Date: Nov 04, 2016

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 392