Category: Articles

The female is more precious and resilient

I have a problem with USB C. It has been designed the wrong way round, inside out, back to front. The socket is easier to break than the cable. It seems a bit sturdier than the wretched Micro USB. I have snapped the pins inside Micro USB sockets on several devices and to repair means cracking the device open and soldering on a new socket. Make the cheap replaceable bit break more gracefully than the expensive to replace socket.


Apple lightning cables are the right way round. The cable will snap before the socket and cables are far easier to replace. Do Apple have a patent on it being this way round? Or are USB designers obsessed with getting things slightly wrong with an interface that does so many things right?

AI won’t absolve you

2016 will be the year of AI or so lots of articles, consultants, conference talks and tweets tell you almost robotically. I don’t disagree that the fields related to AI are starting to mature but we are a long way off from true general AI. Never the less this year will see a lot of people in a lot of organisations thinking they need to get some AI projects on the go. I worry for a lot of them. AI will not absolve you from design, effort, communication etc. etc.

There are a lot of fields underneath the banner of AI.

AI ecosystem

My worry is that artificial intelligence and machine learning as brands conjure up fanciful images of answers being produced as if by magic by these mega software and hardware beasts. Lots of things being conflated underneath the brand of AI. It helps fuel the hype it can also deform the reality.

AI will not be the answer to all of your problems. You can’t just AI away design problems. It might fix some issues and help you do some things you never could but it certainly won’t fix them all and it will certainly throw up some interesting new complex ones.

And talking of complex, complex software requires ever more complex skilled humans to understand and implement well. You cant just take all that lovely big data you have been hoarding for years and doing nothing of note with and fire it into these things and expect magic to pop out?

Without getting into the whole complex issue of bias built into the systems by the humans that design them, what does fake/machine learned empathy look like? Then again what is human empathy really?

There is definitely phenomenal potential in AI advances but it is still in its infancy and infants need a lot of adult supervision. They are capable of brilliance in between tantrum laden meltdown, soiled underwear, and refusal to eat what you try and feed them sometimes leading to spectacular vomiting.

“The business plans of the next 10,000 startups are easy to forecast: Take X and add AI. This is a big deal, and now it’s here.”?—?Kevin Kelly

Before buying into the hype get some of your best and brightest data science nerds and architects and designers to help you get a real insight into what will be involved, what outcomes you can realistically expect and ensure you treat it as an experiment rather than a sure thing. Like anything the more you put into it the more you will get out. AI will not absolve you of defining the problem you are trying to solve.

The people and companies that succeed in using AI well will no doubt be similar ones that designed mobile interfaces well, have simple and clear services elsewhere, get real data from their own data today. It just comes down to the old classic of spend more time than is reasonable defining the problem/making something simple. Spend less time than is reasonable hoping the robots will fix it for you is a recipe for disaster.

Curve launch – The embodiment of the Faster Plastic Horse?

Following on from my recent post about Faster Plastic Horse, and the importance of plastic cards for a long time yet, I was contacted by Anna Mostyn-Williams of Curve asking if I would like to find out more about their fantastic plastic product. I said yes as it sounded brilliant.

On Monday I had a chat with two of the three founders of Curve Anna and Tom Foster-Carter the COO of Curve. The CEO is Shachar Bialick.

In their own words this is what Curve is.

‘Curve simplifies payments by combining all of a person’s bank cards into one card which is accepted everywhere.

Curve is supported by a mobile app and contains chip and pin, magstripe and contactless technology.

Built on the MasterCard® Network, Curve works just like a standard bank card, unlocking a set of services to help everyone become savvier with their money, underpinned by simplicity, control, security and fraud protection.’

Combining all cards into one has been offered before by some of those Kickstarter backed wunder cards which require bluetooth connection to a phones and battery power of its own but this is the first time (to my limited knowledge) anyone has done it behind a normal piece of plastic and available in the UK.

You choose the card you want to use in app and it is then set to the default card for use by the Curve card. Once set you can just pay as normal. No need for your phone at all really if you just want to take the card.

They are offering some nice transaction categorisation features and allowing you to group more easily your actual card spending across multiple accounts. Manual process at the moment to begin though. There are realtime notifications aplenty too (which I suspect a lot of cards added to Curve might not have today).

There are a few killer features that the card has above the ones already mentioned. The ability to use Amex more widely i.e. everywhere Mastercard is accepted. You still collect all your usage benefits from any card added e.g. air miles, loyalty points etc.


The ability to add cards from other country based accounts and then take away the FX complication. They will do the conversion at wholesale rate and then charge a fee on top. This means people traveling or new to country can use existing accounts more easily. This FX play is also a big reason that Taavet Hinrikus of Transferwise invested early on. Partnership opportunities are clearly another great future benefit for Curve.

They will also have the ability in future to reverse decisions made e.g. if you accidentally charge a business expense to a personal card. Talk of a platform play in this area was very interesting indeed but that is one for the future and has real potential to insert new features into the existing purchase process and rails.

There is however a downside, they do not have an Android app yet (the COO is an Android user so he assured me it won’t be long) which meant I can’t become a beta user because I would use this service as I have multiple cards to help manage the family finances. There is also a one off charge of £35 which may put some people off but I suspect not too many.

Any other challenges I can see? Getting people onboard is obviously the big challenge and ensuring they get enough fee earning business/partnerships on top of the one off joining fee to make it viable in the long term.

I think it is a great looking product, the key will be execution and if it really can work across geographies and card schemes as seamlessly as they are proposing / demoing / beta testing with iPhone owners then they have a great opportunity to build something smart on all that existing plastic based infrastructure that we all know and love and understand how to use. I wish them luck and I hope they get that Android app sooner rather than later because I want to use this. Thanks to Anna and Tom for the demo.

They have published a nice video giving an overview of the features. It has a killer last line taking a dig at those other battery powered cards trying to do something similar.

You can sign up here

You can find out much more about the team and the product in their press area

The search for an Aden shaped role – an update

A brief update on my search for employment following on from my last post in January. I have been on pause for the last month as I concentrated on two roles that were progressing nicely. They have unfortunately both gone cold so it is back on with the search. One especially was going really well and I was very excited about it but some complications around making an offer means it now will not happen, gutted. I need to take my self off pause and look for more eggs for the basket. I have been mainly using my network of contacts but now I need to maybe take a more formal approach to run in parallel. I have spoken with a few nice recruiters following some recommendations.

I should maybe revisit some of those contact requests from strangers that clutter my messages inbox on Linked In. Why do people not add context to why they want to connect if you have never met them or spoken to them? Start a conversation, Linked in should make this easier / default behaviour. If you want to connect on there then please put something in the message as to the reason why as a blank connection request feels strange to me. I am always looking for new contacts / interesting people to meet I just want a bit of a starter in an introduction.

Whilst looking for the next big permanent role I also should get myself set up a sole trader or a Ltd. company (I had put that on pause too) so I can look at freelance opportunities. Feels like a lot of paperwork mind you.

In the last post I said I was looking somewhere at the intersection/overlap of Product Management, Digital Planning and Consultancy. That is still the case but I am open to anything of interest be it financial services or not.

I have been relatively busy not fully on pause. A few things of interest.

I was interviewed recently by Stessa Cohen for UX Crunch.

My FintechBot was also ‘interviewed’ by Irish Tech News.

A post of mine was recently picked up by Finextra which means more than ten people read it ;)They seemed to dislike my original headline of ‘Faster Plastic Horse‘ though.

I also get married on Saturday so I need to ‘get that out of the way’ 😉

The week after next I will be back to London for a few days (the honeymoon is in June). Wednesday the 24th to Thursday the 25th of February. So please do get in touch if you would like to meet. Also get in touch if you would like a chat and you are not in London.

Faster Plastic Horse

Whenever some new fancy change to the ubiquitous plastic payment card my default reaction is usually negative. I know what let’s add something to the well known and used plastic cards that make it seem innovative! How about a real time balance display? A Passcode generator? A fingerprint reader? Let’s get a Kickstarter going to combine all your cards in one handy must be charged and Bluetooth connected to your mobile phone and can only be used in a country that has not implemented EMV yet* card, yeah? Please stop. I should embrace these innovative attempts to improve the humble and ubiquitous plastic card. They feel like like the embodiment of faster horse, which I agree with another Davies is not necessarily a bad thing but still are they really worthwhile?

*Coin coming soon in EMV flavour!

In the flurry of PR when these things are announced certain details are often left out of breathless press releases and masturbatory tech site reviews. Why not say how much they cost to make and issue in comparison to normal plastic? Say how many you will issue in this first phase and how you will be different from all those other plastic enhancement projects that never got past the (I suspect very limited) pilot stage? Be more honest about the realistic aims of these things.

Experiments yes but solving real issues? Really? Is this stuff really going to have a measurable impact outside of limited prototypes and trials? Yes mobile payments is still in its infancy, yes people are used to plastic but surely there are things between the two that move people along the seemingly inevitable journey to software based payment devices? But…not everyone has an NFC equipped smart phone. If you are too poor for a smartphone capable of these payments innovations then the chances are you are also too poor to be chosen for expensive plastic proofs of concept? Normal plastic cards probably cost under a dollar, these prototypes 10-20 dollars? Is that sustainable for a wider roll out?


Stable infrastructure

But what if the little plastic card that could did continue to be ubiquitous and software did not eat it but just augment and cement that ubiquity? Are the plastic rectangles the optimal technology for payments? The plastic card links to the ecosystem very well via embedded infrastructure. How many 85.60 × 53.98 mm size slots are there in the world? Millions? Billions? Every Point Of Sale terminal, ATM, card payment enabled vending machine, parking meter etc. The move from physical to software brings some benefits but enough to phase out this infrastructure? Not any time in the next few decades.

The mobile can easily be tied to the interaction of the card and terminal today. Realtime notifications are becoming widespread for plastic interactions. The payment information can easily be tied to the mobile device. The back end systems to support payments and feed them to whatever realtime system needs them. The front end process and interaction has time to morph as infrastructure is upgraded. If it needs to at all that is. Plastic cards are already pretty good, durable, inexpensive, known & understood.

Whether or not the behaviour or value of paying with your actual mobile device will ever beat some other payment device i.e. card, sticker, embedded chip etc. I am not sure anymore. Can mobile interaction better the already pretty slick process of contactless plastic? Chip & Pin? Maybe America was forcing the hand of a move to mobile payments by choosing to go chip & signature instead. (You fine American folk seem to love paper almost as much as you love guns)


You can lead a horse to water…

Mobile payments adoption has been slow and fragmented so far. Even the deified Apple Pay is not getting the traction we had all hoped. Even rich people who can afford an iPhone 6 are too lazy to stop using plastic cards and paper money it seems. It may need a generational shift to make it truly mainstream, the children for which plastic swiping and inserting habits are not yet ingrained.

We are yet to see software based payments really come into their own. Tokenisation and in app payments and stores without physical checkouts are all at the experimental stage at the moment and there are a whole host of design and behaviour challenges to overcome before we move away from the act of inserting or tapping to pay altogether. For most plastic still is the main form of payment interaction.

The changes to plastic cards over the years that have made it to near ubiquity are those proposed by the EMV giants. Chip cards and contactless being the big ones. Very worthwhile changes at differing levels of adoption. All the other trials and examples have not really gotten close. Could that change? What if these trials involved more companies? What if some of those Kickstarter experiments actually were moderately successful? Results of trials were shared more widely? Opened up somehow? Share more and maybe the chance of growing and wider adoption increases.

If you really are as customer centric as you say you are then you are industry centric too and not just in it for yourselves. Hippy Utopian dreamer that I am I know this is probably unrealistic. When atoms are involved it gets harder, when payments networks and regulations are involved that difficulty level passes extreme add in ego, greed and competitiveness and we can see why payments evolution has taken so long.


The finishing line

What I would really like to see gain a lot of interest and PR is the results of these trials. Let us know how many people tried them, how far and wide they have been rolled out, Did they solve the problem you thought they would? Did new interesting problems arise? Will they replace all cards going forwards? Will there be a phase two? What have you actually learnt from the trial? Those answers are the rewards for the company running the trial I suppose (to the pioneer the spoils) but I think it would make for a much more worthwhile experiment and more laudable PR if more of the hypotheses and results were shared rather than just the shiny faster plastic horse. Show the thing yes, but show more of the thinking and working out too.

The search for an Aden shaped role

After the really great response to my post about finding something new I thought I would continue the openness with an update on what has been going on as well as forcing me to try and better define what I would like to do i.e. an Aden shaped role (this is not me weirdly talking in the third person but a phrase at least three people have used during meetings recently).

I had loads of meetings and calls in December with a whole host of different folk. I met only with people who had got in touch off the back of the post. I did also take the chance to meet with some other folk I already knew but largely I was meeting new people, which was great, not that meeting the people I already knew was not great also.

I had some great conversations where it became clear what it really was I wanted to do (creativity / making came out very strongly) it was also good to be challenged and understand maybe where I lacked the experience needed.

A few opportunities have presented themselves and hopefully things will progress well this month.

Back to work

My plan for January was to go into a more targeted investigation / pester mode and I will be working towards that in case none of the opportunities pan out.

I would like to start looking closer to home. I thinking a 50 mile radius of Sheffield i.e. Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham etc. The money and the work is in London it seems from my initial search, or maybe my network just skews that way and my meetings so far have been very much London-based. I am more than happy to work in London (and if truth be told I am drawn there) but am unable at the moment to do 5 days a week there.

I am looking for companies that can offer more flexible working i.e. 3 days in the city and 2 days working from home. That flexibility is very important to me wherever I work actually as it is how I have been working for the last two years and is a real help with family life.

If you can help me grow my network outside the capital (and inside) then that would be much appreciated.

Aden Shaped Role/Hole

As mentioned previously a few people have used this phrase unfortunately it has been attached to the phrase ‘We don’t have an Aden shaped role/hole at the moment’. I wish I had asked them to better clarify what they thought that was. I assume it is a mixture of how I am perceived on the web / because of my background in financial services and innovation / my voluptuous figure. From the conversations so far though it feels mostly to me like an Aden shaped role fits into one of these three things.

Product Management. Several conversations around this some that were far more delivery focused and maybe not as suited to my skills where as others were more around the design and direction of a product which was more suited. Certainly an area of interest and working for a specific company owning something specific would be a good challenge. The chance to grow a business/test out theories/get much closer to customer interactions would be excellent.

Planning. Instead of taking the in-house route the world of the digital agency certainly grabs my attention. The chance to really flex my creative muscles across a wide range of projects, products and brands is definitely the kind of work I would love to be doing. Working with a creative team to build out ideas.

Consultancy. The most obvious route to me it seemed upon leaving HSBC. Consult on innovation, large organisation culture / collaboration, financial services, digital transformation etc. etc. I want to learn a trade(s) and this seemed close to my recent work history where I was a multi skilled internal consultant of sorts. If any nice consultancy firms want to get in touch then let me know.


And that is where I currently am. Somewhere at the intersections of those three areas and like I said a few things are progressing well. I have a long list of follow-up meetings / reminders to get things scheduled. I am looking into the pros and cons of setting up as self-employed / a limited company to enable me to do some shorter term pieces of work. I am also putting the finishing touches on a better defined hire me post looking more into the kinds of things I believe in / want to work on / problems I would love to have a crack at etc. I am also finishing a few posts that are not about me thankfully.

I will be in Manchester on the 13th of January and I will be in London from the 27th-29th of January as I have been invited to attend the excellent Monkigras conference by the very nice James Redmond. if you want a chat while I am there, or anywhere else, then do let me know.

Year in Review – 2015

Year in Review – 2015

Second year of doing this and I am glad I have done it again. Last year it inspired in me a bit of change. Thanks to Alexandra for bringing this to my attention.


1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Kind of. I made a bit of a list of things to do before 40. Originally it was 14 then it became 40. I will probably achieve about 20 of them looking at it now. Still more than I have done in the past.


2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Well that has kind of been answered previously. Kind of answered and kind of kept to them.


3. Did anyone close to you give birth?



4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes. Not very close but someone who had a big impact on me in 2014/2015. Cancer is shit.


5. What countries did you visit?

Netherlands, France, Wales…I need more travel in my life. Should be a lot more next year as I have a honeymoon, stag do, a 40th birthday and a family holiday to Menorca already booked.


6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Job satisfaction, a greater sense of self worth, well behaved children and sleep.


7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory?

Two dates. The 7th of December was my last day at HSBC after over 17 years. More importantly January 22/23rd (the timing was a bit vague due to it being very late in Amsterdam) as it was when I proposed.


8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Well the previous proposal was pretty big as was the leaving work although arguable that is not an achievement.

Running was my biggest achievement by far. In February my beloved and I both signed up for a 10k run that was to take place in September. The sign up happened when I was at the heaviest I have ever been (Over 19st). By May I had run 10 miles and lost over 3 stone. Lapsed a bit during the summer but managed to run 10k in just under an hour in September. I have signed up for the Sheffield Half Marathon in April 2016.


9. What was your biggest failure?

I had a secondment at first direct and I messed up organising something. Very annoying mistake as it went downhill from there.


10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing major.


11. What was the best thing you bought?

I did buy a lot. I kitted out a cinema room in my converted garage. Nothing too grand just using some old kit and cheap bits. Highlight was a Hisense 55″ TV that is making watching films a joy.


12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

The people of Paris.


13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Like last year, gun owners in the US. Racists who seemed to have had a resurgence in 2015 (well more chance to show their hatred/fear/ignorance). The groups overlap quite significantly as well. That and the whole world is headed to hell, Syria, Russia, ISIS etc.


14. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage payments once again. Can’t imagine having a different answer to this in the next 15 years.


15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Star Wars. The boys faces on Xmas morning. The thought of getting new and interesting employment.


16. What song/album will always remind you of 2014?

I really did not have enough music in my life this year. I do memorably remember listening to Young Fathers Old Rock and Roll a lot and at high volume. It is a tad aggressive though.


17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

Unemployed but 2015 was a much happier year overall than 2014.


18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Being organised. Reading. Writing. 2016 for sure…maybe. Less thinking more doing.


19. What do you wish you’d done less of?



20. How will you be spending Christmas?

At my house with my parents which was the first time in a long time I have spent Xmas day with them. it was good. They looked after my children allowing me to focus more on wine and cheese. The best present.


21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?

My sweetheart.


22. Did you fall in love in 2014?

Same answer as last year i.e. only deeper (still on for bonus points)


23. What was your favourite TV programme?

The Walking Dead continues to be excellent as does Game of Thrones. I was introduced to Nathan for You recently which has had me in stitches. Parks & Recreation finished strongly.


24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?



25. What was your favourite photo that you took?

I told my youngest son that Rabbits lived in the discarded mill stones that adorn the peak district (I think they are mill stones anyway) this is him looking for a rabbit.

View this post on Instagram

Told my son that rabbits live in the middle of mill stones.

A post shared by Aden Davies (@aden_76) on


26. What was the best book(s) you read?

Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama and Alfred Bester’s the Demolished Man. I only read a pitiful 10 books in 2015 when I had planned to read 25. I had a few months of commuting and that gave me the time to read. I struggle to ‘fit it in’ otherwise. Habit change required.


27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I did not listen to much new music this year it seems judging by my Spotify and history. Clark and John Grant showing up most. Spent a lot of time choosing music for our wedding. Maybe I should class the greatest discovery as the man who will sing at our wedding who we stumbled upon in a pub in West Kirby drunk one night at Easter.


28. What did you want and get?

My marriage proposal accepted? Redundancy payoff? The previously mentioned 55″ TV?


29. What did you want and not get?

Happiness at HSBC. Sleep.


30. What were your favourite films of this year?

One of the things I wanted to do was get back into watching films. I used to love to but over the last decade or so I have watched fewer and fewer. To help me with this I set about making a list of 100 films I would like to watch this year, a kind of the best films before I turn 40 type thing. I took the AFI 100, the BFI 100 and the Oscar Winners and took out all the ones I had seen already then made a list of 100 films. I then made a geeky spreadsheet to track all the films I had to watch/watched. I included running time and year so I should have a good source of data to do something pretty with if I can be bothered. As of writing I have watched 75 of the 100 classics and another 35 films that were not on the list. 110 films this year is a great total and I have loved it. Without a doubt the ones I enjoyed the most were the Ealing Comedies. In fact pretty much anything with Alec Guinness in. The Lavender Hill Mob and Bridge on the River Kwai being particular highlights.


31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 39. Once again I cannot remember what I did. Birthdays seem to be pretty dull these days. my youngest son having his birthday next day does limit the scope of them some what.


32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not screwing up a secondment. My treadmill not breaking and being out of operation for over three months due to the incompetence of two companies. Not putting weight back on while the treadmill was out of order.


33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

I lost a lot of weight this year (I have put a bit back on over the last two months though) so I have some skinnier clothes. Still the same jeans and shirt combos though, just better fitting and easier to buy.


34. What kept you sane?

My sweetheart once again. Exercise. The occasional pint.


35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

erm…always rubbish at this. Also as I get married in about 8 weeks there is only one girl for me!


36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Paris, twice. Election fuckwittery and awful polling. Millions of refugees terrifying us privileged Europeans and being treated like subhumans.


37. Who did you miss?

No one really.


38. Who was the best new person you met?

After 2014 spent living in a cave it seemed at the time, thankfully 2015 was much more sociable. Met lots of new people especially towards the end of the year after announcing my impending unemployment and lots of nice people were very helpful. Made me realise how much I like meeting new people/reconnecting with ones I don’t see often enough in real life.


39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.

Play to my strengths and don’t worry about my weaknesses (too much). Never let someone else book meetings you are meant to be chairing. Make sure your holidays are in your calendar.


40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?

Don’t let fear of feeling fool you
What you see sets you apart
And there’s nothing here to bind you

Richard Hawley – Tonight The Street are Ours.


And that is that. Another year done. 2016 will be a year of immense change for me. I shall be wed, turn 40 and I will work for a different company for the first time in over 17 years (assuming I manage to get a job that is). It is going to be a very interesting year.

Big Bang Data, Big Bank Data


Last week I got chance to visit the Big Bang Data exhibition at the Embankment Galleries in Somerset House. It was great. You should go.


The exhibition explains the size, weight, shape, complexity and reality of data.

Timo Arnall’s Internet Machine film greets you as you enter. A floor to ceiling three projector fired video of a Telefonica data centre.  A look inside the physical home and engine room of the cloud. I did enjoy it because I am a data centre nerd but I must admit that I kept wondering why Telefonica had not implemented hot/cold aisle containment.

Next up was Ryoji ikeda’s Datatron which I loved. Pitch black room and a stark but mesmorising ceiling high visualisation of brilliance. IMG_20151210_145815

I spent a long time watching it on loop then try to take selfie’s (which are encouraged) in front of it with my rubbish Doogee X5 camera.

Then it is into the main exhibition space which features lots of individual pieces of work by very smart people some of which I have had the pleasure to meet.

It was great to see Stephanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi Dear Data project in real life. A ‘year-long, analog data drawing project’ i.e. a weekly set of personal data visualised by the artists and then posted to each other as they lived on opposite sides of the world UK & West Coast of the US. as well as the cards you can see the test drawings and working out.

Dan Williams and Nat Buckley have been investigated the cabling and network infrastructure of London. Producing a crazy wall of photographs, notes, sketches and more to show the infrastructure under our feet and above our heads. The HFT in my backyard piece referenced below is well worth a read.


There is much, much more such as data storage mechanisams from punch cards to DNA, cross sections of undersea cables, maps of those cables and a global map of key data centres (not many banks though), David Mccandless’ Debtris,  James Bridle’s Where the fuck was I book and a great visualisation of redacted material, and to end the show a vending machine that dispensed a packet of crisps when a word related to recession and the credit crisis was tweeted. I waited quite a while to no avail.

I wonder what non-data nerds make of this exhibition I can imagine it opens quite a few eyes to what is done with our data and how it used, carried and manipulated. Go.



It also made me think about something I have long wanted to do with banking data. I would love to see a follow up to this called Big Bank Data that just focused on the Financial Services industry. They are as mysterious and as opaquely branded as the cloud.

It was touched on in this exhibit with references to the credit crisis and HFT etc. I am sure there is more about the size and scale of banks. Imagine a realtime visualisation of payments traversing the globe? Stock exchange traffic? Real HFT visualisations? Data from the countless cyberthreats banks have to deal with every minute of the day? the wax and wane of global real estate owned by banks for their branches, the number of banks today vs 10 years ago, what exactly are these legacy technologies banks run on? If they are public utilities should it not be public? How about delving into the links to governments.

I would love to get some massive bank data sets and hand them over to the artists involved in this exhibition. What stories would they tell? What insights would they glean? That would cause a Big Bang.

The problem(s) with fintech influencer lists

Another day another fintech influencers list drops on Twitter to a clamour of people checking if and where they are on the list then sharing it wildly if they are or are not. This behaviour pattern then strengthens the very models used to calculate these lists, people who talk about certain subjects with a group of like minded people form a self referencing echo chamber that ossifies over time as the same voices are heard over and over and their position at the top is cemented and their Twitter followership blossoms. The majority of those voices are rightly at the top (great minds, regular output, high quality insights and experiences), some not so much, some that should be way higher and the big problem is that new voices tend to get drowned out.

That being said lists work, they appeal to our vapid ego (I can’t deny I enjoy being on them or miffed when I am not), they must certainly deliver traffic, they conjure up debate over nothingness (I mean look at this pointless drivel I have written) I also believe they are useful in certain contexts and much of my frustration is born out of how they could be so much better. We will get to that but let’s concentrate on the problem first.

I should also add that as a person who very recently made the decision to be unemployed then this post could be seen as a foolish attack on the very ecosystem and network that I should be using more wisely to ‘strengthen my personal brand’. This however is what I believe and is a truer reflection of my flawed self.

These lists also feel like a bit of a time warp. We used to get lists of social media influencers 5 or 6 years ago and the same debates and behaviours occurred then. So let’s regurgitate and revisit.

The lists – Here are a few recent examples of the genre.

The City AM Top 100 Fintech Influencers list. ‘These are the most influential people in UK Fintech’ This list boldly announces. This list is a self selecting list. You put your name down to be included and then I assume some human decides whether you are worthy. The calculation used is not that clear but is based on Klout and was apparently tweaked in June to make it ‘fairer’. The list updates every other Thursday giving a burst of regular interest as people get notified if they have gone up the charts.

This was the list that seeded this post a while back as it just annoyed me for some reason. I decided to register myself and my bot. If all these other chancers were on it then I should be! (sad little man). I made it on but the bot did not. He would be higher than me as his Klout and Twitter following is much higher than mine. Anamataphobia…

I am somewhere in the 60s on this list at the time of writing. I am ahead of Nektarios Liolios the CEO of Startup Bootcamp and Yoni Assia who founded super social trading platform eToro. I was a middle manager at a large bank struggling to get people to understand what the Internet was. Laughable/embarrassing.

City AM also have a list for people in the P2P/Crowdfunding/Alternative Finance space which I prefer as it is more targeted than the Fintech list.

We have the Onalytica Fintech 2015 Top 100 Influencers List. A list that includes both humans and ‘brands’. It is another decent list of smart folk. This list is built using Onalytica’s own influencer marketing software. he downside being that this list has some very clear examples of an unpleasant trend, that of buying followers. Number one in the brand list is a company called @DNotesCoin. 750 tweets, two likes, joined 18th of February 2014, 27k followers. They must have been some influential tweets or that TV campaign must have been a smash.

Jay Palters Top 100 Fintech Influencers List. The list was seeded with the authors known experts and he then used Little Bird to pull out a wider list of experts / voices in similar fields. Starting with same people will probably bring the same network but I like what Jay did with this list. He clearly shares his working out and even mentions some flaws and I have been a fan of Little Bird for quite some time. One tip I have is to add a rank number to his spreadsheet though to save sad little people like me having to count the rows to work out my sad little place on the list! 52 I think.

I am a little confused by some the scoring mechanisms but they did make me laugh. Apparently I need to improve my ’emergence score’. I have been doing this by jumping out on the kids more scarily when playing hide and seek, leaping out of bed dramatically and by regularly pretending to be a blossoming flower.

Now ultimately these list are all based on a measure of something that feels ill defined overall and branded incorrectly. Influence. The volume and velocity of tweets as they spew out and get shared across the ether are the main scoring and ranking mechanism. The more followers the more power. With that knowledge the word influencer loses meaning and that has long been troubling.

A final example is the personally chosen list. This list by Duena Blomstrom is a nice example of a well known and respected lady in the ‘Fintech scene’ who has named some people she respects and deems worthy of following to learn more about the associated topics. I am included / mildly insulted in this list and that is again both nice and a good way of kicking me up the back side to do more. I feel this has more impact than semi-automatically generated rankings and I also like to see more personal insights into who a person finds interesting and why etc.
What even is an Influencer?

Let’s take a look at the etymology (origin) of the word influencer. It contains some useful insights and prescient views on how it is used today. From the Online Etymology Dictionary

‘The word originally had the general sense ‘an influx, flowing matter’, also specifically (in astrology) ‘the flowing in of ethereal fluid (affecting human destiny)’. The sense ‘imperceptible or indirect action exerted to cause changes’ was established in Scholastic Latin by the 13th century’

Ethereal fluid merchants has a much better ring to it than influencers doesn’t it?

late 14c., an astrological term, “streaming ethereal power from the stars when in certain positions, acting upon character or destiny of men,” from Old French influence”emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny” (13c.),

Always about men. That might explain the lack of ladies on these lists.

Also “a flow of water, a flowing in,” from Medieval Latin influentia “a flowing in” (also used in the astrological sense), from Latin influentem (nominative influens), present participle of influere “to flow into, stream in, pour in,” from in- “into, in, on, upon” (see in- (2)) + fluere “to flow” (see fluent). 

Flow…flowing….fluent, effortlessly fluent or effluent for short.

‘Meaning “exertion of unseen influence by persons” is from 1580s (a sense already in Medieval Latin, for instance Aquinas); meaning “capacity for producing effects by insensible or invisible means” is from 1650s. Under the influence (of alcohol, etc.) “drunk” first attested 1866.

So influencers make people drink? I am pretty guilty on that count actually…in multiple ways.

“capacity for producing effects by insensible or invisible means” Perfection.

It is clear what influence really means, to have the power to change / enforce people’s thinking and actions. Fair enough. If what I do / say helps someone with that in a positive way I am very happy about that. It feels like a strange form of influence to me though, maybe that is my personal view on the value of work and what I am good at. If it was more clear to me/others why people were included in these lists and where they ranked (He is good at Twitter or blogging or talking about subject X?) that would improve these lists tenfold and my comfort with being on them and my desire to be higher. More why please.

Is the phrase influencer just too vague to be meaningful? Maybe it is my hatred of it that holds me back from embracing it. I should be more bold and shout from the hilltops “I AM AN INFLUENCER!”

I made a decision to outsource my link machine nature to fintechbot (robots are taking our jobs). It now has more followers than me and a better Klout score, if it was allowed onto any of these lists it would be more influential than me. I think I would actually prefer that. A semi-automatic machine being better at climbing semi-automatic rankings.

I am lucky if my very infrequent blog posts get read in triple figures, I have no responsibility. No skin in the game. Just an ideas man. I am happy to be judged on those skills and I know my fragile ego enjoys being included. But an influencer? Really? Am I influential? I want to more clearly understand why I am on/not on these lists.


Silo slayers

Smash the silos they cry! As they point their fingers at the banks and their outmoded ways of working in the networked world. Yet are these lists themselves a silo? An algorithmic silo? Do the echo chambers they map actually create group think? The methods of ranking and measuring are based on the group talking and sharing, the same topics feed the group and feed the machines that rank us? We have the same set of people focusing on largely the same set of technology trends and beliefs as they rise up the peak of inflated expectations.

Just as we are in the middle of the great social media consolidation (trademark Matt Muir) does the thinking become constrained and destined for the same set of functionality and outcomes in banking? What happens when everyone has cracked big data driven insights, AI lead personalisation, robo everything, slick designed mobile and api first geolocation driven, distributed, cryptographicly proved, open, incubated, hackathoned, wearable, augmented, banking products and services that are born out of agile, continuously delivered unicorn chasing startup like design thinking.

What will we all talk about? Drones and VR and IoT probably as we try to shoe horn them into banking/fintech contexts.
False profits

One of my real bug bears is the power of Twitter followers in these rankings. I have worked hard i.e. tweeted a lot of mildly useful stuff/moaned/punned badly etc.) to earn my 3.5k followers over the last 7 or so years. I look at the following of some people and ‘brands’ on these lists and I think something does not add up. Therefore I would like to see follower ratio and other patterns observed. There are some great reads on this topic including this one and this one which shows some the tricks people use to gain followers. I know I should not hate the player but hate the game but it still rankles. I am equally annoyed at myself for caring about this nonsense. I wonder if anyone on these lists would be brave enough to admit to buying followers or getting involved with follow back schemes? The transparency most people in fintech crave from banks would be well observed in other areas.
Segmented solutions

I want more from these lists. I think they work if you are new to the topic or wanting a broad cross section of smart people to follow and learn more. For me though I want some categorisation.

Who is knowledgeable about payments? Investment Banking? Who is more tech than fin? Identity? APIs? Who is actually building something? Who is a consultant and this is their full time job? Who are the link machines? Who are the thinkers? Who are the writers? Who is the funniest? Who is the grumpiest? Who is the grumpiest and the funniest (Dave Birch or Ron Shevlin)? Who works in an actual bank and therefore is restricted in what they can say or are not allowed to speak at events to enable them to show off their wisdom, or otherwise, and grow their followership. Bitter much. No excuse now though either. All that takes either a very smart piece of software (How good is Little Bird?) or a lot of manual effort.

I want to see a list ranked on beliefs or qualities e.g. sound arguments, ability to prick pomposity (fintech pomposity prickers would be a list I’d follow and strive to be on). Call out flimsy arguments based on over leaned upon and probably US based statistics, make more of a debating ecosystem than self referencing circle jerks…or are they one in the same?

Who talked about something new? Who challenged? Who covers a specific geographic area well? These lists are very English language biased. I would like to see a geographic location for these people? How well represented is the Middle East? Africa? South America? What no Weibo lists?

What else could be done differently to drive greater value from these lists? Techmeme for financial services news? Where are the boundaries of FS and Fintech? Highlight great video talks? Slide decks. Or you know actual things being made.

Has anyone made a list of lists? Correlation between the lists to see who is on the most? Varying rank? Overall super influencer rank! Like Klout! Christ. I can see how easy it is too fall into this trap.
In summary

All these things are not easy. Pumping out lists based on Twitter followers/followees and the the conversation between said people against certain key words is. This will only ever be useful to a point. I think my own awkwardness at being on these lists but not being sure I am worthy/think I should be higher is an embarrassing paradox. Having said all this there are lots of very smart people on those lists. The majority are generous with sharing their thoughts, interests, links etc. do go and learn from them.

I know this post sounds like very, very sour grapes but I think deifying certain people/brands for their reckons and then ranking them on how many people real or otherwise are following them is false especially if it prevents other opinions being heard i.e. those making something real. The word influencer might be the real issue. It has become meaningless.

Also there are some obvious people missing from these lists. Where is Fred the shred? He must have had more influence on the whole fintech scene than all those lists combined. Not much cop on Twitter though is he?

Lists work, they appeal to our egos, they allows us to keep score and see where we fit but they are flawed and limited. Can we build more? Get more value out of this set of network tools we have? Build rabbit holes and webs to make it easier to go deeper on certain topics, unearth more voices, tunnel between ideas and ideals. I think we can and we should. Time to round up some influencers, what is the collective noun for fintech influencers I wonder?


PS If after all that you would like to employ me or ask me to write something (shorter) or speak at your conference (As well as long rambling posts I also do long rambling presentations as well) then please get in touch. I am currently ranked 62 on the City AM list, 52 on Jay Palter’s list and I am at the top of The Why-Have-they-(kinda)-Shut-up Guard’ on Duena’s list (this might change now I am a free man). Far more importantly some people just think I am not too unpleasant and relatively smart.

Finding something new

Hello. My Name is Aden Davies and as of the 7th of December 2015 I am unemployed for the first time in my adult life.

I would like that situation to be as temporary as possible. That being said I also want to take some time to learn and try a few new things.

For the last 17 years I have been employed by HSBC. The last seven and a half of those years have been spent working in the Innovation function. That entailed research in to new technologies and trends, proof of concepts, technical and strategic consultancy, a bit of teaching, secondments into multiple areas of the bank and lots of trying to connect people and ideas inside a massive global organisation. Most recently I have been working on API strategy and researching digital identity.

I would like to do something similar again. Maybe with a bit more freedom to experiment, a bit more autonomy and more chances to improve things for customers/users/people.

To help me prepare for my next role I am looking for

  • Contacts & introductions
  • Advice & guidance
  • Feel free to pick my brain (I know a bit about banking, fintech, innovation, collaboration, social technologies, linking ideas and people in massive global organisations  etc. etc.)
  • Training recommendations – Looking to sharpen my skills around strategic thinking, service design and maybe some softer skills
  • Invite me to speak at your conference on a panel or even a deliver a presentation or your workshop to wave my arms about and provide some reckons / keen insights.
  • I like to write. I would like to write much more.

But ultimately I am looking to start the next stage of my career and I am looking for a long term role. Ideally in the realms of digital transformation/innovation/strategy.  If you have anything to offer or can help in any way then please get in touch. 

The loose web of connections from the web, mainly from Twitter, have made the last several years brilliant and I have learnt a hell of a lot. I am hoping those connections can help me find some things to make the next several years even better. If you can help me with my search in any way that would be fantastic e.g.

  • Share my requests for help e.g. this post, wildly on the web
  • Tell your colleagues and contacts about me if you think I would be a good fit for a role
  • Let me take you for a coffee/glass of wine to chat about the future and stuff
  • Offer me an interesting job

You can find out much more about me at these places.


UPDATE: This is how my search for an ‘Aden shaped role’ is going 

UPDATE 2: Still searching