The Russian Doll Paradox

Wooden. Layered. Traditional. I could make the obvious "and thats just the banks!" joke, but I think I'll refrain.

Russian nesting dolls (or matryoshka dolls) are weird little things. Normally they're wooden figures painted like nurses or matrons (matryoshka literally means little matron) all piled inside one another with a little baby nestled in the centre. A visual symbol of safety, security and care - something that aligns nicely with banks.

... but there is another truth that can be uncovered using these dolls, one around expectation VS reality, I'm calling it: The Russian Doll Paradox.

Recently, Bud attended a round table at Capgemini, discussing the future of banking, fintech, insuretech and - importantly - consumers. There was a revelation during the talk that was too good not to share:

Imagine laying out nesting dolls in a row from largest to smallest (like the image above).

The largest doll represents a bank branch. Here you can do anything you wish (if you have the right I.D, proof of address... blah blah blah). You can get a mortgage, get a loan, open a shared bank account, open a savings account... you get the picture. Now we move down the dolls.

The next one, smaller than the first, is telephone banking. You can still do plenty of things over the phone, but not as much as in branch. The breadth of services is limited as is the experience. Whats more, what we have is an exact copy of the larger version... Just less powerful.

Let's move along one more - I think you know where this is going - Online banking. Again, a shrinking of services and expectation. Actions like applying for a loan end with "call us now" not "complete online". Convenience hasn't trickled into these areas.

Now to the next doll, mobile banking. Essentially a transportable receipt that lets you pay people (as long as you've paid them before, if not, well, you know where you need to go...) This, the most handy way to bank, is the least helpful. I can't exchange currency with a swipe, I can't force touch a new account, I can't tap for more credit. The thing that I engage with most in my life has the least permissions, is the least powerful.

And now the baby - Which in this metaphor is us, the people. Hemmed in and closed off with limited services to choose from.

The Paradox

Technology has made us more free, more agile and more powerful. But as technology - and with it: freedoms - have increased... we have been limited. As we've become more mobile, more transient, our banking tech has locked us in.

If anything, the metaphor should run the opposite way, right? Opportunities increases as technology and connections increases? These little machines in our pockets are infinitely more powerful than a bank branch, with it we can be, pretty much, connected to everything. So why, when it comes to personal finance, aren't we? Why are options being shut off to us when they should be open?

At Bud we want to create the next wave in mobile banking. One that gives people more choice, more freedom and more power. One that liberates your money and opens up opportunities.

Thanks to everyone who was at WFTR17 who inspired this post.

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