New, old skool.

A side effect of working in IT is the inevitable ‘inside baseball’ mentality that can colour ones view of everyday stories, working more in the innovation space with newer or less established technologies perhaps only serves to magnify this. Sometimes though I need to pause for thought as to whether my consideration is just a symptom of this or whether the story at hand is just a case of the bleedin’ obvious.

In quick succession two such scenarios caught my attention today and caused me to pause and take stock. So, for my sanity I thought I would expand on these examples and gather the considered opinion of a wider audience. There is no ‘correct’ answer, I am just genuinely interested in people’s views on this.

#1 — Barclays Bank — in one of a series of recent radio adverts from Barclays, of which I am subconsciously aware, the premise portrayed is that of the Bank being there as a dependable resource to help and guide where necessary. This is, I’m certain, a mini debate in its own right, but today’s ad struck a wrong chord with me. The pretext was that today’s children have a lack of experience using physical money, coins and notes. The suggestion being that this could be remedied if over the holidays parents gave their cherubs some cold hard cash when going to the shops to teach them the value of items being bought.

Now I agree children should encouraged to understand the value and mechanics of money and there probably isn’t a specific lower age limit to this, but what struck me as odd was the suggestion that this could only be achieved through use of physical notes and coins. My immediate conscious withdrew to performing trigonometry calculations at school using a book of tables rather than the SIN/COS/TAN buttons on my calculator. Sure, understanding the method and relationship is paramount, but safe in that knowledge, thumbing through a book for the answer seemed a little archaic.

What valuable life lessons are we teaching today’s children by getting them to use physical currency? Perhaps as part of a history project yes but not as a valuable life skill. Is this not a case where the children are almost ahead of the parents before they start? Teaching them value need not be tied to wads of notes or piles of coins. Today’s child has a different relationship to money than their parents, and the pace of that change will only accelerate. Even using plastic cards may seem alien to them in the near future as we tap our phones for an increasing number of transactions.

…and that brings me nicely onto my second point;

#2 — Revolut — in case you’ve been under a rock, one of the crop of new ‘challenger’ banks offering an App based approach in an attempt to disrupt the role and paradigm of ‘traditional’ banks. This morning, while I was still pondering the Barclays cash question above, an email from Revolut announced that something ‘big is happening tomorrow!’ Good I thought, another fancy new feature that will simplify my finances or provide hereto un-imagined benefits…. No, not so, peculiarly, a metal card!?! Like a traditional plastic card but made from metal (cut from a single sheet of stainless steel apparently). My question… why? Why promote an App based challenge to the establishment and then re-invent, well not even really re-invent, more re-skin, an old idea? This is presumably their answer to the Starling bank ‘innovation’ to print debit cards in portrait rather than the traditional landscape orientation. Sure, it makes sense for all the reasons they stated except card use, or at least the presentation of cards by the customer to the retailer, is surely on the decline.

So I ask, is it just me or are all these tech and financial giants as clueless about the future as the regular man in the street? Are the examples above ill advised gimmicks fresh from the marketing department or is there a deeper and more meaningful rationale that I have simply missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.