The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

SIBOS: What is Banks’ role in identity

SIBOS is an interesting meeting each year where the lemmings look for the cliff to race off to. I don’t say that with animosity but with reality where we have several thousand largely paid employees who are tired of the daily payment grind, and looking for clarity on whats next.

So when the senior folks at banks start talking about identity as a service one has to yawn. I recall discussions and analysis about this potential service in 1998 in Chicago while I was at mbanx. The obvious analogy between the bank vault containing cash and a vault containing your identity is strong but not yet conclusive for banks almost 20 years later.

The view from Sibos: Banks in danger of letting digital identity opportunity pass them by

Digital identity is, “the bank’s opportunity to lose”, noted Barclays Bank’s chief data officer, Usama Fayyed, during a well-attended panel session on Tuesday where he pushed banks to innovate faster and seize the day.

Fayyed and other panellists, including Sean Gilchrist, managing director, commercial digital from Lloyds Bank, identified established social networks and technology vendors as the most probable sources of competition. The spectre of the threat from Apple, Facebook and Google was inevitably raised.

The concept of identity is deeply embedded in technology and standards such as OAuth and cloud to name only two. Banks are so far from this work in where they have been focussed for the last 20 years of internet so I just dont see it.

I would go further and suggest the vault which is embedded in each branch is the wrong model for identity. Identity is focussed on several diverse components (drivers license, social security, credit cards, loans, mortgages, land registry, etc) all of which are external to the bank. Banks don’t issue identity. Identity is not a physical thing to be deposited into a vault.

Banks are users of identity, not issuers nor keepers of identity. This horse has left the barn.

Written by Colin Henderson

October 13, 2015 at 23:08

Posted in Uncategorized

Rackspace shift to managed services supporting Amazon

This is an big development in the cloud space that portends the obvious; Amazon have the cloud space well cornered. Microsoft (Azure/ Live/ OneDrive/ latest nom de jour – I have seriously lost track on their latest name) are giving it a shot but the retail/ B2B/ new corporate cloud space is owned by Amazon – full stop.

Here is the newsletter in full from Robert Scoble, Rackspace and internet evangelist.

Rackspace Ends the “Cloud Push” With AWS Support (Robert Scoble email)

Official release here. The following is in Robert Scobles own words from todays email. Feel free to subscribe with the link at the bottom.

I’m sending this week’s newsletter a day early due to some big news from the cloud world that just couldn’t wait an extra day:

Yesterday Rackspace announced it partnered with Amazon to provide Fanatical SupportⓇ to Amazon Web Services.

You can find all the details about this new service offering here:

A good aggregate of recent press coverage around the announcement can be found here:

And with all of those details out there, I can already hear a lot of you asking about what this means for our other cloud offerings, whether they’re from OpenStack or Microsoft Azure.

Let’s take each one on one by one.

First, we very recently announced a huge deal with Intel regarding OpenStack, so know that our investments continue in OpenStack, details here:

Regarding Microsoft, we’ve been one of their biggest partners for years, and we see Microsoft as a huge player in the cloud ecosystem. If you haven’t noticed, Microsoft has something like a dozen billion-dollar businesses (or larger) and most of those are in the Enterprise.

If you think our partnership with AWS is a “take all our resources and bet it on one horse” kind of race, you are mistaken, and you’re missing what we’re really up to.

So what’s Rackspace up to Scoble?

Rackspace wants to be the service leader in the cloud market. And the market has evolved into a multi-cloud world. How can we provide the best service if we are only pushing one cloud (whether that’s OpenStack or Azure or AWS)? That’s not Fanatical Support.

What is?

Taking the customer’s side. Customers don’t want to be pushed to one cloud or another.

I don’t want to be treated like that either. I want someone to sit down and authoritatively explain to me what the advantages are of putting my business on one cloud or another.

For some, that will be AWS. For others, it might be OpenStack, and for others still, it might be Microsoft Azure. There are a lot of businesses that might need to be on two of these clouds at the same time too.

Which is why I explained in my Facebook post this morning that Rackspace is now the Switzerland of clouds.

Here’s a reprint of that post, if you missed it: ):

So this is big news for us at Rackspace, as we truly embrace this new multi-cloud world.

You can read the press release for the particulars about what Rackspace and Amazon are doing together and I’ll link to the best news reports I’ve seen below.

In short, we made a deal to provide Fanatical Support for AWS plus three additional beta offerings, Managed Security for AWS, Compliance Assistance for AWS and Managed Cloud for Adobe Experience Manager (which runs on AWS).

What I’m here for is to explain the why.

For that you have to go way back to 2010 when I first saw Flipboard. I saw it months before it was released and knew it would be a really amazing company. I turned to Founder/CEO Mike McCue and asked him, “What cloud are you using?” (Even by then in Silicon Valley nearly every startup had decided to use cloud, rather than hosting their own infrastructure in a cage somewhere).

He gave an answer I had already heard many times before and since: AWS.
Since then though, the cloud space has gotten a lot more competitive.

Microsoft Azure and Google’s App Engine both came along from companies with deep pockets. They are pouring billions into their cloud offerings. At Rackspace, we gifted OpenStack to the open source world and it’s taken off, with companies from Comcast to Nike using it to run their businesses.

The world of cloud has gotten flatter and more complex; even if you just stay on AWS you’ll see that it has hundreds of APIs, many of which have been added in just the past few years.

Because of that, the press has tried to portray the current landscape as a full-blown war over cloud. Innovative businesses from Uber to Instagram have bet on it and bet big. Plus, most enterprises are now hosting on cloud, or at a minimum, cloud technology hosted in their own datacenters.

Yeah, it’s easy for the highly technical folks that start new companies. But let’s be honest. If you know how to build and scale a new service like Uber, and those skills could be used at a pre-IPO startup, why would you want to work for, say, a pizza chain?

Isn’t your local mom and pop pizza chain being asked to build the same kind of apps and systems that Uber has built?

Not to mention, there are a lot of businesses that don’t know how to deal with being on say, Shark Tank, or, for the bigger businesses, keeping their online or ecommerce platforms up and running during a huge peak in traffic because of a Super Bowl commercial. Getting on Shark Tank can bring a 5,000 percent increase in traffic and if you haven’t built your system properly, it can be tough slugging through the busiest and most important day of your company’s life.

Heck, I was hanging out with the guy who runs Coachella’s music festival (200,000 attendees), Gopi Sangha. After I interviewed him, he told me he couldn’t get through to his cloud provider on the festival’s busiest day of the year — they weren’t answering their phones and it forced him to deal with a slow ticketing system.

The day when all of his customers were registering their armbands and loading its app up with the latest schedule, his business was down.

When you say Fanatical Support, most people don’t recognize what that means, unless they’ve experienced it, or they’ve experienced the lack thereof, like the chief geek at Coachella.

For companies, Fanatical Support means they have a partner with the expertise to help them manage their infrastructure and apps, so they can focus on their core value proposition — and possibly even save money because they need fewer highly skilled technical staff on their payrolls.

It also means that they have an accountable partner (one neck to wring!) who can help them prepare for, and execute systems that will deal with the business demands they are seeing. Those could be sensor workloads from IoT devices or millions of new customers that will pop up on a concert tour in one of the new “smart stadiums,” like Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, which will host the Super Bowl (it runs on AWS by the way).

Why go with Rackspace support over AWS support?

Simply put, support and managed services are different. This is why Amazon has a Managed Service Partner program. While we do support the AWS platform as part of our offers, we go beyond that with managed services that speak to how customers should design for and operate applications on AWS.

These opinions are reflected in our tooling, automation and templates for Navigator (one of our available AWS service levels). In our Aviator service level, we operate and manage customer application environments, which go beyond AWS infrastructure support and into in-guest/instance support.

For example, we provide SysAdmin/DevOps expertise to do GuestOS support — logging into servers, configuring, making changes, patching, etc. (i.e., day-to-day operational management with an army of technologists that operate on a 24/7 basis).

We are a managed service provider at our core; it’s who we are. Rackspace has a 16-year heritage of working with businesses to help them make applications more effective and efficient to operate, and we’re the trusted service partners for more than 300,000 customers across 120 countries.

This is why I’m so excited to be part of the 6,000+ employees who are working with Amazon and its CTO Werner Vogels to provide better support to the world that wants to use AWS as its business infrastructure.

Now, can we talk?

That’s all sweet and stuff, but this is just part of the new Rackspace strategy, which is to provide Fanatical Support for a variety of clouds your business might need.

So as I said, we really are the Switzerland of clouds. We’ll support you in the best place that makes the most sense for your business. And in some cases, we’ll recommend different clouds for different parts of your business and support them all.

This is why I’m such a good fit for Rackspace and why I haven’t left to join some startup or head to Alphabet or some other company. Rackspace is uniquely positioned to provide this support. It maps perfectly with my interest in where the future is headed. IoT? Rackspace supports it. Contextual apps? Rackspace supports those. Enterprise workflows? Rackspace supports those too. Robot operating systems? Rackspace will be there.


For years, Rackspace has hired employees with strengths in people skills. Rackers, as we choose to call ourselves, are curious, we listen and we’re highly technical.

Walk through one of our buildings in London, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Austin, Sydney or our 1.2 million-square-foot home in San Antonio and you’ll find thousands of geeks who keep the Internet running for 300,000 customers.
Many of these employees have gone “back to school” over the past couple of years to learn AWS deeply.

To wrap it up, we’d love to be your business partner. Let’s talk! You can find me at

For more, see: (our official site on AWS support) (Press release) (Our official “why,” written by our CEO, Taylor Rhodes).

I’ll post more links on my Facebook page as they become available.

Oh, and what does this mean for me?

Well, for the time being, I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done: visit the world’s best entrepreneurs and innovators and bring what I learn as Rackspace’s Futurist to Facebook and other places.

It’s that learning and those relationships that constitute a key part of Fanatical Support and I’m happy to keep looking for the future, no matter what cloud it’s running on.


As a Rackspace futurist, I keep my finger on the pulse of Silicon Valley and global trends, to offer insights into what’s coming next in tech and why it’s important to you.

Since 2009, I’ve traveled near and far, meeting with startups, innovative companies and visionaries, as well as evangelizing the Rackspace managed cloud story.

I read all my email at and anything done in response to this newsletter goes to the top of my inbox. I’m also at +1-425-205-1921 or on Facebook at

Please share this newsletter on your social networks or via email. If you received this from a friend, you can subscribe (or unsubscribe) here:

And props to Hugh Macleod and team for creating art each week. Find more at

Copyright © 2015 Rackspace, All rights reserved.
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Written by Colin Henderson

October 7, 2015 at 19:12

Posted in Uncategorized

Why do we need cash?

Just in case you thought the world financial system was rational, then in fact you are correct. Rational thought for protection of the world financial system during the next crisis is to eliminate the problem caused by cash. Now this might seem an extreme view of the world, but lets not forget Andy Haldane of the Bank of England proposed elimination of cash just last month.

How and Why Banks Will Seize Deposits During the Next Crisis

The financial system is predominantly comprised of digital money. Actual physical Dollars bills and coins only amount to $1.36 trillion. This is only a little over 10% of the $10 trillion sitting in bank accounts. And it’s a tiny fraction of the $20 trillion in stocks, $38 trillion in bonds and $58 trillion in credit instruments floating around the system.

Suffice to say, if a significant percentage of people ever actually moved their money into physical cash, it could very quickly become a systemic problem.

Indeed, this is precisely what caused the 2008 meltdown, when nearly 24% of the assets in Money Market funds were liquidated in the course of four weeks. The ensuing liquidity crush nearly imploded the system.

Of course these are quite extreme views but looking 50 years out say, then this extreme view suggests elimination of cash may not just be a convenience but a necessity to keep the world afloat. The theory goes that with no cash we would eliminate the natural fiscal suffocation that comes with the drive to cash in times of crisis.

I wonder if the opposite is not true and that cash may jest be the thing that keeps pulling us back to the centre and some semblance of stability.

Written by Colin Henderson

October 6, 2015 at 21:29

Posted in Uncategorized

Digital Finance Toronto 2015 – some notes @dfi2015

Digital Finance conference in Toronto. Two panels today with very different perspectives and fascinating to observe:

  • first panel was very focussed on the regulatory environment, and was very focussed on the problems that fintech has with regulators. There was a thread of unbanked and underserved. In general this panel struck me as close to lobbyists
    • Sarah Gordon CFSI
    • Carol Caruso Accion (funded by Gates Foundation)
    • Grant Fondo – Goodwin Proctor (security / cybercrime)
    • Jo Lang (ny) R3CV – crytocurrency, org with 9 global banks
    • Sarah Martin, Moneythink – economic health of US people one at a time
  • the next panel was 4 actual fintech companies, and these are driving real change. What struck me with them, is that they are providing a customer friendly technology front end that is layered on top of old banking technology. They are each driven by partnerships with existing players.
    • Patrick Postrehovsky, (Rentmoola)
    • Michael Gotkurk – (PayFirma) (ex Versa Pay)
    • Daniel Eberhard (Koho)
    • Michael Katchen (WealthSimple)

Some points from the Fintech panel:

  • brief description
    • RentMoola – credit card acquiring and payment to Landlords
    • PayFirma – superior card acquiring
    • Koho – PFM based online banking with Credit Union providing the underlying banking core technolgy. Primary revenue is Interchange.
    • WealthSimple: very experienced Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Offerring investing advice and management open to small and beginning investors with low fees
  • Katchen from WealthSimple points out that 50% of his employees are developers with an entrepreneur background.
  • Payfirma points out they compete with legacy incumbents. At their core PayFirma is just a card acquirer, but then they just do it so much better than the incumbents.
  • passion and working ‘insanely hard’ to provide the best experience for customers.
  • “can we make peoples lives better” this is the koho filter for all decisions, and they use it every week for decisioning.

I note the audience is full of lawyers, banks, investment companies. There is clear interest in the space. Thankfully it was not another blockchain discussion.

WealthSimple is a big Canadian winner and rasing $32M in Canada is huge.

Nothing from the CPA discussion yesterday, except to expect more regula

Written by Colin Henderson

September 30, 2015 at 11:47

Posted in Uncategorized

Tomorrows Transactions – final thoughts – #TTTU2015

@dgwbirch @debgamble1

Some personal and final payments takeaways from todays unconference in Toronto:

  • Canada is Canadian – conservative and sees the status quo as a barrier to change
  • Common agreement that what is needed is real time and cheap payments (P2P, P2B, B2B)
    • How and why this should happen gets fuzzy for most
  • Canada has the potential to be world leading edge in payments given:
    • shared national infrastructure (CPA, Interac, national P2P system)
    • the postive has the corollary of a shared infrastructure owned by those with least to gain from change (big 5 banks)
    • postitive regulatory environment looking for a greater pro-consumer approach from financial services; note a member of the Government Privacy Department (PPIDA) was present with a mandate to understand whats holding us back
    • old infrastructure (in payments)
  • banking and payments are emotional in nature (@heathervescent)
  • Bitcoin and blockchain is about technology but it brings out a certain mindset and set of beliefs in transparency and enablement
  • No real sense that there is a burning platform for big 5 banks to change anything without some intervention

@dgwbirch @debgamble1 #TTTU2015

Written by Colin Henderson

September 8, 2015 at 17:59

Posted in Uncategorized

Bank as a platform – not in Canada apparently

@dgwbirch: Most notable difference between UK Unconference and Canadian one was lack of discussion around APIs, big part of London event #TTTU2015

Written by Colin Henderson

September 8, 2015 at 17:19

Posted in Uncategorized

Glass Bank and the evolution of transparency – 1931


Dave comes up with the darndest examples to make his point and these are frequently brilliant.

This from Modern Mechanics, August 1931 was a new concept – a glass bank. Apparently in the 1930’s bank robberies were a serious problem. Architect Keally developed the concept of a glass bank. The idea was that if everyone could see inside the bank, no-one would rob it. Keally was in fact referring to the concept of transparency hence we flowed nicely into a Blockchain discussion.

Written by Colin Henderson

September 8, 2015 at 16:01

Posted in Uncategorized


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