Banks Digital Heartbeat. Interview with Thomas Fuss

'I believe that people who embrace change are the ones who will succeed', says Thomas Fuss, Vice President of Technology at Backbase. Fuss talks about the empowerment of banks, diversity and inclusiveness.

Located in a glass building in Amsterdam you’ll find the Netherlands buzzing newspaper industry who’s breathing change and excitement 24/7. Walking the halls, you’ll also find one outcast breathing those exact same values, a fintech company, who like the ever-changing publishing industry, realizes they should embrace digital change. 'Everyone is using their mobile phones. Not just to call or text, but to browse, to date, to check the weather and do their banking', says the German vice president of technology, Thomas Fuss. 'If we're not helping banks become more customer friendly through digitalization, banks will disappear', Fuss explains.

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Are banks just so incredibly outdated that they forgot about the digitalization of our society?

'No, some of them just missed the opportunity of using the internet as powerful as it can be. Because of the financial crisis, their focus was not on digital transformation but surviving. Today, the banking industry is changing fast. Before the last crisis occurred the banks were the ones calling the shots. Now, the customers do. So, it's very much 'do or die' for them. And we can help them to become more consumer-friendly, both now and in the future.'

How is Backbase’s digital transformation strategy different?

'Well, first of all, we don't stop at installing new software and a fancy interface. We change digital behaviour as well. Whether we’re working with a local bank or one of our biggest customers, who are amongst the top ten banks in the world, we help them transform their process to be more modern and efficient. So where they originally had hundreds of people creating that digital transformation, they now need just 20 to 25 people. And it's not just cost reduction that makes Backbase attractive; we show banks what their customers want and how to meet their changing needs. We also look ahead to the future needs of their customers. Sometimes, we even help them hire people to keep their digital transformation going.'

Does Backbase only help existing banks?

'We are in the fortunate position to help the financial system in less developed countries as well; countries where people have little or no access to financial means. We believe that creating more access to information or flow of goods is a good thing for everyone because we can then help people develop themselves. The cool thing about these projects is also that they motivate our people as much — if not even more — as working with the big shots.'

Tell us about the people who make Backbase so unique.

'We have more than 45 different nationalities walking around the office. Men and women; Muslims and Christians; straight and gay — and everyone else in between. I think being diverse is the very core of Backbase, because being diverse is the soul of change, and change is our business. If we didn’t travel as much as we do and get in touch with other cultures, opinions or other religions, we would never be able to serve all of our customers. We need different kinds of brains to stay the best in our field.'

So, who do you hire?

'People that are exciting, who are notorious overachievers. People that in the first interview will take it one step further and keep asking questions because they need to know how we do things. They are usually pretty opinionated and headstrong. They inspire their colleagues with their open minds and immense knowledge. At the end of the day, they are the evangelists that make our customers future-proof again.'

What makes Backbase future-proof for its employees?

'Innovation and technology equal change. So, that's a continuous journey with loads of opportunities. Look at me. Fourteen months ago I started as a technical director and within a year I became the vice president of technology. Everything is possible. The beauty of working here is that we not only embrace change for our customers or our product but for our people, too. 'I believe that people who embrace change are the ones who will succeed.' Succeeding through change is not just our goal, but our attitude as well. It's embedded in our culture.'