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My bank executive friend spending $100M

I bumped into a bank executive friend of mine last week – who works for a ‘Tier-massive’ bank that we all know. We had a good catch up and then he asked for vendor recommendations for one of their $100M+ upcoming technology projects. He briefly listed the challenges they were facing. They’ll definitely do RFPs – probably at least a dozen I’d imagine, to support the programme of work.

I duly gave some suggestions for companies to consider.

I gave my assessment quickly, directly, and illustrated some of the issues I’d faced (or heard others had faced) with some aspects.

I think it was perhaps a 2-minute broadcast from me. He listened, received and thanked me. Then it was on to other topics – family, holidays and so on.

What about your company?

Where do you place in that run-down that I gave my colleague?

Where is your organisation on the list?

Are you even on the list?

If you are on the list, what was I saying about you?

Whilst I’d love to be in a position to readily and dramatically influence such deals, I’m pretty confident that my bank executive colleague will have done the exact same with quite a few other people. My comments will have gone into the mix. He will be forming his views now, based on the insights, learnings, hard lessons and – I’m sure – gossip – from those whose views he values. He will have talked to dozens of people already I’m sure.

He’s technically buying right now.

I don’t think any vendors have a got wind of the programme of work yet. They might have heard some mutterings if they’re hyper-connected to the bank. But because this is still at discussion stage at executive level, it’s going to take a while before news begins to formalise and then become widely known.

Just as my colleague James Barker (the enterprise sales expert) comments, the buying cycle has already begun, even though most don’t consider it to have started.

I am astonished by how many FinTech vendors have their heads in the sand when it comes to how things work in Banks.

Sales and Business Development teams are still being fed nonsense prospects from a marketing team obsessed with completely irrelevant brand messages.

I would imagine that the RFP winners for this $100M+ programme of work will be known to the bank executive in question. I think he’ll probably have had meals, roundtables, drinks and meetings with individuals at these vendors. He’ll do the right thing. They’ll go through the process. They’ll make their decisions – often by committee. But he (and his teams) will root out the ones they don’t know (and can’t rely upon) early in the RFP process.

If your sales and business development teams don’t know him or his colleagues, if you’ve not been in the room already, you probably won’t win. You could be considered if you can find a way on to the RFP long and then short list. But you’re unlikely to win.

Next best actions?

So what could you be doing now? Well, there is a LOT to consider. Everything from training your teams to understand the buying process properly to making sure your marketing and sales efforts are fully aligned. But for simplicity, here are two points to consider right now:


Invest heavily in relationships across the banking sector. Enable your sales and business development teams to form the valuable connections needed to discuss problems, challenges and solutions. Create the conditions to put your people in the room with target bank executives. Fundamentally, when you’re running these huge programmes of work at a bank, you need partners, not vendors. You need people and companies you can rely on. You can’t develop this with really whizzy logos and fancy brand videos.

I need to know that when things go wrong – they do, it’s technology – that you will have my back. That you will do everything you can to help me. I need to know if you’re going to drop me ‘in’ it at the worst possible time by not actively helping me. This happens. It’s happened to me a lot with vendors. But, remember, it’s not the vendor reputation – that IS important – but the relationships I have with the individuals working at the vendor that ultimately matters to me.

I need to know you’re going to go to bat with me, for me, to make sure things get done. How do I get this confidence? Relationships — ideally formed well before I’m actively buying.


You’re flying blind most of the time.

This is why your marketing team is churning out nonsense messages that are delivering silly prospects that go nowhere – and it’s why your Sales team aren’t able to sell.

They can’t get in the room.

It’s utterly ridiculous that you’re even thinking cold calling is an option.

If you’re selling photocopy paper, maybe. However most bank vendor demands are way more complex than ‘flogging a license or two’.

So, invest in insight. Hire some former executives and keep them on retainer.

Ask them to bring you perspective and insight from across the marketplace on a regular basis. Don’t – DON’T — DO NOT start doing silly things like paying them $500 a month and a bonus if they introduce you to bank. This is just crazy business.

I once had a vendor send me a slide containing bank logos and saying “who can you introduce us to?”

I wrote back saying “every bank”. “I either know someone or I can know someone at each of the 50-odd banks on this slide”

I can send the email.

That isn’t helping you.

They’re far too busy nowadays to respond to emails from colleagues introducing them speculatively to some vendor.

What you want is insight. INSIGHT.

You need to know what’s going on. You need to know what projects are moving. You need to know how best to get connected to the right individuals so that you can get in the room….

Only once you’re in the room can you be actively prospecting and looking for business development opportunities.

This ridiculous approach that boils everything down to ‘commission’ for third parties doesn’t help anyone. You need insight. One way you get that reliably is by paying for it.

Prioritise recruiting experienced sales/biz dev who already have those connections.

Don’t underestimate the value of your teams being able to sit with a 65-year-old former Chief Technology Officer and ask their views, every month. Consider the people they know, the networks forged from decades of stress, the favours they are owed and the fondness many of their former underlings hold for them (those former underlings might now be running the place!)

There’s just two points, there’s a lot more, though!

Next steps:

  • Do talk to James Barker as he does a lot of practical discussions on this topic.
  • Dan Ilett at Tollejo helps vendors figure out their actual value-add and does some great work with helping you understand how you’re seen in the market. I love their “Mirror” offering where they actually go and talk to your customers to tell you what they think.
  • If you’d like some more perspective, drop me a note here on LinkedIn – you can hire me
  • My dad is one of those former senior bank executives by the way – he’s at Finlay J MacLeod
  • Roundtables – they’re a great way of getting in the room with bank executives, I do a lot of roundtable hosting – so let me know if I can help (more information).

Good luck!

Ewan is Founder and Editor of FinTech Profile and Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of mobile and FinTech industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.
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