Should Banks Have More Technologists Than Microsoft?

I saw an interesting article about the Head of Technology at a major bank, let’s call it ABC Bank for the purposes of my column, and the article began by saying that this guy “commands a budget of $10 billion and a team of 40,000 technologists.”

Fantasy, Guardian Angel, Angel


$10 billion is about half the total amount invested in European FinTech start-ups and 40,000 people is the typical size of a football ground audience, in the good old days when football had an audience.

Having worked in companies in the past, I saw many people build empires of people. I myself, at one point, had hundreds of people working for me. On reflection, it was a thing. I didn’t need hundreds of people, but it did feel like the more people you had working for you, the more powerful you were. That’s the thing.

40,000 technologists under a bank’s head of technology. I hear the same story in many big banks like JPMorgan Chase (JPM), where more developers work than you would find in Twitter and Facebook (FB) combined, or HSBC (HSBC) where more engineers work than in all of Microsoft (MSFT).

So what?

Is this some stand-off thing about banks are more technology oriented than technology companies? Big banks have more developers than Big Tech? It does not matter. It’s about quality, not quantity, and I seriously question how effective are all of the developers, technologists and engineers who work for a bank. How much empowerment do they have? Can they control their bit of the development chain or is it all signed off by a manager who reports to a manager who reports to a Vice President who reports to a Senior Vice President … who reports to a Chief Information Officer who reports to a Head of Technology who reports to a Chief Financial Officer who reports to the Chief Executive Officer … who reports to the Chairman and the Board?

You get the idea?

I hear so many times people say that more can be done with $1 million and a few good people than a bank would ever achieve with $100 million and a thousand people. It is for this reason: the bank is structured to ensure nothing happens fast or easily; the start-up is completely focused upon making things happen quickly and smoothly.

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