Photography Erik van der Burgt
Interview Irine Gaasbeek
Text Erik Bouwer

It doesn’t matter which area you operate in, someone
will discover a way to do it faster, better and cheaper,
that’s the firm belief of author and public speaker
Martijn Aslander. Take the financial sector for
the future of banks

example, ‘That system no longer represents the
real economy and transactions at all.’

The financial sector is under pressure. Officially, the Your last two books, Easycratie and Nooit af, are
Innovation Dossier:

banking crisis is now behind us, but banking institutions here in front of us.
have yet to implement real reform. New rules and new ‘Easycratie is about life-hacking for organizations: how
participants are making the playing field more complex. you can achieve more, with less stress, lower costs, and
Is the financial sector on the brink of disruption? Marti- less effort. Nooit af is the follow-up to Easycratie, and it
jn Aslander was in at the beginning of the life-hacking takes things a step further. It’s not just about the world of
movement: achieving more with less effort by organizing business, but the whole of society. It’s not a management
things in a more intelligent way with the help of instru- book. We (Martijn Aslander wrote the book together with Er-
ments such as digital tools. He’s written various books, is win Witteveen, Ed.) don’t provide solutions, instead we
a professional public speaker and a fervent proponent of pose better questions. We look through the lens of tech-
‘the wisdom of the crowd’. He’s a regular guest in many a nology at the social and economic impact of that same
boardroom, and a man who constantly seeks the match technology. We look at sectors like public administration,
between technological and social innovation. On the the health care sector, education and finance, and de-
day that Donald Trump was chosen as the next presi- scribe the impact that technological convergence, i.e. the
dent of the United States, Irina Gaasbeek (Accenture) coming together of all kinds of new technologies, are hav-
spoke to Martijn Aslander about his long-term vision ing in those areas. In Nooit af we contend that there’s no
and expectations for the financial sector. He predicts point in making plans any more. Developments are going
that banks as we know them will no longer exist in five too fast for that. By the time your plans are ready, and the
to fifteen years’ time. financing is in place, the world will already have changed

Mgmt. Scope nr. 10 / 2016

Education again. So, we need to move to a different hanced by network effects as we saw with or two aspects of new technology; things
Studied Law at the University of approach. We call this Permanent Beta. Pokémon Go. Those network effects are like deep learning and big data. But right
Groningen Don’t stress about something not being enabling smart innovators to put the piec- now, new technology covers a long list of
(studies not completed) finished, things are developing continu- es of the puzzle together that much faster. areas of application: biotechnology, nano-
ously, you can make improvements any Friction between supply and demand is technology, sensor technology, robotics,
Career time. Mistakes don’t exist in the beta one of those pieces.’ domotics, photonics, blockchain, virtual
2016 - present phase, the worst thing that can happen is reality, augmented reality, mixed reality,
Co-founder of AmsterdamConnected that something may not yet work as well Yet consumers in many parts of the deep learning, artificial intelligence, pre-
as it should.’ economy are sticking with exist- dictive intelligence, open source, open
2014 - present ing structures, and they include the data, big data, open hardware, 3D print-
Co-founder of SHIFT, boardroom What’s your view of the financial banks. How do you clarify that? ing, DNA sequencing, social swarms.
sparring partners sector? ‘I was speaking recently at a meeting about These technologies are converging,
‘That system no longer represents the labor-market issues, and I heard someone they’re coming together. They’re creating
2012 - present real economy or transactions at all. there from a labor union complaining exponential opportunities, particularly so
Co-founder of Permanent Beta An estimated one quarter of the global loudly about new business models and in- because of the network effect. It won’t be
economy, that’s about 26 thousand bil- novation; things like Uber and Airbnb. At long before five billion people have access
2011 - present lion dollars, is made up of air that still the same time, she was using WhatsApp. to the web. They’re all curious people
Co-founder of Quantified Self Europe
needs to be removed from the system. By using WhatsApp you’re undermining and they’ll go looking for bits of the puz-
We’ve still got that clash to come. In the business of the telecom companies. zle that they’ll go on to share. No matter
2007 - 2010
the meantime, technology is going to No doubt she also uses Google Maps, and what field you’re operating in, someone is
Founder of Lifehacking and
wipe out the entire financial sector. It’s that means fewer jobs at Tom-Tom. In the going to find out how to do it faster, better
co-founder of Lifehacking Academy
not just jobs that are disappearing, the long run, everyone opts for solutions that and cheaper.’
2000 - 2002 entire sector is. So, I don’t see any future are faster, better, and cheaper.’
Initiator of Gathering Stones for banks, because they don’t have any But new initiatives can’t eliminate
added value.’ To what extent does confidence in the friction between supply and de-
1996 - present established institutions play a role? mand, can they?
Founder of Elvenstone Banks are responsible for managing ‘Concepts like Uber are totally reliant on ‘Transactions will always be needed, but I
capital, handling transactions, pro- confidence. That’s part of a much larger don’t think that it’s the banks who’ll go on
1989 - 1998 viding mortgage loans. What’s going underlying development: the emergence playing a role in that respect. So, how will
Owner and founder of Dunedain to replace them? of the reputation economy. Technology is loans worth millions be handled? That’s a
Buitensport ‘The business model for banks is based on making it possible for us to create verifia- good question. Maybe a few institutions
the friction between supply and demand. ble confidence, which is something differ- will remain. What’s more important is
Other work Banks are going to see that role disappear. ent than ‘it’ll be okay’. Confidence in es- that people will start to look at resources able to share a lot of that. The logistical Will parties that now make swarm-
International public speaker at a Banks have become too large, they’re too tablished institutions is no longer a given. and capital in a different way. A network technology this requires is developing ing possible – Apple, Google – make
large number of events, coach, author cumbersome. Their pace of innovation They’re failing in that respect more and society is more about access than money. right now. The emergence of swarming – the move into the provision of finan-
of books and articles about subjects is low in comparison with what’s taking more, and can’t maintain that confidence. Even an economist like Piketty still looks and Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are cial services?
including innovation, lifehacking, place elsewhere. Just look at M-Pesa, a fi- I suspect that things will have to get even at things on the basis of assets. Digitiza- also part of that – and the opportunities ‘In Africa, Facebook is primarily all about
quantified selfmanagement and nancial system that has its roots in Kenya worse before people turn their backs on tion will lead to dematerialization. Smart- it creates are extremely important in this money. It gets interesting when you stop
entrepreneurship and Tanzania and that’s now taking hold these institutions, but it’s merely a matter phones come with an enormous amount respect, although that’s not yet fully ap- looking at financial transactions as an
in all kinds of other countries. It’s based of time.’ of functionality that removes the need preciated. These are technologies that earning model and see them instead as a
Interests on the use of mobile phones. Develop- for a range of separate, expensive items, make it possible for people to organize way of achieving something else.’
Lifehacking, connecting, regional ments like that are taking place right un- How is technology going to make including things like cameras, a library, themselves without it costing anything.
economic development, innovation, der the noses of the banks. All over the banks disappear? a compass, and a calculator. As a result, But everyone’s still thinking in terms of New entrants give up quickly, and
creativity, Twitter, Apple world, people are thinking up ways of ‘Most of the organizations that are in- production of those assets has already traditional paradigms and organizational legislation and regulation are often
doing things differently. That’s being en- volved in innovation focus on just one shrunk.’ structures. Wikipedia is a good example of cited as the reason. Is that true?
Private life how hundreds of thousands of people can ‘They simply encourage more innovation.
Partnered; one child How do you see the future of banks? collaborate altruistically. The Encyclope- People like puzzles, and a lot of things are

‘One quarter of the global economy
‘While banks give their customers a rat- dia Britannica disappeared because those the result of dissatisfaction with existing
ing, that doesn’t happen the other way people who had a set probably only ever services. Someone could come up with

is made up of air that still needs
around. That’s going to change. I think consulted it a couple of times a year, and a new Uber or Airbnb tomorrow, with
we’re headed towards a hybrid situation only when they happened to be at home no regulations blocking their way. Then
to be removed from the system’
where money isn’t the only focus, but also when they had a question that needed an- there’s the fact that consumers are fickle.
WWW.MANAGEMENTSCOPE.NL access to services and products. We’ll be swering.’ After Facebook bought WhatsApp, fifty

Mgmt. Scope nr. 10 / 2016 Mgmt. Scope nr. 10 / 2016
‘Things will have to get even
power without precedent. There’s an
enormous surplus of know-how and talent

worse before people turn their
throughout society. It’s mainly a question
of how you make use of that. And as far as

backs on these institutions, but
technology is concerned, data and speech
will be available free of charge in a few

it’s merely a matter of time’
years. ‘New’ institutions such as Google
and Facebook are also governed by the
rule that if they fail to do a good job, they
can be replaced by something else in no
time. The life cycle of businesses is getting
million people switched to Telegram in aspect up to your clients, allowing shorter any way.’
one day. It often takes a while for business them to base their payment on their
to recognize new forces on the market, perception of the value of what you Singularity University has been get-
and by the time they do they’re already do. ting a lot of attention recently. They
too late. That’s why I don’t see much fu- ‘That’s the best thing you can do as a con- focus on all kinds of exponential
ture for banks as an institution.’ sultant, otherwise you end up charging technologies in the fields of DNA
for as many hours as possible. That’s the and artificial intelligence. What’s
If you were to become the new CEO wrong incentive. If you work somewhere your view of this?
at ABN AMRO, what would you do for the shortest possible time, you can ‘Singularity University approaches things
with the bank? help as many parties as possible. Exchang- very much from the point of view of tech-
‘I’d bring back the Christmas hamper and ing time for money is a peculiar concept. nology and all its possibilities. The book
abolish the bonuses. I’d introduce a four- I only help with issues that appeal to me. Nooit af looks more at the social and eco-
day working week for the staff, with the If that turns out to be really helpful but nomic dimensions of those developments.
remaining day set aside for personal devel- you don’t pay for it, there’s nothing bad It’s the ‘polder’ version of Singularity
opment. I would convert the branch offic- about that, but you’ll be at the back of thinking. I think that the biggest develop-
es into bars and use them as extra space the queue next time round. I get almost ments and thought leadership will have to
to spot talent and inspiration. I’d organize everything I need from my network. I in- come from Europe and Africa. They don’t
hackathons to disrupt the current model. vest in social capital. That gives a better understand democracy very well in Asia,
For the rest, I would make the destination return than financial capital. It’s more and there’s too much division in the US.’
of loans transparent, and switch to block than just an exchange, it’s asynchronous
chain. The bank would have to become reciprocity in a group context. With the Donald Trump won the American
a cooperative, with the customers becom- Permanent Beta community, I’ve or- presidential election today. Why
ing its owners.’ ganized more than a thousand meetings aren’t you going into politics?
without a budget. Many speakers come ‘That’s the one place I won’t be going.
So, the bank would continue to ex- and share their knowledge for nothing. That’s a conscious choice. Politicians –
ist? You can get a lot of things moving with- and I know a lot of them – are committed,
‘Yes, but in a totally different form. It out money, and technology helps make it hardworking individuals. But if you put
would evolve into a form that serves so- a success on a larger scale. That model is two of them together, suddenly you can’t
ciety better. I prefer to think in terms of also scalable. I show African CFOs how do a thing with them. Legislation and reg-
resources: when you spend money, it’s they can use resources in business without ulation always lag way behind, policy is
gone, with resources like knowledge and any financial risk and, therefore, without focused too much on the short term and,
contact networks that works differently.’ fear. Technology is making it possible to when it comes to the budget, an extreme
get things moving without any more need amount of much energy is spent on reg-
What’s your view on the growth of for institutions, organizations or costs.’ ulation. So no, the political arena is not
fintech? for me.’
‘These businesses are the hornets of the The man behind the internet, Tim
financial sector. They’re going to dream Berners Lee, had the idea that by
up new things that will make life difficult sharing knowledge and information
for the established order. But the fintechs the internet would contribute to
the banks are embracing won’t lead to democratization. How important are INTERVIEW IRINE GAASBEEK
change. They’ll get killed off if the exist- the large technology businesses? Managing Director Financial Services for
ing business is threatened, as happened in ‘Social media are making it possible for Accenture.
the case of Kodak.’ two billion people to do things that used She also contributes interviews and articles to
to be expensive and complicated. Nowa- Management Scope. Links to her articles can
You don’t set specific charges for days you don’t need to create an organi- be found in her profile at managementscope.
your advisory work. You leave that zation and arrange financing for it. That’s nl/manager/irine-gaasbeek.

Mgmt. Scope nr. 10 / 2016