Why I wrote “BankRUPT – Why Banking is Broken. How it can be Transformed”

With the book coming out next week I decided to blog about how I came to write the book, BANKRUPT Why Banking is Broken. How it can be Transformed.


The book was a decade in the making.


It started when I was traveling in Africa in 2002. I was taking a long needed break from being a technology entrepreneur and was supporting a non-profit working in central Africa.


It was my first time visiting a place where the infrastructure was severely lacking; transportation, roads, electricity, water, and health care – nothing worked. Yet even in 2002, many people had cell phones. That is the first time I imaged a world where everyone would have access to mobile phones. And since I had just finished building a technology company, I started to think about what else besides basic communications could be done with all these cell phones.


That is when I realized in my lifetime it might be possible for everyone to have access to banking through his or her mobile phone. For people with limited or no access, this would be transformational. For the rest of us, it would just mean more convenience – and potentially lower cost banking.


So then in 2005 I went back to technology to build a mobile banking company. I was involved in launching next generation banking solutions in Africa, India, and even in the US. At the same time, I saw how slowly traditional banks were embracing  new models of banking, especially in the US. In fact with the recent financial crisis, things slowed down even more.  Sure we have new mobile interfaces from the banks – but the products are the same behind the scenes. If anything banking got worse with people having underwater mortgages and increased everyday bank fees.


During the last 5 years, I saw first hand the struggles within the banks to support innovation.  I have been in countless meetings with bankers all over the world. One thing I have heard over and over again is that when they let their hair down, the universal comment emerges: “We don’t know how to make money from small depositors.” In addition, it was clear there was too much emphasis being put on protecting traditional revenue streams, not enough of disruptive innovation. Even when innovation received initial support, it was frequently bogged down with business constraints and internal organizational struggles.



So when I retired from my moible banking company in 2011,  I felt unsettled about what was happening with banking, especially in the US. There is a lot of industry hype, but a alarming number of underserved and unhappy consumers.  The big banks have especially lost their commitment to serving everyday people by providing affordable banking services that empower people’s life and work.  In the US the number of Americans opting out of traditional banking is reaching new heights; 106 million Americans are cash preferred.


I wrote a book about what I thought needed to happen – especially given the financial crisis. Crisis’ forces change – which is painful, but it can also be good. I want so much to inject a sense of urgency and a big vision for the banks as banks recover from the crisis; a vision of affordable banking for all and a reorientation of the banks to delighting their customers. This is a moment in time similar to the moment when Steve Jobs returned to Apple – a time of crisis that he turned into an effort to build a great foundation for the future.


That opportunity is there for the banks. What is at stake is banking for all, global competitiveness in banking, and customer loyalty. For banks to do this, they have to have a culture of Steve Jobs-like innovation within the banking industry. Being about the customer must be in the very fabric of the banks. Banks can follow the example of Steve Jobs, who turned around a failing Apple by relentlessly focusing his company on building great products that customers love, and backing them with unsurpassed customer service. Banks have to be about being great at serving the needs of the consumers and business.


The BankRUPT book is appropriate for customers of the banks and for banking industry insiders. The book will demystify the crisis, provide a bigger definition of banking that serves more people, and give new insights and ideas for a path forward. My desire is for the bank employee or executive reader to wake up their latent passion to serve the everyday customers. For the rest of us, it will give us needed insights so we can be better equipped consumers of banking services. For all of us, it will give us some specific ideas on what disruptive innovation is possible.


And that is why I wrote the book. I am looking forward to the book release next week – and especially excited about reader comments. I look forward to the dialogue.


See the book on Amazon http://amzn.to/HfvGbt


About Carol Realini

Serial Entrepreneur, Mobile Payments and Banking Pioneer, Author, Board Member Carol Realini is a successful Silicon Valley executive and expert in financial service innovation. She has worked with leading financial institutions including MasterCard and Citi, as well as numerous multinational and regional banks, to change the way banking is conducted. In 2011, as a Technology Pioneer attending the World Economic Forum, she led discussions on alternative banking at their meeting in Davos. A serial entrepreneur, she has been recognized as one of the 50 Top Women in Technology by Corporate Board Member magazine. Carol is a huge believer in the potential of mobile banking and payments to create financial inclusion - where everyone with a mobile phone has access to affordable financial services that empower their life and work. To understand Carol's vision please watch the WEF video (click on the weforum.org link below). Carol also mentors entrepreneurs providing wisdom and lessons learned from her four successful startup experiences.
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