In finance, large banks seem to be fast followers, not disruption victims

Eventually every advisor will be a robo-advisor, which means there will be convergence.

Without some marketshare numbers, it’s tough to tell if the banking startups are making a dent against incumbent banks. Josh Brown suggests that banks are quick to catch-up and have nullified any lead that companies like Weathfront could have made:

It wasn’t long before the weaker B2C robo-advisors folded, the middling players were acquired and the incumbents launched their own competing platforms. The miscalculation on the part of the disruptors may have been the idea that they had years of lead time to scale up their assets before the lumbering giants of the industry would be able to fight back. Turns out they only had months, not years. Charles Schwab and Vanguard launched their own versions of the service and the mindshare / market share battle was joined.

Checks out

From what I see out there, banks are quick to adapt and adopt new ideas into their businesses. While they’re beset with endless legacy IT and technical debt, they churn ahead nonetheless, e.g.:

While past performance is no guarantee of future results, and even though all the company’s results cannot be entirely attributed to BBVA’s digital transformation plan, so far many signs are encouraging. The number of BBVA’s digital customers increased by 68% from 2011 to 2014, reaching 8.4 million in mid-2014, of which 3.6 million were active mobile users.

Acquisition isn’t always failure, or victory

On the narrative framing side, it’s easy to frame a startup being acquired as “failure” and success for incumbents. That’s not always the case, and suggests a zero-sum view of innovation in industries. Acquisitions can have winners and losers – as with valuing anything, like real estate, the valuation could be wrong and in favor of the buyer or seller.

However, in the ideal case of an acquisition, it makes strategic sense for the buyer to spend their time and money that way instead of trying to innovate on it’s own. For the startup being acquired, they’re usually near the end of their gamble of sacrificing profit in favor of innovation and growth and need someone to bring them to the black.

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