Adapting fintech: A lesson from homo sapiens

Joanne Carew
By Joanne Carew, ITWeb Cape-based contributor.
Cape Town, 06 Mar 2019
Naomi Snyman, blockchain lead at Standard Bank Group.
Naomi Snyman, blockchain lead at Standard Bank Group.

Throughout history, human beings have showcased an incredible ability to adapt. "We can blend and we can bend and we somehow manage to survive in even the most extreme circumstance."

This was the word from Naomi Snyman, blockchain lead at Standard Bank Group. She was presenting on the second day of Africa Tech Week, taking place in Cape Town this week.

Drawing inspiration from early homo sapiens, she suggested it might be a better idea for humans to adapt in order to better enable technology, rather than adapting the technology to fit into how we think and work.

Outlining a few examples of how humans have adapted over history, she noted that we all forget what our parents told us about never talking to strangers. Today, we have to talk to strangers if we want to get ahead, she continued.

She shared her experience around launching and designing a new fintech offering a few years ago. Snyman and her team based much of their strategy on focus groups and studies by research firms. While she acknowledged this approach can prove useful, she noted it is more important to get outside and talk to strangers on the ground and be curious about understanding potential customers' world a little better.

Our homo sapient ancestors had to respond to various survival challenges in highly unstable environments. Modern businesses must do the same.

Snyman advised organisations should be very aware of their environment, which entails reading up about legislation that affects the businesses and developing good relationships with the regulators in the different countries where they work.

Tech is not a silver bullet; it will not solve social inequality and it should not be seen as the crux of all innovative ideas. And yet, many of us are distracted by tech and feel inclined to just throw technology at whatever problems we face, she said.

When early humans discovered fire, they did not go around and set everything alight. They identified where fire added value, using it protect themselves and prepare their food. "We've become so obsessed with technology. So much so that we've forgotten about the customer value we can create by implementing the right solutions."

When it comes to new technology, we are living in a constant balancing act between hope and fear, she concluded. If we follow in the footsteps of early homo sapiens, forgo our fears and truly embrace our incredible adaptability, there is a whole lot of hope for the future.