19: Andy Farmer (CIO / Mox Bank)

There has been so much talk about Virtual Banks in the past few months. Some newspapers have reported that this could be a big threat to traditional retail banks. But, what exactly is a Virtual Bank and what can we expect from them over the next couple of years? On the podcast today, we are really privileged to have Andrew Farmer, the CIO of Mox Bank (Standard Chartered’s Virtual Bank) to talk to us about this.

Intro questions:
1. Andrew, could you please give us an intro of yourself in your own words?
2. Could you talk about how the transition from being the CIO for BP to entering the finance industry came about? What made you want to join the Commonwealth Bank and what brought you to Hong Kong?
3. Has the experience of working in an entirely different industry like the Oil and Gas industry helped you in your banking role? What about your current role? Do you think you have an advantage compared to others who have only worked in the banking domain?

Questions on Virtual Banking 101:
1. What exactly is a “Virtual Bank”?
2. Traditional retail banks essentially lend money at interest and attract deposits. That’s the simplified business model for a retail bank. What is the typical business model for a Virtual Bank?
3. Does the “virtual” in a virtual bank mean that one can never walk to a branch?
4. What is so good about a Virtual Bank? How do the services on offer differ from that of a traditional bank?
5. From the standpoint of the complexity of the systems and infrastructure, how is working for a VB different from working in a traditional bank?
6. The mobile apps for (say) HSBC / Citi and other banks keep getting better and better so what advantage would a VB add to the already-easy-to-use apps provided by traditional banks?
7. What would make a good VB technologist and would they differ from traditional technologists that banks hire?

Questions about Mox in particular:
1. We have all heard of Mox Bank, a numberless master card. Can you please talk about the benefits of banking with Mox?
2. What kind of other products can we expect from Mox in the next year or two?
3. If SCB has a retail bank, won’t this new Virtual Bank cannibalize its own retail bank?
4. How would Mox differentiate itself from ZA Bank or Livi?
5. Are deposits under VBs also protected by Hong Kong’s deposit insurance scheme?

The Future:
1. There are 8 companies that have been awarded VB licenses. That seems like a small number but what would happen if more and more companies are awarded licenses? Would the population be “overbanked”?
2. How would VBs continue to evolve in the next 5-10 years?
3. How would technologies like blockchain, machine learning, and AI impact VBs?

As we look to wind up, I would be remiss if I didn’t you about your secret of success from starting your career as a Management Consultant for Accenture to rising to the level of becoming the CIO for Mox. So, I want to take this opportunity to ask you a few “character” questions:

1. You’ve been working for a while now and have achieved quite a bit in your career. Do you still have the same drive to learn and grow as you did during the start of your career?
2. How ambitious and determined were you to rise to the top of your profession?
3. What career advice would you give to young ambitious IT professionals who want to be CIO one day?
4. Do you have a special routine that you follow that has enabled you to achieve success in your career?
5. Has there been any particular mentor who has been instrumental in your career development?
6. What books do you read? Is there a pattern and what are some of the top books you’d recommend?
7. How do you manage stress?
8. Has there been a key mentor or a significant person in your life that has enabled you to achieve the success you have had in your career?
9. Knowing what you know now, if you could travel back to when you were 25 years old, what advice would you give yourself?
10. Is there anything else you would like to say that we haven’t asked you?

Thank you so so much for your time and for sharing your wisdom with our audience


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