There is no simple recipe for power couples, and there are many ways to head down the wrong digital path in the wild world of different technologies. Two of the key ingredients to succeed are mutual respect and complete transparency.

Power couples - i.e. partnerships of different sized companies with unique characteristics that complement each other - are popping up everywhere. Christoffer O. Hernæs, who was recently appointed Chief Digital Officer at Skandiabanken, has been in a couple of relationships.

I believe that there are many advantages by connecting companies with complementary strengths, but there have to be case-by-case assessments. These relationships are quite demanding for all parties involved. The companions have to understand and respect each other’s business models if they are going to grow a fertile and valuable business relationship. At any cost this must not be perceived as a marketing gimmick, Hernæs underlines.

Also read: Knut Anders Wangen (Head of MobilePay Norway) on power couples and digital ecosystems

The new Chief Digital Officer at Skandiabanken, Christoffer O. Hernæs: Power couples must not be perceived as a marketing gimmick!

Clarifications of expectations

Full transparency from day one is one key component in succeeding. Mutual trust and respect for the people and business models involved are some of the others.

The large company has to understand the position of the smaller: If decisions are delayed two months, it could mean that the smaller is going into bankruptcy due to lack of liquidity. On the other hand the smaller has to respect that there is a larger strategy in which the smaller could help solve a couple of challenges. At any rate clear and rapid decisions are an advantage to both parties. It's easy to talk past each other, he says.

As in all relationships, direct and honest dialogue prevents misconceptions.

Also read: If software eats the world Syncano feeds it

Have to follow up on your promises

As Norway's internet-only bank, Skandiabanken has challenged their larger competitors. It goes without saying that the bank pays particular attention to customer satisfaction: For 15 years in a row they have had the most happy bank customers, according to Norsk Kundebarometer.

I'm arriving at a set table when it comes to the customers. Open interfaces will be a competitive advantage, but the banking businesses also have to take a look at their underlying infrastructure. To develop new services the technological engines have to be scalable and modern.

Hernæs started in his new position on the 2nd of January this year.

At the same time the banks have to provide security for all the customers, as promised.

It's very easy to claim that you should be faster and more agile than your competitors. At the end of the day there are people's money you have promised to protect. The customers have to trust that their savings stay secure on their accounts and that we protect their privacy. You can not risk making all kinds of modern antics if you don't do your ground work properly.

The banks as tech companies

Hernæs states that the banks of the future have to see themselves as digital platforms.

To find the right balance between their core business and innovation, modernisation and digitalization will be a huge challenge and be discussed in every bank management group around the world.

One aspect to consider in full, is how to combine external expertise with your own digital staff.

All banks are turning into tech companies, and you have to hire someone who could write code from day zero. You need a solid core team inhouse, but at the same time you'll have to be prepared to acquire specific expertise on different occasions, either through collaboration, procurement or partnerships, Hernæs says and continues:

Working with digitalization in a shifting landscape is very exciting, but at the same time very demanding.

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