Agile Development Has Banks Failing Fast (in a Good Way)

  • Philip Ryan
  • March 3, 2016
  • 3

Copyright Canstockphotos/kilukilu“Fail fast, fail cheap.”

The words were spoken at Bank Innovation 2016 by Marley Gray, director of strategy for cloud and enterprise blockchain at Microsoft, but he was echoing a theme that reverberated throughout the entire conference.

In other words, when JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon said “Silicon Valley is coming,” he might have been talking about software development strategies rather than business threats.

Green Dot CEO Steve Streit led the charge, saying, “You have two methodologies in banking, agile and water-fail.” The waterfall methodology refers to sequential processes all moving in the same direction toward a goal. Agile, by contrast, favors rapid iterations, leading to failures, perhaps, and changes of direction, certainly.

Streit described Green Dot’s core tech stack, built for its GoBank checking account product, but which now underlies all its offerings and allows for rapid product development. 2015 saw Green Dot launch a host of new products — its GoBusiness account for small businesses, a new Walmart Moneycard (described by Streit as GoBank with a different skin), its Everyday Visa debit card, and a cashback debit card. 2016 will see a new MoneyPak product, a secured credit card, and Green Dot Money, a marketplace for personal loans.

Agile indeed.

Banks should not shy away from innovative product development out of fear of the regulators. “There’s nothing in bank regulation that says your product has to be boring,” Streit said.

Failing fast was also advocated by Dan Kimerling, head of R&D with Silicon Valley Bank, who said a week might be enough time to see if a product has a future with his team. Miranda Hill, vice president and manger of product management with Wells Fargo Labs, also said her team wanted fast failures, meaning weeks rather than months or years.

Celent’s Dan Latimore thought “testing” was preferable to saying “failing.” He tweeted,

That could be a change that would make many bankers more apt to “go agile.”

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism, which makes him quite old. He can be reached at

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