uk digital london

During the past year, the world has witnessed a sea-change in banks’ approach to both cloud and cryptocurrencies. This is a sign of how far customers have come on their digital journeys.

I recently posted a joke that made me realise something. The joke was that we had not ordered anything online the day before, so our usual delivery guy called by to check if we were OK. The realisation is that we really have pivoted from a world of stores and streets to one that is decentralised, digital and delivering to the home.

This theme of democratisation and decentralisation applies to retail and work just as much as it does to banking, commerce and government. During last year’s lockdowns, we all moved to work-from-home, order-from-home, entertain-at-home and deliver-to-home. This, in turn, is reconstructing our society from physical to digital.

We see the statistics almost every day — retail sales are down massively while online orders have gone through the roof. Our society has gone truly digital — not just a small step or incremental change, but a full social revolution in just a year.

Cloud and crypto

This has meant at least two major changes for banks and financial services: the move to cloud and to cryptocurrencies.

Banks and regulators have discussed cloud computing for several years. Conflicting policies from regulators — such as the need to secure customer data while being allowed to use third-party technology services — have made many banks fearful of moving to cloud. As a result, most banks historically used the cloud for non-critical services, such as marketing, but avoided using the technology for customer- and mission-critical operations.

Then the pandemic started, and it seemed like every day a major bank would announce a cloud partnership with one of the major providers. They had to in order to enable work-from-home for service-at-home. Yet, my question is this: did the banks really change their business models or just move them into the cloud?

I cannot believe how many banks have committed to cryptocurrencies — particularly bitcoin — over the past year

There is a big difference between being a bank being born cloud-native and evolving to become cloud-based. Banks which have not become truly cloud-native should do so, if they want to become a bank that is truly fit for the coming decades. There is still time, though they must take that opportunity now.

On the second point, I cannot believe how many banks have committed to cryptocurrencies — particularly bitcoin — over the past year. Morgan Stanley offers crypto custodial services, Goldman Sachs offer bitcoin for high-net-worth clients, PayPal will process crypto-payments and MicroStrategy’s treasury services moved millions into bitcoin reserves, to name a few.

This all happened in one year and is the reason why bitcoin’s price has risen 10 times in 12 months. A year ago, a bitcoin was worth around $6000; today it’s around $60,000. Just 10 years ago it was worth just a dollar. Also bear in mind that this is the currency which almost all bankers claimed was useless not that long ago. Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan, for example, called bitcoin “worse than tulip bulbs” and yet his own researchers now forecast it will triple in value in the coming months.


This is a massive change, and it amazes me how much bankers are starting to commit to bitcoins and, more widely, cryptocurrency today.

What prompted this turnaround? Customer demand. If the customers, particularly the wealthy and corporate customers, demand service digitally, which they did in 2020, then the corporate, the retail and financial world has to respond.

And that is what hit me in making that joke about the delivery guy. We have fundamentally moved from physical to digital. For most cities and towns, it means the high street retail stores and offices will close. For most financial firms, it means that cloud-native digital services that support the customer’s currencies of choice is key.

Chris Skinner is an independent financial commentator and chairman of the London-based Financial Services Club.


All fields are mandatory

The Banker is a service from the Financial Times. The Financial Times Ltd takes your privacy seriously.

Choose how you want us to contact you.

Invites and Offers from The Banker

Receive exclusive personalised event invitations, carefully curated offers and promotions from The Banker

For more information about how we use your data, please refer to our privacy and cookie policies.

Terms and conditions

Top 1000 2023

Request a demonstration to The Banker Database

Join our community

The Banker on Twitter