It's terrifying because there's a wall of money there and a legion of smart, focussed and driven people who, intentionally or not, want a piece of our business. It's exciting because you can see what a little vision, drive and energy can achieve, even without the resources a company like ours has.
"While being digital is essential for a successful business on its own it's simply not enough."
Shayne Elliott, Chief Financial Officer at ANZ
I've recently been to the Valley with other members of ANZ's Management board and I came away with three key themes I think will shape the business world as the digital revolution continues.
DIGITAL IS ABOUT PEOPLE AND CULTURE
There's no doubt digital has arrived in financial services and “mobile first" is the catch cry of the modern era. But while being digital is essential for a successful business, on its own it's simply not enough.
It's easy to forget about the first internet innovators, world-leading dot-com companies which were uniquely great at what they did. But so many of them failed and of the ones which stuck around few remain leaders in their sector.
How did this happen in the cradle of innovation and change? These were early adopters of digital but it hasn't been enough to keep them there (or even in existence in some cases).
Why is this? How were competitors able to eat away at them? It seems to me it's because these competitors were quicker to spot new trends and seize new opportunities.
At ANZ, building a digital bank isn't the real challenge we face. Building agile people and a supporting culture which can recognise new trends and adapt to the ever changing needs of our customers is.
To succeed in the digital era companies need to focus less on new technologies and more on the importance of leadership and culture.
Facebook CIO Tim Campos spoke to us at length on our trip in an extremely engaging way about people and culture. He never once mentioned hardcore technology, data-centres, the cloud, mobile or big data. He talked about people and culture.
What I learnt from the big (Facebook) to the small (start-ups like DemystData or Coinbase) companies we met with was every successful group has a supportive and appropriate culture; a culture that encourages staff to be inquisitive, question the status quo, welcomes creativity and embraces diversity of thought and opinion. One that thinks about the customer all day long.
To truly transform a business, companies need to create the leadership, vision and culture to attract, retain and continually inspire the very best, most insightful people.
EVERYONE NEEDS A PURPOSE
Culture is just the first step. Success in the digital era also requires an intense focus on what a company does and what makes it uniquely great.
All of the successful companies we met in Silicon Valley encapsulated this through a sense of higher purpose, which in some cases was almost evangelical.
Every Googler who gave us a presentation began by quoting their purpose (“To organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"). The same thing happened at Facebook (“Connecting the planet").