Anyone will tell you it’s been a difficult year for the banking sector – with sweeping reviews, regulatory inquiries and, frankly, an unfortunate level of transparency. There’s a growing sense that the landscape has shifted seismically (which is generally how landscapes shift, not counting erosion or the work of landscape gardeners).
With that in mind, it’s been a surprise to see the sudden success of one player in the industry, Opportunity Banking, which has gone from strength to strength in recent months.
Starting with a subtle but inspired name-change late last year (leaving behind its previous name, Opportunistic Banking), the management team at Opportunity has implemented a serious and sustained corporate transformation, acknowledging they had failed their customers and committing to do better.
“Effectively, it’s a commitment to not fail our customers,” said Opportunity CEO Fi Owing. “We previously thought that was implicit and went without saying, but it turns out it was not implicit and, regrettably, was not said.”
A key piece in Ms Owing’s transformation strategy has been diversification.
“It’s become clear that financial services is a high-risk, high-reward sector – in fact, it’s the suspiciously high rewards that make it high risk. For that reason, we’re moving away from the supply of financial services to a developing new area: non-financial services.”
The use of the word “developing” here reflects Ms Owing’s talent for humble understatement – if anything, the fastest-growing industry in the world right now is non-financial services (not to be confused with nun-financial services, which is a very different thing and far from growing – vows of poverty and all).
Ms Owing refuses to be drawn on the type of non-financial services that Opportunity is moving into, and indeed appears to object on principle to any questions on the subject.
“That’s the beauty of defining our products by contradistinction – we don’t have to say what they are. And it’s hard to scrutinise the absence of something – like missing tax records or the logic in what I’m saying.
“We tell people the truth: our products are precisely not what they aren’t. Who could fault us for that?”
While Opportunity is ahead of the game in non-financial services, more and more industries are jumping on the definition by contradistinction bandwagon. It’s common to see law firms spruiking non-legal services – not to be confused with illegal services (or again, nun-legal services, which we cannot stress enough is an entirely different thing). Not to mention that, for years now, airlines have offered non-stop flights, authors have written non-fiction, and political parties have proposed policy non-starters. The only people having difficulty are economists, who have long been trying to provide non-economic services, but haven’t made money in doing so.
Nonetheless, Ms Owing acknowledges that there will continue to be a role for regular financial and legal services – “even if only as part of a broader mix of services which are not something else – legal services as non-financial services, for example”.
For our part, we have decided to jump on the bandwagon and shift from light satire into nonsense.
We’re confident that this is also a rapidly growing field, and we’re never one to miss an opportunity.