Fintech Looks Like the Achilles Heel of Global Corruption

[According to one Harvard professor, the world is getting better. Perhaps this is partly driven by the impact of fintech on global corruption.]

[3 min. read]


pablo escobar corruption fintech

The world can be a tough place.

In my courses on International marketing, I spend an entire class period talking about corruption around the world. What’s the difference between a full-on bribe and slipping someone $20 as a lubricating payment to expedite your application?

I talk about how different cultures perceive these with varying degrees of acceptance. What is blatantly dishonest to one is just the way things are done (and really NBD) to another.

How does corruption impact humanity?

In the course, I introduce the class to the Global Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International.

Global Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 for Fintech Article

This world map illustrates how countries are perceived in terms of their tolerance and support of corruption.

I heard Utah-based VC, Paul Ahlstrom on the Sales Founders podcast discussing the impact of fintech especially in the developing world (which you may notice also tends to have a high perception of corruption).

Paul drew the interesting correlation between global corruption and global poverty. By comparing these two maps, it isn’t hard to distinguish a rough correlation between corruption and poverty.

2007 World Poverty Map

Paul makes the case that graft and the flow of money fueled by corruption is thwarted by the adoption of fintech tools for moving money around electronically.

This makes sense to me. If I was pulled over in Mexico, for example, I would not expect the officer to whip out an iPad with a Square Reader attached so he could take my pay-off via credit card.

I’d love to see the memo on my statement for that transaction.

Nor would I expect to get shaken down for ransom payments in bitcoin (although that’s not unheard of).

What do the trends for poverty and corruption look like?

I’m not suggesting that big fintech startups have these aims explicitly in mind.

Maybe they do.

But I expect they are out to make a buck by solving problems for people just like any other company. Messing up the financial infrastructure for corruption is just an unintended bonus.

In fact there is some evidence that rapidly emerging fintech is a challenge for regulators and watchdogs to keep up with. And corruption seems alive and well (here are two notable examples from Mexico and Argentina).

Maybe there’s an argument to be made that these examples of corruption would be unknown to the public if not for the rise of technology.

Whether intentional, related, influenced, or coincidental to the growth of fintech in regions with a history of corruption, the status of poverty in the world is improving significantly.

Harvard professor and author of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and ProgressSteven Pinker gave a TED talk in which he shared that today fewer than 10% of the world’s population still live in abject poverty.

Which seems like a very good thing.

Since my time as a fintech CEO, I’ve been very bullish on the fintech space and today that seems more sensical than ever. I’m excited for the changes we will see in the coming years as these developments among others alleviate suffering caused by corruption (however unintended).

Author Bio: @chadjardine is the CMO @goreact, an associate professor at @uutah and sometimes blogs about marketing on Medium.


Ghandi on Christians

Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

As a marketer, I’m thinking Christians have a branding problem. As a Christian, my pride was bruised upon hearing this.  That should have been my first clue. What did my pride have to do with anything? I think that one of the most difficult things for Christians is that the doctrine of Christ is totally unyielding.  There is right and wrong and it is like night and day, black and white, no exceptions.  Yet, Christ is also universally forgiving. So, whatever you did wrong is enough to keep you out of heaven—even if it was only something little.  But, on the other hand, if you ask for forgiveness you receive it and VOILA! you’re back in again—even if it was something big. Faced with this dynamic, human beings naturally looked for a shortcut.  They said, “This doctrine is pretty strict and that’s causing us some problems. Hey, if we’re going to be forgiven anyway, why don’t we just redraft the rules and loosen things up a bit?”

And so they did, spawning a multitude of sects and a bunch of Christians that were unlike Christ. The problem is that if you skip a step by no longer requiring the sinner to humbly ask for forgiveness, the step you are skipping is Christ. No wonder then that Christianity with Christ pulled out of it no longer looks like the genuine article.  Whatever you believe, wherever you are in your relationship with God, maybe it’s time to ask yourself whether you see your sins as something you need to humbly as forgiveness for (you know you have them), or whether your pride rebels and you say to yourself that you don’t need anyone’s forgiveness.

A wise friend of mine once said, “The problem is that we love our sins. Otherwise we wouldn’t struggle so much to give them up.” Is it too much to ask that maybe sometime in the future, people who know us as Christians will look back at Ghandi’s quote and not be able to understand what in the world he was talking about?

Marketing Lessons from Bruce Lee

bruceleeI have been a Bruce Lee fan since I was a kid. As I jumped into martial arts (I hold a second-degree black belt in karate), he was one of my heroes. I was recently watching some of his interviews and made the marketing connection.

Bruce Lee was revolutionary because in his quest to practice martial arts like no other, he cast a critical eye over the martial arts traditions he inherited. The schools of martial arts in China, Japan and the U.S., or “styles,” were not focused on purely on the most effective combat maneuvers, but over time they had become laden with baggage as each style tried to promote itself over the others. They were like brands that had grown large enough that they were at risk of collapsing in upon themselves. There were vestiges of traditions that had lost their meaning, yet new students continued to pass them on as gospel, never questioning their origins.

A good example of this is the many so-called traditional styles who display extremely wide stances or super high flying kicks. While these moves may be fun to watch, look great in the movies, and create interesting and dynamic body positions, they are not particularly useful. They are vestiges of a different time.

widestanceFor example, stances this wide do not provide better balance or mobility, at least not on hard ground. These stances were developed in the rice paddies, where combatants stood on soft, shifting ground. So, their original purpose forgotten, wide stances became a tenet of the style and were passed down through generations of teachers and students.

High kicks likewise were developed for infantry soldiers trying to fight back against opponents on horseback. Even though Bruce Lee used these kicks to great effect against Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and they make for great flash in the movies, their usefulness has disappeared along with mounted attackers.

So, what does all this have to do with modern marketing? Well traditional schools of martial arts suffered from a problem shared by modern brands. Although when they were founded they had a pure focus and a compelling vision, along the way they collected “brand baggage” which prevents them from being as effective as possible. Modern executives like the old masters can allow practices and processes to infiltrate their operations which provide no real benefit to the customer, and have no real bearing on the company’s ability to deliver value consistent with the founding vision of the company.

Scott Maxwell, founder of, OpenView Venture Partners (a venture firm out of Boston) blogged about the psychological inertia that management experiences. We seem to be always looking for what more we need to do, the next big initiative, the next campaign, the next hire, the next technology we must incorporate into our business to get ahead. As a result, we sometimes forget to stop and consider the baggage we are carrying and what things we really need to “undo” in order to be more effective, in order to get back to the original raw intent of the company. Government is often the same way. When was the last time you heard a politician pitch all the laws he intended to repeal if elected?

If you aren’t trimming your brand baggage, you are doing the same disservice to your customers that archaic styles of martial arts have done to their practitioners. When your customers fail to get the pure, lean, un-baggaged value from your company, they don’t get their butt kicked, they just leave you. Every company needs executives who see themselves as marketing black belts who can kick it like Bruce.

Obligatory Openpost

Okay, I’m starting this blog. A blog seems like an awfully conceited thing to me. It’s like you are saying, “Hey world, come check me out.” And then expecting that they will come. Because, hey, what else are they going to do? But, self-centeredness notwithstanding, I’m diving in.

Anyway, maybe I’m starting this ’cause I read this article about how to market yourself in the emerging context of hyper-visible social networking. The marketer in me can’t leave this alone, even though there is a privacy nut inside that is freaking out a little.

Now that I’ve decided to take the plunge, I’m putting any and all readers on notice right now that I will be breaking some rules, and I am totally unapologetic about it. This is NOT a blog that will monothematic. I’m going to mix business and personal stuff. My only standard (in keeping with my conceited worldview about blogging) will be that I am going to include stuff that I would want to read about. Like I said, I know it’s breaking the rules of good blogging, but I don’t care. I’m going to load this baby up with anything I think is interesting. If you don’t like it, tough nuggies!