In the rapidly changing world of financial services, survival-not to mention prosperity-on the electronic frontier is predicated on one's ability to redefine how the game is played by changing the rules.

It's a matter of taking risks, thinking content and forgetting that you're a banker. The argument that banks, as regulated entities, are victims of unfair competition is a flawed one; winning the battle to distribute great content on the electronic frontier depends not on what agency you're governed by, but rather an institution's willingness to look for new ways to create value in the marketplace.

At most, regulation is a compliance issue, not a competitive ball and chain. The great business leaders of our time-pick any industry-don't expend a lot of energy on regulatory matters as a hindrance to their strategy or competitive position, never mind cry foul when regulatory winds blow against them. It's a function of doing business, but it isn't what drives your profit motive.

Instead, leaders with vision remain focused on seizing new business opportunities and making money. Did Bill Gates ever lose much sleep over the U.S. Department of Justice's probes? Please, that doesn't even require an answer. Just look at the profitable results since 1994, and they continue to mount daily. Gates' success and the company's profit margins aren't dictated by what regulation does or does not afford him as chairman and CEO of Microsoft; his competitive edge comes from being second to none in identifying content and distribution opportunities that others fail to see. And he's doing it in more than one industry, financial services among them. How? He skirts convention-and he's not alone.

In our inaugural issue of FutureBanker, we explore the parallels between the radical emergence of power players in the entertainment industry and those facing banks today (see cover story, p. 40). The contention that banks can learn a great deal from the huge market share won and lost by players in the entertainment world is a compelling one. The entertainment industry's turf wars were waged by once-unconventional contenders like Rupert Murdoch, who, recognizing that the broadcast networks were fat, dumb and happy, set about building a media empire spanning motion pictures and broadcast, cable and satellite television. Where were the networks in all of this? By the time they looked up, the controlling interests in the content game had shifted to players like Michael Eisner and Michael Bloomberg.

But take heart; if banks are analogous to broadcast and cable networks, there is hope. Consider NBC's bold decision to partner with Microsoft and launch MSNBC. At one time, that strategic alliance would have been unprecedented; today, it's a requirement. The moral: If banks start thinking more like providers of electronic financial services content- doesn't matter who manufactures the product; it's what sells that counts- and less like overly regulated entities, this game could get very interesting.

Enjoy the read. sraeel tfn.com

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