How We See Things Like a Bank Collapse

I have been thinking about the storytelling surrounding the recent collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) a lot lately. I just gave a talk at a company retreat about the importance of storytelling, and how all dimensions of the SVB situation is about telling and believing in stories. From our belief in money, markets, banks, to our continued belief in technology and venture capital, the recent goings on was all about stories. A significant part of this storytelling involves how we see things, and when you have very abstract concepts like financial products, businesses, and technology, the images we use to understand what is happening. When it came to SVB I particularly noticed the usage of images involving the front of SVB bank branches.

Hey, what is going on in there? People looking in Windows

Let’s have a dude making a phone call in front! People looking in Windows

Let’s get some security guards out front to make it look like something of value is in there. People looking in Windows

Let’s make sure to show that they are responding to customers. People looking in Windows

Ok, people are getting the message. People looking in Windows

Show a money truck in front to show there is money. People looking in Windows

Let’s just show people hanging out having fun. People looking in Windows

Let’s be a little more creative with a reflection. People looking in Windows

Throughout the goings on of the last couple of weeks I was just tuned into the storytelling, and the visuals that media sites and blogs were using grabbed my attention. I love that our notion of a bank is still so anchored on the notion of a physical bank with vaults of cash. That when there is a digital run on a bank we still need images of physical locations to tell our stories. All of this stuff is so very abstract, and out of reach of our imaginations, despite spending so much of our time online.

I feel like our inability to see complex financial products and the expanding digital landscape that shapes our lives is something that is going to continue to disrupt our lives. I think our world is increasingly complex and nobody has a complete picture in their head about how it all works. This allows for some seriously messed up hustles to occur on multiple levels, and is something that will take years for us all to understand the impact our financial system has had on our lives.