Four Clues To The Future Of Financial Services Firms And Fintech

As I write this, I can’t help thinking about what my ‘new normal’ looks like. The less than perfect moments involve me turning around and yelling at the dog to stop barking at the rare person who goes past our front door; he is both interrupter and sometimes star of my client video conferences. Obviously, my request is futile. According to a canine expert friend, my yelling sounds to the dog like a joyous bark and therefore encourages more of the same.


It’s all a very different state to a month ago, when I was sitting in our Manhattan office, reflecting on a client meeting and thinking how important it had been to sit together and talk things through face to face.


So what could this new normal mean for the longer term, and how will it change our behaviors? Over the past two weeks, my team and I have spoken to senior executives across the banking and finance industry. We wanted to understand how they are operating their businesses in this new state, and then consider how these recent experiences could influence or change their future plans, priorities or approaches to solving problems. What is clear is that it is not whether, but how, business will change. These are the four points that came out most strongly.


Acceleration: This appeared initially counterintuitive, as many clients are reprioritizing projects and delaying others. However, when people had to get things done, the speed with which it happened was phenomenal. Artificial constraints no longer seem like the obstacles they did in the past, and this sense of urgency can be channelled into other projects.


Focus: What makes a real difference? As a fintech provider helping clients drive efficiency, this was what I really wanted to hear. Many organizations feel they are expending too much energy on replicating, creating or maintaining platforms or operations that have no fundamental differentiation. They might handle more volume or slightly higher quality – but does it really make a difference? If these operations really are a commodity, why waste time and bandwidth doing them yourself?


Dump the baggage: When time and energy is limited, poor experiences with past projects fade into insignificance. Instead, people direct all of their efforts to what needs to happen now. This is liberating: you can stop looking backwards and instead look to the present. 


Open communication: A key lesson has been the value of open communication – specifically by being upfront about what is interesting (or not) and valuable (or not). Everyone now realizes that positioning or restricting information to avoid giving away an advantage or disappointing another party is actually a complete waste of time. Getting to the point quickly means you can make decisions and solve problems faster. And because this is a time of crisis, no one takes offense.


What could these findings mean for the future? Look at what so many companies have achieved in a very short timescale: they’re keeping their businesses moving and their employees and customers safe, and they’re moving at the pace of change and getting more value out of innovation.


Do we really want to go back to a time when progress is stilted by opaque communications, vague priorities or a lack of urgency? Or can we adopt these lessons for the long term?

Now, is it finally time for a walk?

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