The financial services industry has been compelled over recent years to look at new ways to innovate and adapt, in order to meet the everchanging requirements of modern times. The current discussions on the “Amazonisation” of financial services make a thought-provoking reflection.
But the industry is more than just about transactions – clients must be at the heart of everything. Most importantly, a culture of client-focus is something that every leader in this industry has not just to strive for, but to live; making it core to purpose of their organisation.
In the age of digital transformation and in a place where mergers and acquisitions are happening with increased frequency, delivering clarity and value to clients is critical. This focus can only manifest if leaders can connect with and energise their people to live and breathe their passion and purpose.
I personally believe that there are 5 vital skills for progressive leaders in the financial services industry today
1. Incremental Innovation
Everything is changing at an unparalleled speed. In the nineties Kodak kept their focus on more traditional photography, whilst Sony and other competitors foresaw the paradigm shift and were able to quickly adapt. For financial services to survive and thrive, their leaders must possess the ability to understand the wider context and drive a strategy of incrementalism. This will enable them to adapt courageously by trial and error, in order to learn and achieve success.
2. Supreme client focus: today and tomorrow
Let’s face it the vast majority of clients struggle with the language that the financial services industry uses and the way the industry communicates with them. This is part of the "guile" that many industries use to make the simple complex (and therefore expensive). Whilst in recent times the industry has inched towards more client focus many organisations are not thinking about the needs of their future clients. Needs include language, communication channels and purchase experience. When considering your client strategy think about the clients of tomorrow and not just of today.
3. Be tech curious
It's all about tech. Everything is technology-based. With the speed at which technology develops, financial services leaders must be curious, passionate and challenging about technology. These leaders must think outside of the of the old financial services mindset. Digital transformation is a game changer and understanding the latest trends and technologies will enable leaders to gear up for the upcoming disruption and “Amazonisation” of the industry.
The financial services industry is at the heart of every economy and it is therefore imperative that all in the industry set standards which our global economy can learn from.
If your clients are your passion and purpose, then your people are your identity. A financial services leader must be able to energise in order to drive a environment that allows every individual to maximise their potential and create a wellbusiness culture that supports supreme client focus.
A financial services leader should be able to help all employees regulate and navigate constant challenges by maintaining a strong emotional intelligence and be a true example.
In Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book on white collar stress, “Dying for a Paycheck”, highlights tragic cases including an intern who died after an epileptic fit at the end of a 72-hour marathon stint. A stark warning to us all.
5. Connection is everything
The rise of disruptive fintech start-ups combined with the recent history of financial services means that stepping out of the old way is not just important, it is critical.
Even as little as 10 years ago, financial services was all about paper and humans. Now it is about data and humans. The impact of this transition cannot be underestimated.
Connectivity is therefore vital. This means connecting and communicating with all stakeholders be they internal or external through intelligent use of media is key. Progressive leaders need to create a culture and identity that drives a common purpose, passion and belief.
Only through leveraging all these aspects will organisations truly generate the strategic transformation and growth that is long overdue.