Well hello there. I’m not one to drop the C word just yet (though it’s approaching fast), but it feels like quite the gift to be delivering Eclipse to you this week. A thank you to the other C, Cathi, for letting me take her place for this week’s edition. I’m Peter – the new CTO at The Verve Group and a stranger to your inbox – and I’d like to spend some time talking change and innovation with you.
It’s fair to say that we’ve all been through our fair share of change of late (due of course to another C, but I promise we’re not here to talk about that).
For me recently, change has meant immersing myself in the world of financial services and understanding the technology – and terminology – in the sector. I joined The Verve Group as Chief Technology Officer in September, challenged with pushing innovation further in an already innovative group. I come with a background in building and leading technology for retailers and marketers – a far cry from financial compliance, paraplanning, et al – but with a surprising amount of parallels. The beginning of a challenge that I am already loving.
From an outside perspective, until fairly recently at least, the perception is that the financial sector has typically been one of the slowest to adapt to change and particularly to technology. It could be down to regulation, it could be the forecasted cost of R&D, or it could just be because ‘that’s the way things have always been’.
There’s a reason that ‘FinTech’ is the buzzword of late. It’s the same reason that the search term ‘fastest growing banks in the UK’ largely talks about the digital-first challengers, and it’s the same reason that Deloitte forecasts 50,000 additional UK jobs in financial tech over the next three years – the world not only embraces technology, but they expect their finances to be at the centre of it. The primary parallel I alluded to earlier, that which ties eCommerce, financial services and any other sector together is customer experience.
The question is, how do we (you and I, now that I’m in the wonderful world of finance) innovate and bring change to improve experience? Whilst many in the sector don’t want to be the first to try something new, nobody wants to be the last either. Change doesn’t need to be monumental, it needs to be meaningful. Here’s three areas we can begin to look at;
1. Tie up your feedback loops. Consider the ways in which your clients can provide valuable feedback right now, if they can (the expectation of a client to email you feedback ad hoc doesn’t count). Once you have feedback, how is it reviewed and action put into place. A question to consider: have you been through your own process, from a client’s perspective? That Mint Podcast has also just published a great guest blog from Faith Liversedge, on building your client stories (link below).
2. Quantify time saved. After all, if it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t make sense, right? Particularly in our field, where the primary focus will largely always be ROI, it’s often difficult to focus on other key metrics. Introducing new templates can reduce your document turnaround time, a new customer relationship system can shorten your sales lead time, and an FAQ section of your website can reduce the number of enquiries you deal with manually. None of these directly generate income, but cumulatively the time saved increases your capacity to focus on and manage more clients, which does generate revenue.
3. Sweat the small stuff. Remember that change doesn’t need to be fundamental to make an impact. A theory I love and live by is that of marginal gains, most recently popularised by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. As people and as businesses, we aim for those marginal 1% improvements that cumulatively make a dramatic improvement. Think of the minor day-to-day inconveniences, what would you change and what do you need to make it happen?
One thing that I’m particularly drawn to in financial services and something that we’ve covered previously in Eclipse is attitude to risk. Traditionally, this is of course in relation to investment, but it can be applied to your technology – every change brings risk. Whilst we understand our client’s attitude to risk, do we understand our businesses? Standing still is the biggest risk you can take in a sector that’s now moving fast.
To close off this week’s Eclipse and sign off this baptism of fire in true Verve spirit (here’s looking at you, Cathi, Jo and Natalie), I’m raising a glass (gin for me, with lemonade rather than tonic) to making change in financial services – I hope you can join me.