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The financial services industry is embracing new ideas and digital thinking in a bid to compete with consumer tech giants. Amy Nauiokas is optimistic about signs of culture change
Albert Einstein noted: “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that it was created. You have to rise to the next level.” The post-financial crisis world has presented a unique opportunity for the financial services industry to adopt a more open-minded and collaborative strategy. As regulatory reform, social networks and changing customer habits combine to present a very different future for financial products and services, the market players are aligning to help a new reality emerge.
Once-dismissed contrarian thinkers are now being embraced as influencers – working hand in hand with the incumbents to attack problems on a new level. And just in time, as banks are no longer just competing with one another on innovation – they are competing with companies and tools that their users access every day, such as Facebook, Google, and Uber. Trying to keep up with the pace of innovation set by these technology leaders, particularly in areas where they excel such as payments solutions, is hard for banks that are under pressure to be all things to all people.
A general misconception on the part of large companies embracing innovation is that it will need massive investment and an overhaul of strategy and resource to make it happen. And while it is true that one high-profile appointment or new product initiative won’t do the trick, they can be signifiers of the change to come. It is less about the action than the intention. Senior executives must instil the notion of innovation into the culture, from the top to the bottom, and work collaboratively to create a new landscape. By ensuring that new ideas and contrarian thinking are encouraged, not relegated to one small part of a company, the pace of change can be accelerated enormously.
Innovation is a journey that takes time, commitment, and energy from those inside and outside large financial institutions. At Anthemis, we see many reasons to be hopeful. As a company founded on many of the ideas and experiences of true contrarians, we are witnessing significant changes in attitude and enthusiasm for the digital way of thinking.
Financial services leaders and investors appreciate the need to look to where the industry is going rather than where it has been, and they are doing exactly that. What they are finding are numerous start-ups with fresh ways of looking at things and talented technologists and business-minded leaders who are no longer afraid to jump into the unknown. This is coupled with a plethora of customers whose behaviour and appetite for technology, and instantaneous and interactive access to their financial universe, is at unprecedented levels.
That creates a market robust and ready for transformation.