Do you Social?

November 12, 2013

Yes, you read that correctly. And no, it’s not a typo. You see, I’m getting all active (rather than passive) with my use of verbs which is just what the future leaders within the financial services market space are also doing in respect to their understanding and use of social media in their business operations.

Yeah yeah.” I can almost hear you muttering cynically. “Social Media is something the trendsetters of Silicon Roundabout do. It doesn’t really have a place in the ‘serious’ world of finance, does it!?”

The answer is “Yes!” and more than you know…

Let’s look at it another way. Your impression of Social Media may well be based on your knowledge of Facebook and its compatriots and no serious company in their right mind would run the risk of potentially ‘cheapening’ their status by appearing in those circles!? In some ways there may be some weight in that, however, what do these channels ultimately have in common? I’ll tell you…they get people talking!
They facilitate communication. It doesn’t matter whether you are learning that your neighbour has a new puppy or that they like chocolate ice-cream; you are still LEARNING ABOUT THEM and I don’t think anyone can argue against the notion that knowing your client better is always going to help you do business with them.

I’m going to use an analogy that is well-known within the consultancy world – If you were a doctor, you wouldn’t prescribe medicine for a patient until you knew what was wrong with them, would you? But once you know what they need, you can then offer an appropriate solution.
Well, finding out what they need, want, whatever is the first-step (do you see where I’m going, with this?). If, you had a mechanism to learn about your prospective customer, you would want to make use of it, wouldn’t you? Well, that mechanism (amongst others) is Social Media.

Okay, taking this a step further – what do you do once you have all that valuable intelligence? The smart thing to do would be to record it somewhere that facilitated putting it to best use…hmm, a CRM solution perhaps?

I recently attended a seminar hosted by a world renowned sales and technology speaker, Frank Furness ( and what made it such a breath of fresh air was that he was able to communicate how he (wearing multiple hats as an independent financial advisor, technology specialist, amongst others) has been able to harness the power of social media and use it to forge high-level business relationships that have proved rewarding both strategically and financially.

Granted, not everyone is going to become a social media guru but if you take one thing away from this piece, I hope it’s the acknowledgement that there should be a place for social media in your business strategy and that there are tools such as CRM that will help you move it from a ‘nice to have’ to an ‘absolute necessity’.

Why You Need A Two-Speed Approach To I.T. Projects

October 29, 2013

Some years ago I asked the CEO at one of our largest clients why they had chosen to work with us and he replied that it was all about speed and agility.

He told me that he had an I.T. department of over 400 people in London but that they were fully occupied on a major transformation of their trading platform and running their business as usual activities. He said that he needed to ensure that his organisation remained responsive to changes in the market and that they needed a “speedboat” partner who could help them execute on their fast-moving initiatives and other projects demanded by the business.

Fast forward a few years to Oct 2013 and I’m sitting in a session at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando and they are recommending that every company now needs a two-speed I.T. organisation. One speed for the ongoing business as usual activities and broader initiatives and another speed to enable innovation to happen.

However, that’s easier said than done according to Gartner VP Dave Aron who says that only 19 percent of larger enterprises have the right staff on hand to start producing fast-track, agile projects.

What Gartner recommends is that organisations should partner with smaller, more agile suppliers who can help them innovate quickly and fast-track their initiatives. In particular, in the mobile arena the speed of change is dramatic and most organisations are failing to keep up with the demands of the business. This is a key area for companies to address.

Just one final thought before employing a two-speed approach to I.T. projects. You will also need to have lighter weight governance, metrics and leadership on agile projects. As Aron says “Use agile, fast, just safe-enough techniques to explore, adopt and adapt to new opportunities and embrace the ones that stick.”

Do less with your CRM

October 16, 2013

The success of CRM is typically measured on its ability to make processes and people more efficient and deliver a planned return on investment in the short and longer terms. For this to happen CRM needs to be adopted across the organisation on a grand scale and for there to be a company-wide commitment to becoming truly client-centric.

Sounds simple – but if you look at published statistics you may be forgiven for thinking that the odds are stacked against you when implementing CRM. Historically CRM project failure rates have been most famously quoted by industry analysts, Gartner as being on a par with some of the largest ERP implementations.

Why is this?

Well we think it has a lot to do with the level of complexity involved in a project. Trying to do everything in one ‘big bang’ approach can cause ‘change shock’ which will alienate users and cause the project timescales to extend so far into the future that maintaining a sense of momentum is, in itself, a challenge.

In our experience we have found that a better outcome can be achieved by following these simple guidelines:

  • Identify and prioritise core processes
  • Work in an iterative and agile fashion
  • Prioritise the user experience over everything else – they are the key to successful CRM
  • Simplify the user experience by reducing screen clutter and providing only what is needed

By gaining small wins and moving on it’s possible to achieve your original objective, avoid chaos and keep the users on side. In this way user adoption will be maximised and project outcomes will be stacked in your favour.

Post–trade malaise in managing exceptions

October 11, 2013

Even after all these years many organisations have not yet managed to get their back-office processes as slick as the front office, especially when it comes to managing exceptions in post-trade processing of derivatives.

With regulatory bodies around the globe placing ever increasing emphasis on operational risk for derivatives (both ETD and OTC), it seems that many enterprises in this market place have still to get to the optimum position

Why is this?

A recent conversation with a senior manager at a global Tier 1 investment bank revealed that dealing with exceptions is still a challenge, partly because there’s often something more high profile in which to invest and partly because any problems are solved with either more human resource or by relying on email and spreadsheets.

Whilst this approach appears to provide a short term fix, operations and client services teams quickly become swamped with emails, client service levels can drop off and operational risk increases.

Sometimes there are other, more obscure reasons why this area is not addressed. Initiatives to improve reconciliations and exception management for derivatives, such as futures and options, may be widened into strategic initiatives involving all asset classes or into more general business process workflow requirements. This often leads to much larger budgets, more interested parties (with different views of what’s required) and long implementation projects.

Agile exception management is perfectly possible with enterprise class solutions, applied judiciously and fast to problematic areas. By adopting an agile, one-bite-at-a-time approach brokers can start to realise the benefits such as:

  • Having all exceptions quickly identified and controlled in a single place
  • Knowing instantly the status of any trade break
  • Providing a professional, client facing view of their exceptions and status
  • Underpinning multi-office processes with a single, uniformly enforced business process workflow, with audit trails, security and escalation
  • Meeting client service level expectations or obligations
  • Decreasing operational risk

To quote the fabled Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”

The Mobile Wave – A Review

September 19, 2013

I recently read a fascinating book called “The Mobile Wave” written by Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy. If you are even remotely interested in mobile technology then you should read this to get a glimpse into the future. And what an amazing future it promises to be.

In the book Saylor convincingly argues that the growth of mobile technology marks the tipping point in the information revolution.

Every business will be affected by this wave and will see dramatic changes. Many jobs will be lost but also many jobs that we don’t even know about today will be created. According to Saylor “to create, you must first destroy”. Scary stuff if your job is one of those that’s going to be destroyed.

He talks about how various sectors will be dramatically affected by mobile technology – healthcare, and education being two that will see dramatic changes. For example, he believes that mobile technology will burst the bubble of overpriced higher education by making outstanding education available to everyone, everywhere.

Healthcare will see dramatic changes in how we both look after and monitor our own health and how the medical profession interacts with people. With the advent of tiny sensors, telemedicine (i.e. remote diagnosis capabilities) will become available to people anywhere in the world.

In summary, this is a valuable and thought-provoking read for anyone trying to get a handle on the enormous changes coming our way. Saylor paints an intriguing picture of how our lives will look in the not too distant future. However, like all predictors of the future, he will undoubtedly be wrong in some of these predictions.

The short history of computing has shown us that many predictions fail to materialise within the timeframe predicted. It wasn’t that the prediction was incorrect but that the timescale in which it happened took longer.

Despite this I can see many of Saylor’s ideas coming to pass over the next few years. The speed of change brought about by mobile technology is increasing at such a rapid rate that already some of the innovations he talks about are starting to happen.

Why Mobile Matters

September 13, 2013

Last week’s hot news had to be the story of Microsoft purchasing Nokia’s phone business for the (bargain) price of £4.6billion.  Another clear move in the battle of the mega vendors to stake a claim in the mobile space. It’s common knowledge that Gartner predicts exponential growth in this space – driven by BYOD and our seemingly limitless capacity to consume and create content whilst on the move.

With global sales of tablets alone set to rise by 67.9% in 2013* nearly every technology vendor on the planet wants a piece of the action and there’s the smell of real game-changing opportunity in the air. As these products move into the mass market and price points drop nearly everyone will be able to own one.  And it’s happening fast. Glance around your crowded commuter train carriage home tonight and just count on one hand the people not interacting with a mobile device of some kind.

It’s not hard to imagine how quickly this widespread mobile device ownership will drive change in every aspect of our lives. As consumers – both at home and at work – inevitably we will become ruthless about interacting, spending money and engaging only with those businesses that can provide what we want and need on our (mobile) terms.

And as this thing progresses and the tsunami that is mobile engulfs us all it will inevitably wash away those businesses that haven’t quite got on the mobile bandwagon fast enough.  We’ve already seen many household names disappear over the past decade because they wouldn’t move from bricks to clicks – it’s now all too clear that having an established business, past successes or a big brand name provide no protection against change. Just ask Nokia.

*Gartner (June 2013)

Are you ready to do business with the digital natives?

September 5, 2013

Whatever business you are in you are either already dealing with digital natives or they will represent the next wave of customers for your product or services.

These natives, the Generation-Y who have grown up with digital technology, are those who will put less value on how long a company has been in business and more value on how companies do business in a digitally engaging way.

Digital natives are used to serving themselves and expect to have information available at their fingertips 24×7 from any location. They also expect to deal with people who communicate in their language and who use the same media as them. Are you ready to do business with them?

In parallel with the emergence of the digital natives, we’ve seen the convergence of social media, mobile technology and cloud computing – something that Gartner refers to as the “Nexus of Forces”.

All of these forces have led to the consumerisation and democratisation of technology which has put more of the power in the hands of users meaning that IT departments will have to adapt to new demands that are driven by outside forces.

Taken together these forces are going to cause disruption to every business. Disrupters will enter markets and new leaders will emerge. We have already seen how the music, media and publishing industries have been turned on their head. What could happen to your business?

Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, giving birth to the whole area of smart phones and subsequently tablets, the speed of change has been phenomenal. In a short space of time we have become conditioned to 24x7x365 access to the internet from any location. So far we have only exploited a fraction of the capabilities now available to us. Far from slowing down, the pace of change is only accelerating.

To stay competitive businesses will have to become more proactive and invest in innovative products and services that take account of the anytime/anywhere customer paradigm. IT departments will have to become more agile and have a more outward focus. New software will need to be designed and developed. Continuous delivery will need to become ingrained in a company’s culture.

Extinction is what happens when companies, or even whole sectors, refuse to acknowledge that external forces are causing seismic shifts in the business landscape. So if you plan to be in business in the coming decades then change is not optional.


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