How traditional financial players can develop a more agile, disruptive approach

In a letter published in City AM today, Starcount’s Jonathan Burston talked about opportunities presented by the Capability and Innovation fund, and why traditional players in financial services need to develop an agile, customer-centric approach. Here with his full published letter in response to a piece by Anne Boden on  why the RBS state aid fund is in serious danger of becoming a lost opportunity.  

The SME marketplace has for a long time been the poor cousin of the high street consumer - desperately needing an overhaul. The Capability and Innovation fund provides the ideal opportunity to achieve this, as Anne Boden rightly points out in her piece 12th April 2018. The challenge for those allocating money from the fund is old world versus new world. The traditional players ('old world') are well established with the client base and financial clout, yet lack a reputation for innovation due to there being too much legacy - systems, culture, mindsets, silos, processes, etc.

The new entrants ('new world'), on the other hand, bring a different lens and a more agile approach to innovation and delivery to the challenges faced, but often lack the brand heritage and client base.

To be truly disruptive in a market, a combination of factors need to be in play - the ability to see the challenge differently, the agility to deliver at speed (weeks rather than months or years) and to test and learn quickly, refining to improve. Can the traditional players have all three factors working together in tandem? That is a major challenge. 

New entrants need to be given the opportunity to challenge the status quo and disrupt a market that for so long has lacked a focus on being customer centric. That will push the traditional players to more quickly to break down their own legacy issues and be able to challenge the new entrants more effectively in the future. 

Financial Services is not known for taking ‘risks’ - even calculated ones - and unfortunately I suspect we’ll see the bulk of funds allocated to the more traditional players, as that will be the easier option. 

Jonathan Burston is a  Client Director at Starcount. Over the last 20 years, Jonathan has worked client, agency and consultancy side, and has developed a wealth of experience in transforming businesses to become customer-centric.

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