Published by Dan Graham on 11 December 2020 in Opinion

Wind of Change

When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, other build windmills.

What an incredible time to be in the financial services industry! We now have transparency, we now have professionalism, we now have clear oversight, we now have community and we now truly put the client at the heart of what we do. For some this has always been the ethos, for others it has taken a while for the penny to drop that this is good for business.

COVID has created a massive demand for change, overnight, if you didn’t invest in your technology, pre-covid you would have struggled to switch to remote working, it might also have highlighted how reliant you are on some of your team. The seismic effects of the first lock down took many people by surprise.

But why did they not react to the tremors early? British Olympic gold medalist Linfield Christie coined the phrase go on the ‘b of the bang’ and this is a phrase I often use in a work context. For those who are unfamiliar with the sprinters phrase, Christie said he started his race not on the bang of the starters gun but on the ‘b of the bang’. This gave him the competitive advantage. So why do I use this phrase in financial services? Well by going on the ‘b of the bang’ we exceed client expectation, by going on the ‘b of the bang’ we get things done quicker with providers and by going on the ‘b of the bang’, we ensure that we are proactive, not reactive.

 

Why wait for something to happen before you react?

Going on the ‘b of the bang’ meant that we had all our client data and systems on the cloud, going on the ‘b of the bang’ meant our staff had facilities to access, communicate and work from home to keep continuity for clients during lockdown. The ‘b of the bang’ for us happened 4 years ago when we set up the business. We were not sure how long we would be in our office premises and it didn’t make sense to set up systems that would tie us to one place. Geography was no longer an issue. As a small firm you can no longer act like a small firm, small firms need to act like big firms.

By being proactive, you will have business continuity plans in place, policies to deal with the unexpected, infrastructure that can be scaled up and down as required. Strategically mapping out your future will benefit your business and make it more resilient. If you are prepared for what the world throws at you, then you have an advantage on bigger firms because small firms have the ability to be nimble, change direction and make decisions faster.

Why is this important?

We are in an ever evolving world. If you take a long time to make a decision the tech has changed, the tech has evolved and you are left behind. The shear pace of change over the last 20 years has been phenomenal. I remember the millennium when everyone thought computers would die, explode, go haywire simply because the first digit in the year, had never changed from a 1 to a 2 before. How utterly ridiculous does this sound now?

But many people were scared of technology, sceptical of computers didn’t have the foresight to see how technology could help them. Growing up I had a carefree, simple life of playing outdoors, appreciating nature, indulging in arts, crafts and sport, a life that came back to the fore during lockdown. The nearest thing to a smart phone back in the early 1980s was watching Captain Kirk on the starship enterprise! “Beam me up Scotty” But I wanted to be beamed up, I marvelled at new technology. Technology should take the strain in your business, but why do so many become frustrated by it? Well technology is only as good as the planning, the data and the operator.

Remember, we have a lost generation, a generation devoid of technology, those that never used a computer at school and have never had formal learning in technology, given the average age in financial services a large proportion of the lost generation are working in this industry. I think myself extremely fortunate in more ways than one. Being part of generation X (almost Y 😉), I am the generation that bridge the gap pre and post internet, people of my generation, remember the excitement of Pac-Man on the Atari , the joy of carrying a Sony Walkman I can remember using an Apple Macintosh 125 for the first time at school, we were the first year to use them. I searched the new fangled internet on Netscape navigator, negotiated Windows 3.1 and dot matrix printers. I have constantly been amazed at the next big thing and have surfed the wave of the technology revolution throughout university and my early career in the oil industry. You needed some basic programming skills to even start up your computer or understand a problem back in the day.

Having experienced this I think it makes you appreciate the power of today’s smart devices even more. In the 20 years since the millennium what a tidal wave of data, devices, technology and terminology, I find it amazing and have a thirst for keeping pace on what is happening out there, which by the way is easy with numerous social media outlets. Learning has never been so accessible.

I think living through all these very different technologies made our generation adaptable. I remember at a family gathering, discussing the internet with a younger cousin, 20 years after it had gone mainstream, I said we had no internet at school and he looked at me in horror and said how did you learn things. Although I didn’t see myself as old, in that instant I felt old. Books were fortunately invented when I was at school so I was OK. Not only that, I still retain information I read in books at school or read on the internet.

Today’s society don’t seem to retain knowledge in the same way any more. If the internet was switched off, it would likely cause a bigger problem than covid.

 

Collaboration, proactiveness and adaptability

So getting back to lockdown, I think many people stepped back a few years, to a simpler way of life and appreciated it. However, I also think lockdown catapulted us forward, as there is no doubt without today’s technology, Zoom calls, Tik Tok videos and house parties it would have been miserable.

In order to survive, we saw unprecedented collaboration between generations. Sir Tom Moore was catapulted into the limelight with his NHS fundraising efforts, we saw kids teaching their grannies how to get the best from tech, and grannies teaching kids how to bake or reading them bed time stories. I think it brought out the best in us.

Collaboration, proactiveness and adaptability are all traits financial planning firms should be striving for. Every generation has something to offer, be patient, learn from each other and change.

It is not the fittest who survive but those most adaptable to change – Charles Darwin

 

Jenny Ellis – Wellington Wealth & NextGen Planners Ambassador 2020

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