Management Strategies

09:50 AM
Sam Maule
Sam Maule
Commentary
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Shift Happens

Banks have to be able to react, pivot, and shift in an ever-changing environment.

I was asked by the organizers of NextBank to present a keynote at NextBank Americas in Mexico City last week, October 16, 2014. The focus of the talk was on the macro trends driving disruption in financial services. The presentation, titled "Shift Happens," focused on technology and its remarkable pace of change that requires all of us in fintech to hold true to one key mantra: You have to be able to react, to pivot, to shift in this ever-changing environment. 

The shelf life of products continues to compress dramatically, thus requiring us to ship solutions faster while still maintaining the integrity of our consumer deliverables. We have to be open to shifting our mindset in regard to how banking is approached, how we engage with our customers regardless of channels, and, most importantly, how banks and fintech companies engage with each other in support and development of the financial services space.

This sounds a bit audacious, but it is a message that I hold dear and am passionate about. Little did I know, I would have a real-time test of my message in the midst of delivering this presentation.

Here’s how it went down: Fifteen minutes into my keynote and I was really feeling juiced. The audience was laughing at my jokes, nodding along with my points, and was fully engaged. I could feel the connection with the crowd, which every public speaker will tell you is one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

Then all hell broke loose.  At least inside my head.

I, like all good speakers, had three distinct speaking points I intended to cover. I had just finished discussing the first macro disruption trend, and I pressed the presentation remote to move on to my next slide. I glanced at the monitor in front of the stage and immediately thought “Oh sh*t.” The slide on the monitor -- which was the same one displayed on the massive screen behind me -- was from a completely different presentation. And it was my fault.

You see, I finished my draft and edited the deck on the flight to Mexico City. The PowerPoint deck contained 40+ slides, so I was forced to save the finished deck into five different files to allow me to email the finished copy to the organizers. I broke the deck into sections (slides 1-10, 11-20, etc.).  In my haste to get the finished product out the door, I somehow managed to click on the wrong file for slides 21-30. I realized all of this in the span of about 1.5 seconds while standing on the stage.

Shift happened to me in that moment. As a presenter I had three options:

  1. Pause the presentation, explain the situation, and attempt to have the correct slides displayed -- the ultimate buzz kill.
  2. Walk off the stage in panic thus ending my career as a speaker.
  3. Pivot, press forward, and deliver.

I went with option three. I’m not so sure how seamless a transition it was. And, I’m confident someone in the audience figured out that I managed to move directly from macro trend one to macro trend three. They probably figured I was trying to save time or couldn’t count. Regardless, the energy and connection with the crowd remained strong, and I was able to continue on.

Look, we all face situations where things don’t go as planned. Our product specifications change, new technology is introduced, product testing reveals a plethora of code bugs, etc. We, as leaders in fintech, need to be prepared to be just that: Leaders. It is our responsibility to encourage, coach, do whatever it takes to help our teams pivot and shift when applicable. This isn’t easy stuff. If it were, I know I wouldn’t be doing this. I love the challenges, the puzzles, and the stress that comes with this industry.

So, let’s continue to encourage each other. Shift happens to all of us. It’s the nature of the beast. Next time I’ll check the dang deck before I present. Lesson learned. Pivot and move on.

If you're interested, here’s a link to the deck as it was meant to be delivered:  http://www.slideshare.net/InspiredbyCG/next-bank-americas-shift-happens

Sam Maule serves as a Consulting Manager at Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group. He joined the firm in June 2011 focusing on the Cards & Payments Community of Practice. In this role, Sam provides industry subject matter knowledge and experience to CG's Financial Services ... View Full Bio

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Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
10/24/2014 | 1:39:48 PM
Re: shorter and shorter competitive advantage
Bryan, trading is the extreme example. But just think about payments. ApplePay just launched this week, but competitors have been scrambling since Apple made its announcement a few weeks ago to offer similar technology and services. It doesn't take long to develop new apps or technology anymore.
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
10/24/2014 | 11:04:47 AM
Re: shorter and shorter competitive advantage
Yes, that's very true, speed to market is critical, especially when it comes  to the trading and investing world, as you note.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
10/23/2014 | 4:17:33 PM
shorter and shorter competitive advantage
I think your point about the compressed development time, as well as the compressed time that a product has a competitive advantage, is very important. For some financial services business lines, the competitive advantage for a new product may be a few months or weeks. In trading or investing, the competitive advantage is sometimes lost in minutes, as competitors quickly copy the strategy. Yes, Shift and Shift again!
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
10/23/2014 | 4:15:19 PM
Re: Great article, Sam!
Financial services organizations haven't been tradiitonally built on the ability to "pivot" quickly though. And that's partially been because they want stability to be a big part of their brand image to consumers. They also want innovation now to be part of their brand image, but it's hard to pull off both.
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
10/22/2014 | 9:50:25 AM
Re: Great article, Sam!
Very true. All industries must constantly be evolving, especially as the rate of innovation increases as tehcnology becomes more powerful. Especially in financial services, and industry that newcomers are trying to "disintermediate" all the time.
JenniPalocsik_Verint
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JenniPalocsik_Verint,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/21/2014 | 3:57:36 PM
Great article, Sam!
Thanks for sharing your experience from the event - and also for sharing the presentation on slideshare in particular.

In your presentation, I especially liked the Will Rogers quote as it reinforces your point quite well, I think. Shift happens. And shift happens. And again and again. As consumers we learn about new technology and ways of interacting, and similarly as organizations we cannot stand still - we must continue to evolve our products, our services, our technology, and our "way of working." Expect the unexpected and be ready for change...as the next shift is [always] right around the corner.
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