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Campbell Macpherson: The search for the best innovation in financial services

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The purpose of this column is to showcase innovation across our industry. By innovation, I do not just mean technology. Innovation comes in many forms and is not constrained to shiny new start-ups or the latest whizzbang piece of software

Innovation can be a radical change in an organisation’s culture, entering a brand new market, launching new propositions, developing new ways of working, embracing new leadership techniques or finding new ways of approaching old problems.

Innovation can only occur when you look at your business, market or industry with new eyes – often the eyes of your customers. This is the point where financial services has traditionally struggled.

Our industry has not exactly covered itself in glory when it comes to looking at life from the perspective of our customers. Large swathes of the financial services industry still feel far more comfortable talking about balance sheets, commissions, fees, sales targets, rebates and funds under management than genuinely discussing the changing needs of those people who ultimately pay all our wages.

But this is changing. New companies are starting up with a clear vision of the value they
add to their target customers, firms from other sectors see opportunities in financial services while traditional firms are rediscovering the customer and starting to change the way they work.

I have already taken a look at a number of innovative organisations and initiatives in my columns over the last couple of years.

D2C innovation

Some of the more interesting innovations have been found in the direct-to-consumer space. These include RPlan, the next-generation investment community and D2C fund business, Nutmeg, the online DFM with one of the best user interfaces I have seen and the investment portal Money on Toast. 

RSM Tenon’s new Link2Wealth execution-only service is also worth looking at.

The adviser sector is not without its innovation, though, with examples including iPipeline’s new iGo e-app and XRAE accurate quotation technology, Virtual Adviser’s video-conference and screen share technology and Sesame and SJP’s adviser recruitment and training academies. Of course, this list is just scratching the surface.

There are plenty of other companies and initiatives to look at and among the many innovations this column will take a peek at are a market-leading admin firm that has launched itself in quite spectacular fashion into two new markets, an adviser technology company that has aligned its business model to match the needs of its clients and a global investment company that is reorganising its entire organisation to be genuinely customer-centric.

Crystal-clear business model

There is also a wealth management firm with a crystal-clear business model that enables it to retain the core proposition elements in-house and safely and compliantly outsource non-core activities in a way that puts them completely in control,  a new national that has learned the mistakes of many a past network and is building a safe, valuable advice business from scratch and an investment services firm that enables advisers to cost-effectively deliver fully personalised investment portfolio management.

In addition to adviser-focused businesses, I will also be looking at other financial services firms for examples of the way innovation is making an impact, including a focused and nimble insurer that has embraced technology and customer insight to deliver genuine innovation to its partner organisations, a global insurer whose new leadership team is setting out to change the culture of the organisation and build a genuinely customer-centric global brand, recognised across the world for the customer experience it enables its people to deliver and a sovereign wealth fund that takes organisation improvement and development so seriously that it has built an in-house team of ex-partners from some of the world’s best consultancies.

This is not an exhaustive list so when you see something truly innovative, drop me a line.

So, join me in the exploration of innovation in all its forms. Next time I will be looking at IFDS, a business that, having become the dominant player in funds administration, has boldly and simultaneously entered two new markets with immediate success.

Campbell Macpherson is managing director at Campbell Macpherson & Associates

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