Don’t you find it odd that, in the UK, a police officer is not allowed to counter-sign a passport application form whereas a banker—that much-reviled figure accused of being responsible for all the woes and ills of the world—still can? Isn’t it strange that despite the untold millions—if not hundreds of millions—of pounds, dollars and euros spent on technology, our industry still doesn’t have true straight-through processing (STP) and many firms are as far away from it as they have ever been? Don’t you wonder why some firms, despite hundreds of years of experience, the benefit of hugely expensive external and internal consultants, and a vast array of information at their fingertips, still continue to make massive yet simple mistakes in the execution of their strategies?
The answer to this conundrum is, as you might expect, convoluted and is a combination of historical precedent, the vagaries of human beings, tradition and regulatory pressures artificially distorting the market. In order to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the hopelessness that the true nirvana of STP will never be achieved, or despondent that as soon as business comes in the front door, other business appears to go out the back, or your market-leading and differentiating product innovation gets overtaken by a competitors’, it is wise to apply the adage of management that ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’.
By that I mean if you accept that some strategic mistakes will happen, sometimes a competitor will win a mandate that should have been, by rights, yours, and that a regulatory change will nullify the potential benefits of a new product you’ve been working on for awhile, then you will cease to dwell on the negative but instead look to the positive. This means that you’re still ‘in the game’, that you have been able to demonstrate thought leadership, albeit thwarted by unforeseeable regulatory issues, and that you are still striving to do the best for your clients.
The ability to adopt and embrace this mindset in a period of unparalleled change is what will mark out the winners from the losers in our industry, from both a corporate and individual perspective. Yes, we know that some firms are going through some major and well-documented structural changes in terms of refocusing their business away from traditional sources of revenue with the contingent loss of quality staff, the industry is seeing new players—Atlantic Fund Services entering the UK, for example—rumours of market information firms wanting to aggressively enter the fund administration business persist, and Facebook is allegedly looking to apply for a banking licence in Ireland (which I find a fascinating development for what began as a simple social media tool, as anyone who’s seen my Luddite offerings on Facebook will attest to).
But rather than crying out “the end is nigh” for a firm or segment of the industry, the more savvy operators will accept that it’s all part of the natural evolution of the industry and spend their time looking for ways to take advantage of the opportunities, which will no doubt arise to work in conjunction with these players.
And if you want to ponder something that’s really strange: why does the sell-by date on every packet of crisps fall on a Saturday?
As ever, do let me know your thoughts. Drop me a line at paul@localhost