17 December 2014

Looking at the Financial Services market in 2015

The last 6 ½  years, across the financial services sector, has been tough. Feelings of doom and gloom, how bad things have been, the ‘ good old days’ have gone and are never coming back, the list goes on.  Over the last 6 months I have met some organisations, and some Interim Managers, who are more optimistic about the general Financial Services industry. Topics that are still being talked about are; risk and compliance, managing headcount reductions, transformation and change associated with disruption. However these topics are still ONLY being talked about!

When I look to the market in 2015 I see much more confidence because it feels like the tide has changed. If the consensus of our client population is to be believed the next few years will be about growth. The pessimists and naysayers will never go away but they are becoming the minority and they have certainly had their time in the spotlight. Companies need to push on and give customers peace of mind.

I am optimistic because; regulation and compliance is here to stay, that in itself is not the reason for my rise in confidence. The well organised, forward thinking businesses have this under control, they have risk and compliance experts and see this element of financial services as ‘ business as usual’. No longer should it be scary or make board members shudder when they hear about some new strangely titled regulation that is seen to hinder the growth, it is rightly embedded within a financial services business and it is here to stay.

Almost all companies are leaner and more efficient, they have invested in the right skills over the past few years, they have gone to market and now have the right blend of people from the top down that have guided and reshaped the business.  There has been an emphasis on retaining key skills and we have seen automation playing its part more than ever. We have started to see the rise of the ‘Bots’.  The blend of skills are important and come from the ‘ old guard’ who have stayed loyal (or hung in there), and also from Interim managers working with the board. These skills, coupled with input from the largest consultancies (apparently worth £1.8 billion in 2014 within financial services) have been able to drive these businesses forward in trying times. 

I see 2015 as a time for sales, value add, driving revenue and focussing on service to the customer. This will be the focus for most companies (who have their house in order) as they will be ready to execute and push on.  Change is already happening as evidenced by the last 6 months within financial services, this has been hugely exciting, and a relief.  The retail banking sector is starting to take shape, how we pay for goods as a consumer has moved  onto our mobile devices, the competition is really starting to hot up.  The market is taking shape and as a consumer we want more choice than we have ever had, the customer wants the best service and loyalty no longer has such a big sway in our decision making process.  It’s not about what is cheapest it’s about what suits the customers lifestyle.

As the UKs leading interim provider this has resulted in a greater requirement for our interim managers. There is an opportunity for interims to work more closely with the consultancies on site (did I mention earlier that the consultancy market within financial services is worth £1.8 billion in 2014?). It is clear from speaking with organisations and interims that the main consultancies deliver exceptional pieces of work but execution has been their biggest downfall and the cost of poor implementation is great on all levels especially staff engagement and the fallout it causes when a programme isn’t delivered correctly. The biggest loser is the customer, and the customer will not put up with it anymore.  What has been interesting in 2014 is that we have seen more and more interims ‘white labelled’ by the consultancy firms because the senior skillsets have not been available to the consultancies as they win more and more projects.  For the record, I do think white labelling as an interim is the wrong path to go down as it’s about building your own brand as an Interim Manager.  I think many interims will share with me the power of working along-side the consultancies is one thing but more importantly having the clients goal as their number one priority is the difference and this is where the value add is and what the client really wants .  Consultancies bring you the strategy and Interims bring you the delivery you require alongside keeping harmony in the team. There is no ulterior motive or upselling.

Next year is full of exciting projects for Interims if they are engaged correctly.  The challenges will vary from client to client, if you are a big bank or large financial services institutions then the priority will be hugely different to the disruptors in the market. I expect the major theme should be driving sales and focussing on customer acquisition as this will be paramount. What this will mean for Interims is an incredibly exciting market and the opportunities should spread across all functions that focus on the challenges that come with growth.

If you would like to learn more about Tim or his work, please do visit his profile.

Categories: Financial Services


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