The Battle for Money

“I don’t think many will survive…” said the fund manager to the digital marketing evangelist in the pub, confronted with a map of the now very diverse landscape of companies vying for attention in the financial services marketplace. A fatalistic viewpoint some might say; one coloured with the weight of having spent a lifetime considering company value, investment potential and sustainability. Such conviction is exclusively reserved for fund managers, Mark Carney, and Roman emperors in these uncertain times. For the rest of us, we can only seek to understand the environment and the potential scenarios that lay before us. 

Digital has undoubtedly been a transformative force for many industries, and whilst its penetration into asset management, amongst other financial services, has been at a slower pace, the last bastions of change resistance are evolving, and the innovation is marching at speed. Those left standing tall at the end of the war will be those who seriously invested in the digital skills and platforms required to effectively compete – something the most forward thinking companies are doing right now.

Fin-tech companies line the left, armed with shiny new customer focused propositions, which prioritise convenient technology to manage your money effortlessly through digital means. Fuelled with a righteous speech (‘we’re not the banks, join us!’), the energy of a non-battle-weary regiment, and ambitions towards a great financial empire of their own, their pointy sticks are somewhat sharper than they are sometimes given credit for.

To the right we have, admittedly a few days (years!) late to the skirmish, the institutions of old. Have you ever tried hauling legacy IT and viewpoints across the mountains in preparation for a battle? Let me tell you, it’s a time consuming venture. Particularly when your view is that these pretenders to the throne are nothing but scattered vagrants, who lack your prestige, heritage and knowledge of how the world really works. I can almost hear the generals now: ‘Make them sit it out for a bit and let’s see how their crowd-funded venture supply lines hold up; we have enough tea and toast in our tent to wait them out.’

Trapped in the crossfire are the consumers. Scared by Brexit, suspicious of finance, and awaiting a true champion to ride in and deliver what they want; namely, financial products that both suit their evolving contemporary needs, and make managing their money frustration free. Whilst a small proportion have chosen a direction and ran, the majority sit it out until one of these brands gets it right. And some are coming closer than ever before.

Expect there to be casualties, as war inevitably brings. The celebratory cigars will be for those who can take a football across the battle-lines and forge the most comprehensive alliances, which we are already beginning to see between both the old and new as the industry adapts, evolves and converges. The complacent, the dated and those unable/unwilling to adapt, will be the first to fall.

Lest we forget, there is always a bigger army than our own. Both sides should be wary of falling into the trap of thinking that Google, Amazon, and the like aren’t on the horizon, licking their lips with excitement, as the barriers to entry fall across the field. After all ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’.



By Chris Barnard, Managing Director of Tech Venture Enterprises

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