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C-Suite collaboration is key to moving the financial services sector into the new era of digital transformation

By Nick Gold, founder and Chief Executive of Speaker’s Corner 

Responsibility lies with the C-Suite to construct a digital transformation plan

To successfully undergo digital transformation, companies must construct a clear plan. Responsibility for driving digital transformation across the enterprise lies with the C-suite. The CEO, chief marketing officer (CMO), chief human resources officer (CHRO) and chief operations officer (COO), among others, must work together to make the transformation happen. However, this can be difficult to achieve as certain members of the C-Suite are more proficient with technology than others. This article will look at how to overcome resistance/challenges at a senior level to any digital transformation strategy.

Technology meets disruption and what this means for the finance sector 

The fourth industrial revolution, where technology meets disruption via the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, fundamentally changed the way we live and work.  This journey is taking us further into a world which we are only starting to understand.

We can see this most clearly in the finance sector, where at every stage of this revolution an area of this industry has been targeted and disrupted.   As leading thinkers and exponents from the finance sector have shared their stories through their speeches, explaining the current impact and forecasting what will happen next,  it is clear that for both the most established companies alongside the new wave of digitally lead fintech companies, change is part of the regular business cycle.

But having the processes and procedure in place to encourage change and be at the forefront of the digital revolution will be critical to the continued survival, let alone success, of companies within this sector.

As such, companies have realised that their processes, their products and even the reason for their entire existence needs to change in order to survive this revolution. However, the C-suite are struggling to adapt because this isn’t a clearly defined problem and there isn’t a historical precedent to follow.

The finance sector’s process for dealing with change 

In days of old, a business problem would have been identified and a decision would be made to implement a technological solution.  With the recommendation approved, the C suite, usually the Chief Technology Officer, would be tasked to deliver the project.  This suited all the C suite members as it meant that the expertise of each member of the executive was clear and there was a clear delineation between their roles and responsibilities.

What fascinates me, especially in the finance sector, is for those established companies who historically have dealt with change (especially in the digital or technology space) by acquiring companies to utilise their technological systems and processes, this ‘traditional’ process for dealing with a changing marketplace is no longer as straight forward as it used to be. 

Why is this?  As I’m sure the reader is aware, the new fintech companies which disrupted the market, with their digital led strategy and processes, need to retain their cultural DNA to keep innovating and growing revenue.

But this doesn’t sit comfortable with the traditional model of acquiring a company and then integrating them into the processes of the buying company.  The strengths of the new fintech company are being put at risk by this absorption and integration such that the company is potentially putting at risk the positive benefits for the acquisition.  

The question is then posed for the acquirer, how do you integrate the new processes with all their benefits into the existing processes in an environment where the incumbents will be treating both the new company, new processes and new technological with a  level of disdain and certainly a high level of suspicion, they are after all companies that have been leading the finance sector for many years

The role of the C-Suite

That mission sits squarely at the feet of the C Suite.  Their role is to provide strategic direction for the company, understand the opportunities for the business and shape the vision and direction in order for the wonderful people who work for that company to deliver in their specific areas and for these people to see the challenge of change as an opportunity to develop and grow.

This moves the discussion at a C Suite level away from a technological based discussion, away from a place where there might be reticence due to an individual’s relationship with technology to either be part of the discussion or even worse, not commit to their viewpoints as they defer to other who they view as experts.  It moves the transformation away from digital to strategic.

Delivering digital transformation is about building a strategic path

But digital transformation is nothing to do with the build and delivery of the systems, it is nothing to do with the evolution of the business processes to work with the new transformed business, but it is everything to do with the strategic path that the company needs to take in this new era.

The fourth industrial revolution, where change is happening at an ever increasing pace, requires the C Suite to have a clear understanding of critical milestones from a business perspective, with diversity of business views based on expertise and experience, to ensure large scale digital transformation programs stay on track to deliver the requirements for the survival, growth and success of their business.

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