6 Ways Financial Services Leaders Can Drive Innovation

Innovation is key to any organization’s future success, but it’s especially true for financial services organizations. So why isn’t innovation faster? Is your business at risk of being left behind?

In the mid-2000s, I was on a lunch conference with an executive from a major social platform, who was asked about a promising competitor. The answer was, in my view, short-sighted; it went something like this: “We don’t care about them; it’s for college kids and people have profiles, photos and great networks of friends on our site. They won’t want to start over somewhere else.

The executive was wrong about that – very, very wrong. The financial services sector is at a similar tipping point and technology-based innovation will lead the way.

What advice would you give to business leaders for working with their technical managers?

What can you do there? Ask yourself: Are your business leaders and technical managers slowing you down? Is collaboration too difficult? Is the alignment out of sync? We often hear frustrations from Red Hat customers about just getting things done and hear statements such as “Why can’t IT just get me what I need?” or “The sales team isn’t listening.”

We asked former financial services IT pros who now work for Red Hat for tips on how financial services business leaders can work better with IT managers and respond to their needs more quickly.

[ Read Part One of this article series: How to ward off the Great Resignation in financial services IT. ]

The original question was simple: “What advice would you give to business leaders for working with their technical managers?” Consider this information:

1. Stop talking about what you need the system to do

Technical teams want to deliver the best results to their customers, so telling them what the systems need to do can limit the potential and can provide you with a less impactful result. Tell IT teams what you need for customer experience and let them explore the best options. This allows you and your customers to succeed.

“Treat the relationship as a partnership rather than a supplier. Ask questions, engage and set common goals. -Eric Marts, Sector Lead: Banking, Red Hat

2. Change your perception of the strategic role of IT

IT is not a sunk cost, it is an essential part of your competitive environment. Taking this slight shift in perception can change the way you interact with your technical teams. Seeing them as part of business strategy can open up conversations about goals, new ideas and better results. Ask yourself: without the technology provided by your teams, what would the customer and employee experience be like? Would you even be in business?

“Realize that you are all working to solve business challenges, and each brings different insights to the conversation – and that collaboration, where everyone can contribute, will result in the best solution.” -Emery Freeman, Solutions Architect, FSI, Red Hat

3. Be the real IT partner

If you answered the question above, I would ask the following question: is it ridiculous to consider the IT organization as your partner? If you can really partner with your technical leaders and be transparent about the short and long-term priorities of the business, they can help you set the strategy. This helps IT managers determine what needs to be built today and how to build it, to help you in the future when business needs change.

“There are a variety of opportunities to collaborate with external partners, but IT needs to be a close partner. Include them in early strategy meetings so they can develop solutions for consistency, security, and scalability while meeting compliance and regulatory requirements. -Alessandro Petroni, Director, Head of Global Strategy FSI

4. Provide assistance by removing obstacles

Ask your technical teams what they need and what makes the job more difficult. Often the old ways are ineffective. The “it has worked in the past” model may still be true, but is that the only way to do it? New working methods can allow a faster and more innovative result. Listen to their needs and help them solve them together. Remove obstacles so they can do their job.

“Take the time to understand the current workload of the people supporting your efforts. Knowledge transparency will allow for realistic planning and expectations. -Mark Dlugokencky, Head of North America FSI Consulting, Red Hat

5. Understand the basics of technology

Your IT teams don’t expect you to understand bits and pieces of technology, but learning the basics will allow you to share a common language. Strive to understand at a high level how key technologies such as hybrid cloud, automation, and containers work, and the benefits they can bring to the business. It can save time, frustration, and delays in meetings and project deadlines.

“Addressing conversations with ‘help me understand’ empowers IT leaders to talk to systems that improve speed, scalability, and alignment with organizational goals.” »

“Addressing conversations with ‘help me understand’ empowers IT leaders to talk to systems that improve speed, scalability, and alignment with organizational goals.” – Jamil Mina, Chief Financial Services Architect, Red Hat

6. Include IT in your business strategy from the start

There is no banking business today that works without technology. Technology is essential to the design of your business and your new offers. IT must be included in the design of the business from the start, otherwise your possibilities have been limited from the start.

“Structure your team to be able to manage the whole bank and build this whole business strategy around how technology is integrated into the model. The way to do this is to include technology in the strategy from day one. -Vincent Caldeira, APAC Chief Technologist, FSI, Red Hat

How to Create Better Alignment

Do your teams already practice these best practices? If so, great. You are on the good road. But are you sure that they are really experts on these tips? If not, now is a good time to reach out. Consider these improvement tips:

1. Collect Feedback

Ask an employee – whom others trust – to set up a way to submit truly anonymous feedback. Then share the results and collect feedback on ways to improve. This can involve an online form, a shared document, or even a jar with scraps of paper. Challenge them – if you get 50 suggestions, for example, the team gets a prize. It may sound silly, but it works. People want to share, but your best employees may not want to “cause trouble” or feel like they’re complaining. An anonymous approach allows teams to share openly.

2. Contact your technical teams directly

The technical teams have probably already done this. When development teams and operations teams need to start working more closely together due to advances in technology and new ways of working (such as DevOps), they learn lessons that can be shared.

3. Celebrate wins

During programs, ask for submissions from all groups on something that went really well. As a CIO or business leader, you can not only learn new things, but also see who the most outstanding members of the team are. (This includes both the submitter and the recipient of the “good job.”) It helps you identify future leaders while building camaraderie.

Our former IT professionals in the financial services industry say they have now learned to collaborate in new ways and have always said they wish they had learned these skills sooner. Let your teams be your greatest asset, not what slows down your innovation.

[ Want to learn more from the financial services professionals interviewed for this article? Get the ebook: Meet the Bankers. ]

Stephen V. Lee