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2014 marked phase one of the rehabilitation of the financial sector; the signal is up and the journey towards the creation of a reinvigorated sector in 2015 is about to begin.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel… hopefully it’s not a freight train!” Mariah Carey
In December 2013 the Chief Executive of the FCA, Martin Wheatley, highlighted the “overwhelming importance of achieving cultural transition in 2014.” Commenting that 2013 had been the year in which the hard work of starting to move the financial sector forward had dominated actions, he called for 2014 to be the year in which “clear blue water” set a demarcation line between the past and the future.
So where are we one year on? Well we’ve certainly seen the determination within the financial sector to change, to move towards a culture of doing things right rather than of short term profiteering; but at the same time a continued wave of reported scandals and fines has not done the sector any favours. If businesses within the financial arena are to regain the trust of the public and of investors there is still some way to go and in the meantime new players are knocking at the door, seeking to win custom with innovative products delivered across new digital platforms.
If 2014 therefore marked the time in which financial services sat on the station platform, packing done and ready and eager to start on its journey to pastures new then 2015 has to be the year in which the journey starts in earnest. No more delays and excuses, no more checking if you have the right ticket or even are setting off in the right direction. The time of toxic cultures, of recriminations and of revelations is past and the future is full of opportunity.
Where will the journey take financial services in 2015? One thing is certain; the financial world which emerges from this time of transition is going to be a very different one from that of the past. Digital platforms, social media and instant communication all lead the public to expect fast decisions, swift payment clearances and instant access to funds. But more than that, people are no longer prepared simply to take products offered on trust. So the call has gone out for innovation, for co-creation and for a move towards hyper-local products which target specific groups of people and businesses.
But whilst these are ‘grand scheme’ ambitions, new products and services alone are not enough to convince those who rely on the sector that culture and attitudes have changed. Undoubtedly there is a drive and determination to change emanating from the top of organisations. Equally, anecdotal evidence would say that those who are immediately customer facing are already looking to provide great customer service. But between the two there are still black holes, silos in which ‘me-first’ and ‘computer says no’ continue to hold sway.
That the journey has started is not in dispute. But the end goal which combines the provision of innovative products with exceptional levels of customer service won’t be reached until businesses complete a thorough root and branch resetting of their internal cultures. 2014 marked phase one of the rehabilitation of the financial sector; the signal is up and the journey towards the creation of a reinvigorated sector in 2015 is about to begin.