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I spend a lot of time speaking to global financial organizations —some of the world’s largest institutions — helping them understand what they need to do from an innovation perspective to stay ahead of fast paced change.

These talks are often aimed at the idea of “how do we need to transition our advisory services — as financial planners, investment advisors, wealth managers — to keep up with fast paced change?”

No where is that question more important than when thinking about the impact of technology and social networks on investing. Think about the change that the investment industry faces. We are witnessing the early stages of a massive transition of wealth from one generation to another. The numbers are staggering: we’ll see $12 to $18 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer In the next12 years (US GDP is $12 trillion) in North America; and by 2053, some $130 trillion will have moved from one generation to another.

When it comes to financial services, adopt change as a mantra and prepare yourself to reach, support and interact with Gen-Connect in new and different ways.

That’s a lot of money sloshing around — and much of it is going to a new, tech-savvy financial consumer.

This next generation — I call them Gen-Connect — continue to aggressively integrate technology into their lives; they’re busy researching health care, insurance, retirement planning and investment advice online, on Facebook and through other social channels.

So what do you do? Adopt change as a mantra and prepare yourself to reach, support and interact with Gen-Connect in new and different ways.

Here’s a list of innovation strategies I provided in a recent keynote for a major global financial institution

1. Focus on growth

With so much volatility in the financial sector, it’s all too easy to take your eye off of the “opportunity ball.”

Yet there are huge opportunities that surround us ; probably the biggest is that we are going to witness a massive intergenerational transfer of wealth from the baby boomer generation to their uber-wiredGen-Connect children. In every area of the world this is going to involve a requirement for a lot of financial advice. As I noted in my remarks for a recent keynote to a group of senior bankers: “Never before has the need for financial advice for Australians been greater; only 20% of Australians are currently getting professional advice.”The same holds true for North America.

That means there are tremendous opportunities for growth! For many, access to financial advice is still too hard and complicated – that’s why it’s a great time to innovate, in order to build market share!!!!

2. Structure for fast paced change

There are several certainties in the financial sector as a result of the impact of technology.

We will see more business model change as companies leverage technology to change relationships in the world of wealth management; we will see more sophisticated competition as a result, and continuous business model disruption with new, young upstarts that really know how to leverage technology and social network relationships. Combine this with continual shifts in consumer behaviour as we manage more of our money and investments using online tools — and speed things up with even faster technology-driven fast change, such as with the impact of mobile technologies.

What happens when ‘there’s an App for everything’ in wealth management? That’s what you need to keep up with!

3. Reshape brand messages faster

Clearly there’s a lot of fast-paced change in financial services , and it’s critical that financial institutions continue to reshape their brand at the pace of rapidly changing consumer perception.

Part of this has to do with how quickly volatility comes and goes. Noted Jim Buchanan, Senior VP of Consumer Marketing at the Bank of America in an article in Advertising Age, October 2009: “Six months ago, we were trying to re-assure the market and consumers that we are safe and secure….now consumers are telling us they’re not worried about those things anymore…..What they are interested in is ‘How can you help me manage my finances?‘”

Innovative organizations ensure that the brand message evolves at the pace of a world in which volatility is the new normal. As a financial manager, you must make sure that your brand and image are seen to be modern, up to date, and in tune with the brand expectations of Gen-Connect. You can’t be “your grandfathers’ wealth manager” anymore.

4. Adapt to momentum of financial consumer change

Quite simply, the new financial client is online in a big way, and smart financial organizations will evolve their service and support message to these platforms.

The numbers are staggering; in the case one recent keynote I provided for a major financial institution, I emphasized that:

    • 147 million people interact globally on social networks via their mobile phones – we can expect 1 billion within five years!
    • usage of Twitter continues to grow at a staggering pace — and people spend more time on Facebook each week than they do on watching television.
    • they spend far less time reading newspapers and magazines in paper fashion — and in fact, some don’t look at such products at all!

The result of this i that they are increasingly influenced by advertising, marketing and branding messages that they see online. If you are still trying to reach out to them through traditional media, you might be missing them altogether.

It’s not just about marketing — it’s also about customer support. The entire world of customer support has gone online, and you need to be able to support them in the world to which they are accustomed.

The bottom line for financial and investment advisors is that social networks are an extremely effective tool to keep core clients in the loop; as an outreach tool, they’re fast, effective, unique, quirky, and certainly the story of the day. Financial advisors have to go where the client is going, and should be thinking about how to become socially-networked oriented advisers. Given regulatory issues, that can be a big challenge!

5. Adjust platforms to this changing behaviour

I continue to emphasize with my global financial clients that the impact of mobile technologies on financial services is absolutely massive. Think about Wizzit, a South African service that is essentially a text message based banking system.The reality is that the new financial consumer expects to be served on new platforms: as noted by Thomas Kunz, Senior VP at PNC Financial: “Gen-Y does not reconcile chequebooks  and they don’t believe in float. For them, their balance is their balance.”

That’s why PNC has released a “virtual wallet app” available for iPhones. They’re reaching out to this new financial consumer in a big way. That’s why every organization is scrambling to keep up with “Appworld” particularly considering that Apple sold 3 million iPad 3′ within the first 3 days of release.

Aggressive change with business platforms provides big opportunity for business model disruption. A key factor here has to do with new client acquisition: what’s happening is the point of origination of the relationship might change as people transition their banking to mobile devices. Opportunity can come from continuing to build the advisor and distribution channel into these new platforms.

And that’s not a threat – that’s a huge opportunity!

6. Leverage off of new peer-to-peer behaviour trends

The new financial consumer relies more than ever before for advice from their social networks. Peer-to-peer social driven advice through sites such as TradeKing is coming to the forefront: it’s a service that allows people to share stock tips and research through extended social networks.

Does this diminish the role of advisory services — not at all, if you drive in and become a part of the peer-to-peer conversation!

7. Re-orient distribution channels

Here’s another key point: I’ve emphasized to my insurance and other financial clients that the next-generation advisor/broker/agent expects ever more sophisticated technology platforms to help support their role.You’ve got to make sure you are keeping up with their needs.

In one survey in the insurance sector, 80% of brokers indicated that the sophistication of the technology platform of the provider would influence who they would choose to do business with.

According to Kevin Murray, EVP and CIO at New York-based AXA Equitable: “The younger generation of financial professional will almost demand online self-service….they will want to text any questions they have into the service centre or self-service from their mobile device. We’re going to have to be able to provide that capability. It’s how they will operate.”

8. Build your own peer-to-peer collaborative knowledge networks

The new financial advisor is also thinking socially, and is actively looking for peer-to-peer collaborative knowledge. Imagine building a financial advisory team that is collaborative for ideas, share insight on market wins, constantly leverages insight from new branding campaigns that work in unique ways, and constantly shares great idea son new methods of converting leads into clients — that’s how this next generation works!

Back to Kevin Murray: “They will also want an online collaboration tool to …find answers concerning product or questions from their customers. The X and Ygenerations are going to demand a different way of selling and servicing their customers.”

What’s it really all about? Freeing up their time to build opportunity, make sales, close deals.

9. Reduce churn through electronic relationships

Here’s something else to think about according to Chief Marketer (October 2009), “The average brand saw one third of highly loyal consumers in 2007completely defect to another brand in 2008“.

People are far less loyal, and far more likely to jump ship at the drop of a hat. That’s why continuous innovation in terms of the relationship is critical — and that’s maybe why continually transitioning to new technology platforms such as an iPhone app might reduce that churn

10. Better, more focused niche marketing

We’re in the new era  of analytics and analysis, which provides new opportunities for advisors to reach out to markets previously unattainable. As noted by Money Management Executive in October 2009: “Financial advisers generally prefer to manage a small number of high-net-worth clients rather than a large number of small accounts, but recent advances in automation technology could change this dynamic.”

11. Evolve the approach

Insurance and financial advisory services are products that are always sold based on fear — they aren’t bought.

This reality doesn’t go away because of new technologies. What does change is that technology is a powerful enabler that frees advisors forum having to focus on the mundane, routine, time wasting stuff, in order to focus on providing the advice & guidance that advisors can provide. Focus on the core role!

12. Enact change

Many advisors will be in comfortable, established routines. Change is not easy. That’s why organizations in the financial sector that are trying to be innovative need to help existing advisors focus on the opportunity and the benefits that come with rapid change, rather than being fearful of the change that technology is bringing to the industry.

Bottom line? As I sum up in many of my keynotes — “Innovative organizations make bold leaps, in order to keep up — and stay ahead —of a faster future.

Jim on stage in West Palm Beach, Florida, with a keynote for the Personal Care Products Council. He’s just been asked a question about of his previous observations that new workforce dynamics might drive faster innovation.

For more on Jim’s insight on this topic, check the Gen-Y & Gen-Connect category of this blog.

Kids today spend some 7.5 hours a day engaged with some type of media; with with multitasking, that’s 11 hours of screen time per day, or almost  53 hours a week, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation!

That’s more than a full time job, and more time than their parents spend at work.

Here’s a video clip where Jim was the opening keynote speaker for the 2010 US Navy, Air Force & Marine Child Youth Program Conference in Dallas, Texas, putting these numbers into perspective and speaking to the new realities in providing support services today.

Innovation isn’t critical only in business — every type of organization must try to do things differently in a world of fast paced change.

Here’s Jim speaking at the 2010 US Navy, Air Force & Marine Child Youth Program Conference. He was asked to challenge the audience — child youth experts and counsellors on military bases worldwide — to think about innovation in the context of the youth and parents that they serve.

Clearly the demands, needs and forms of interaction with both parents and alike are undergoing significant change as the next generation of parents on military bases – lets call them “Mom 3.0” – comes to rely on technology to a greater degree each and every day.

obamaeconomy.jpgA reporter called yesterday, wanting to speak about the “Obama economy.” One of the questions: “what will really happen with the potential economic stimulus package?” Here’s how I took on the question:

  • Infrastructure: there is no doubt that there will be a significant national economic stimulus around federal state and municipal infrastructure spending. A key point to note is that we’re entering the era of ‘smart infrastructure’ ; for example, forthcoming roadworks projects will involve the implementation of a great deal of smart-highway technology, the development of which has been proceeding at a furious pace through the last few years. Similarly, rapid advancement in construction methodologies, particularly green-design concepts and energy management, mean a more sophisticated infrastructure spend.
  • Health care: the ramp up in spending as boomers impact the system is staggering, and this will perversely drive job growth at the same time it strains the budget: health care spending could equal 60% of GDP in some states within 10 years. Such stark realities are driving furious rates of business model, technological, structural and other innovations in healthcare, much of which were the focus of my keynote at the 4th Annual World Healthcare Innovation & Technology conference in DC last month. Such innovations and the necessity to fix a system in distress will drive a big variety of growth oriented markets/companies.
  • Environment: despite the slowdown, there is no pullback in major efforts to deal with challenging issues, all of which are driving this forward as a growth market. MacDonald’s is investing in a new company wide intelligent energy infrastructure management system, as a way of dealing with a $1 billion energy spend. They expect to reduce overall costs by 20%. WalMart has established an audacious goal to do away with all packaging materials by 2020, if not sooner; this is driving furious rates of innovation within manufacturing at packaged goods, consumer goods and elsewhere. There are countless similar initiatives, driven by the green-agenda, or driven by cost savings. The latter has taken on more urgency in the last few months; but the key trend continues to be that green-spending will continue to grow.
  • Industry reinvention: Think of efforts towards ‘Car 2.0’, which involves a fundamental reinvention of current transportation mindsets. There is a strong belief that we will see a reinvention of the auto industry as the restructuring occurs; particularly as Silicon Valley begins to laser-aim its focus at the next generation of business model. Other manufacturing industries will undergo a similar transformative shift as to structure, methodology and focus.
  • Insourcing: there is likely to be growth in other sectors of the American economy as a small percentage of overseas manufacturing is pulled back, due to American economic desire (i.e. increased American protectionism) as well as an increase in overseas risk. (Security issues, national stability (i.e. Thailand) and other factors.) In addition, fundamental change to health care costs/pension costs will result in a lower labor cost in the US, compared to the cost of overseas labor + risk.
  • The ‘Change Agenda’ of Gen-Y: this entrepreneurial generation will use the full force of their connectivity-oriented lives, during the next decade, to completely reshape the fundamentals of every industry — which will drive economic growth. They are technology aggressive, and will provide for significant transformation of business models, whether it be health care, insurance, financial services or manufacturing. I am doing a session for an insurance group in a number of weeks; we are focused on the dramatic impact that this group is set to have on the insurance industry. We can see a significant seismic shift in every other industry.

All in all, my view is that beyond a 3 to 6 month horizon, we start to see and realize areas of economic growth. I wrote about this in my “Where’s the Growth” trends perspective last year; I still cannot argue with any of the trends identified in that document.


09MonarchBanking.jpgI just finalized my review of the entries for the 2009 Monarch Innovation Awards; for the second year in a row, I’ve been one of the panel of judges for the awards.

The awards are presented by Barlow Associates, a leading banking industry market research organization. As their press release notes, “the awards honor innovation in the financial services industry and seek to recognize financial institutions that provide the most innovative products to business customers and to recognize risk takers who create/promote innovation within their organizations.”

Given all the turbulence in the financial sector, it might seem like an odd time to be focusing on innovation – but it’s not. Cast your mind forward just a few years from now, and think about what we’ll see within the business banking sector:

  • a good part of our financial infrastructure will have migrated to mobile platforms people will think it normal to conduct banking via SMS transactions; a good chunk of the current credit card infrastructure will have migrated into our cell phones, Blackberries and iPods;
  • Gen-Y will have a different type of financial relationship, and are likely to use those financial brands that “stay ahead” in terms of technologies, capabilities and other factors;
  • existing banks will find their markets and brands increasingly challenged by technology companies, particularly mobile platform organizations, as well as disruptors from other industries such as accounting and ERP software companies
  • we’ll see increasing financial sophistication in the small and medium sized business sector; the ability to scale internationally financially will become an increasingly important success factor, and this trend will be one of the key drivers behind the coming economic recovery

That’s why awards like the Monarch Innovation Awards are important; they celebrate the heroes who are still busy innovating, staying ahead, and positioning their organizations for the future – because they know that trends like these will provide for significant market and business opportunity in the future.

I referred to them before when I wrote my Memo to the CEO some time back, pressing a message that as CEO’s of financial organizations navigate the turbulent water around them, they should ensure they also have a team that is firmly focused on future trends.


  • Read the Memo to the CEO
  • Reuters press release: Barlow Research Announces 2nd Annual Monarch Innovation Awards
  • You and I know that the headline on the left is going to run in newspapers and mainstream media one day. The BIG question is when.

    So what are the trends that will drive future growth? Off the top of my head, there are several:

    • growth markets will continue to emerge. Back in the 19th century, the head of the US Patent Office stated that “everything that can be invented has been invented.” Such silliness. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of new products, markets, industries and ideas being built and explored. The future isn’t over. It’s arrival has just slowed to a degree.
    • leaders in existing markets will grow through innovation. My own gut feel is that there are a lot of organizations out there approaching this recession differently. They’re innovating in their markets; they’re working on customer retention; they’re investing in customer service in order to keep competitive; they’re talking about how to grow in a down market. I’m certainly seeing this given my advance bookings going forward. People want to talk about innovation and the future. That’s a great sign that the recovery is underway.
    • health care will see significant transformation, not to mention spending: health care is transitioning to a system of predictive medicine. This is a huge, long term, 20 year trend, but has big implications with the emergence of new careers, industries, professions, and companies — DNA based medicine is a massive change. On top of that, the mere level of spending that is going to occur in managing the looming health care crisis will drive all kinds of growth, though the funding part of the equation will remain a big problem. The result? Lots of innovative thinking as to how to solve huge problems with unique solutions.
    • green and energy will continue have more momentum. Some argue that the meltdown will defer everything having to do with these two efforts. I disagree; I think the corporate sector has discovered the cost benefit that comes from green projects, and so they will continue to invest, which will drive innovation. And I think globally, we’ve passed the point where people and their leaders believe that doing the same old thing as the past is going to continue in the future. I don’t see leading edge research into solar, wind, and other alternatives slowing down any time soon. And the fascinating thing is that there is a lot of backyard, garage tinkering going on right now, and that’s where the next product/market breakthroughs will come from.
    • technology will continue to hyper-innovate: I’ve got six generations of Blackberry’s that span about six years or less. They’ve got a slew of new products coming out just this month : they’ve got a very fast innovation culture. Likewise, iPhone’s have become the coolest fashion statement on the planet for the younger demographic. The Internet-enabled thermostat I have in my home and chalet is the first step in a huge wave of pervasive connectivity. I don’t see hi-tech innovation and R&D slowing down. Indeed, during the last recession, some of the biggest innovations — the iPod — emerged from the minds of those inventing the future. There are a lot more billion-dollar markets still to emerge.
    • agility and flexibility will dominate: In the next several years, the manufacturing industry — globally and locally — will learn to do what Honda has done: focus on the rapid assembly and reassembly of capabilities, so as to more quickly change models and products to respond to fast paced consumer demand. As they do so, they’ll undergo a fundamental transformation in their thinking, structure and capabilities that will ensure their success.
    • the global idea machine will continue to influence innovation. Look, the Internet continues to have a profound impact on everything we do. Scientific discovery is speeding up; new discoveries continue to go forward at a furious pace. Eco-building design concepts are debated, shared, and then go global in an instant. From the global mind comes unprecedented innovation, new products, new companies and new industries.
    • the next generation takes over. The boomers are a dispirited bunch right now; there’s not a lot of passion and enthusiasm with some of them to change the future, particularly given the status of their 401K’s. Some in the younger generation are witnessing their first ever generation, and its’ probably pretty terrifying. (This is my 4th, so I’m an old hand at this.) Yet, they’re a hardy, entrepreneurial bunch, who have grown up with a mindset that inhales change, pursues multiple different opportunities, and collaborates like nothing we’ve ever seen before. I think they’ll shake things up pretty quickly.
    • A faster world happens, well, faster. Simply put, faster news cycles means that people get through difficult periods faster, at least in terms of mindset. Re-read my post about the ‘7 stages of economic grief’ and share it around. Think about whether you think people are moving to the acceptance phase quicker. I believe they are, and I think this faster attitude shift, compared to a slower pace of acceptance in previous recessions, means that innovation will drive us out of this faster than we expect.
    • transformative thinking drives growth. Last but not least, we can’t discount the impact of a new American mindset upon the global economy. It seems clear that a decisive mandate has been delivered by the American populace that they want to rejoin the global economy, and want to work hard and fast to fix the problems that have resulted. Big change comes from big ideas sponsored by leaders with big dreams. Right now, we live in transformation times.

    I dunno, I’m hugely optimistic. How about you?

  • Where are you on the “Seven Stages of Economic Grief?”
  • QuickPoll.jpgOver the last several months, I’ve been incorporating some live text message polling into my onstage presentations.

    Yesterday, at an insurance industry conference, I put up a quick poll, and gave the audience three minutes to text message their answers in. It’s quite a bit of fun, because the results begin to appear automatically on screen — and are constantly, dynamically updated.

    Here’s what’s fascinating: out of a crowd of about 300 people, only about 25 managed to get an answer in! There were a few reasons for this; first, since the A/V screen wasn’t great, it was hard to see the text message number, and I actually called out the wrong number for the first minute and a half – until someone pointed out my mistake! But at the same time, it was obvious that a good chunk of the crowd — baby boomers and up — had no clue how to send a text message.

    I used that observation to point out to the crowd that they’re in a pretty dangerous spot if they don’t understand some of the tools that are fundamental to the life of their Gen-Y and Gen- Connect customers. Key message: if you are going to innovate, you better make sure you understand your customers. The next generation is going to demand a completely different, highly interactive “insurance experience,” and text messaging, Web 2.0 and other tools are going to be a part of that mix.

    To do these online polls, I’m using the Polleverywhere service, which offers a number of innovative mobile solutions, including a “text from your Web site” capability. Services like this are at the leading edge of innovation when it comes to linking the Web together with the vast world of text messaging. Recent estimates suggest that every day, there are more text messages sent than their are people on the planet.

    The quick polls, incorporated into a keynote on stage, whether with a group of 300 or 3,000 people, provide for a huge degree of interactivity with the audience, and provide for some really exciting dynamics on stage.

    • Polleverywhere Web site

    gen-connect2.jpgOne of my latest columns focuses on what will likely be the corporate issue of 2008 – managing generational challenges in the workplace.

    In the column, “Here we are now, entertain us,” I take a look at the unique attitudes that Gen-Connect is now starting to bring in to the workplace. There are several key observations from the article that are critical to understanding the future of the workforce:

    • What is clear is that we are witnessing the death of the long-term career and corporate loyalty, which will soon be but a quaint memory from the previous century.
    • I often tell the story of a young engineering graduate who turned down a job with an architectural firm because its 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work hours conflicted with the time he expected to be carving arcs into deep powder in the mountains. It’s a real attitude, and it’s already happening around us. The challenge, when such trends are so patently obvious, is trying to figure out what to do about it. And a good part of the solution will come through the transformation of rewards and remuneration.
    • Gen-connect has very little patience, particularly when it comes to being rewarded for good work or significant effort. These youngsters are used to instant rewards: their Xbox/Wii video-game-oriented world has them accomplishing a goal, moving up a level, and earning some points or other valuable form of currency that helps them accumulate additional armour, weapons or whatever else is needed to accomplish the game’s next challenge.
    • That’s why, at a recent conference, I framed the issue of rewards transformation to an audience of financial professionals this way: “Organizations that can attract, engage, retain and amuse an increasingly complex workforce will be the ones who find success in the rapidly evolving global economy.”
    • Put the emphasis on the word amuse. Today’s Gen Y doesn’t, and tomorrow’s Gen-connect certainly won’t, have any patience whatsoever for slow and steady career paths.

    Related postings:

  • Article: Here We are Now, Entertain Us
  • Related article: Don’t Mess with My Powder, Dude!
  • Keynote topic: What’s Happening with Our Workforce: Achieving Competitive Advantage Through Skills Agility
  • Critical Trends Analysis: 10 Unique Characteristics of 21st Century Skills
  • Can you innovate across the generations? If you can’t — then you’ve got a big problem to fix!

    I do a tremendous number of keynotes that focus on the issue of “managing millenials,” and the complexities of change occurring in the workplace. See, for example, my blog post, “Don’t Mess with my Powder, Dude.” (below)

    Yet organizations need to move beyond the staffing issues that come with new generations: they must also ensure that they can innovate at the rapid rates demanded in our new world, and they need to do that by keeping up with the new ideas and innovations occuring with younger staff.

    In this video clip, I take a look at the story of the “plasma people” and the “carboard people.” Innovation occurs when different generations — with different attitudes to change — can cooperate and see eye to eye, and take advantage of different strengths. In this clip, I tell tjhe story where this clearly wasn’t the case!

    This is a video clip from a recent keynote that I gave for hundreds of executives from the grocery and consumer products industries, titled Faster is the New Fast: Innovating for the New. High Velocity Customer . This story also became the opening chapter in my book, Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast.

    Related postings:

    • read Don’t Mess with My Powder, Dude!
    • Can you run your business at video game intensity?
    • High velocity retail innovation
    • Creativity, trends and innovation in retail, packaging & consumer goods

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