This week on The Buyer’s Seat, I interviewed Keith, former CIO at Scotiabank with over 25 years of tech experience, 15 of which were specifically in financial services.
One of the reasons that we wanted to focus on financial services for this podcast is that like a lot of industries, financial services had a bit of a wild and wooly year. They really started to engage more with a lot of technology providers, going all-in in a sense in digital transformation, even some of the folks who we would have considered sort of the traditional laggards. So today, we’re going to dive into what sort of year should those selling into the industry should expect in 2021.
And to help us think through that, we are pleased to chat with Keith about it. Keith is one of your technology buyers.
Here are four key takeaways from the conversation:
1. 2020 seems to have broken the ice on a few trends or accelerated those that had been in place for a while that we expect to continue in the future. Things like digital customer experience, people working from home, all the investments that banks are making in those things, we expect to continue. Cloud migration had been in place for several years and its breakthrough really started to get banks over some of the cultural hurdles or traditional things that might have been holding that up. For example, security concerns, skills, the people in your organization, the ability to function in that kind of environment, and just the cultural shift to an agile type environment where things are a lot more fluid.
2. From Keith’s perspective, it’s a good time to be selling to banks. There’s going to be a continuation of all those trends. People are still going to move forward with cloud. All those experiences will continue to be digitized. In addition to all that, the move towards data, Keith talked about data being the new oil. It’s the fuel for all of those things in digital transformation. Probably some new regulations on the horizon. Keith had shared that over the past year, regulators really tried to work with banks and be supportive in the down environment, but that will come and raise its head again. For sellers, that’s a good thing because regulation spurs a lot of spend.
3. So to get into those opportunities, networking is key and the really traditional, siloed way of managing IT is no longer. The vestiges of that have been destroyed and it’s much more cross-functional and collaborative in an agile, development environment. And so opportunities can come from anywhere, but you must be well-networked to see if you can cast a wide enough net.
4. Finally we talked about how to work with banks if you haven’t had the opportunity before. Keith’s caution was absolutely possible but just plan for a very rigorous and lengthy vendor management process (totally understandable when you think of some of the security breaches that are out in the marketplace now). There’s going to be extra scrutiny on letting some new providers in the house.
Panel Discussion Highlights
Let’s talk about cloud. Financial services gets a rep (maybe a well-deserved one) for being slow to cloud. How did all this impact migration?
Cloud is an interesting initiative. I think by now people have got to understand the benefits of the cloud. But, there’s a few myths that cloud’s always going to be cheaper. Well, it’s only cheap if your cloud operations are on the ball enough to make it cheaper. So I think there were a couple of areas that really had to be addressed. One was security. So if you look at 5/10 years ago when cloud was coming in and starting to be advocated for, security was still a huge concern. The number one concern in any business organization is ensuring the organization is secure and its data is secure.
So I think that the cloud providers and the companies like Salesforce, SAS, that actually provide software via the cloud, they’ve really come on leaps and bounds from a security perspective. So I think now the security concerns are being alleviated somewhat, and that the security teams within banks are now more embracing of cloud.
The other thing is basically skills. How do you get there? Do I have the right skills within the organization? I think that’s still a concern. So you really need to plan methodically how you’re going to move your current system landscape or service landscape to the cloud without impacting your current business model, or without impacting your current operations, because the whole idea’s about changing your business model, and moving that forward.
So are there other hurdles that might rear their ugly head to slow that down or do you think that the banks are going to continue to accelerate and remain cloud-first like they have for the past year?
There’s always the cultural part, right? So moving to the cloud or doing any kind of transformation project means a change in delivery practices. So from your cloud perspective, DevOps comes into play, agile delivery, DevSecOps, CloudOps, right? That all comes into play, and cultural change, in my experience, is the most difficult thing to do. So if your organization or workforce are really on board and are adaptable to change, then that becomes easier. But the cultural aspect will still come into play with respect to that.
So if you were a tech seller, this is all positive news, right? But how do you take advantage of that? So if you’ve got financial services clients in your portfolio and they’re starting to become cloud-first, how do you navigate the organization to start to take advantage of those things? Do you start in a business? Do you start with central IT or how do you find these opportunities mostly?
That’s a great question. So networking is a wonderful thing, right? So if you have a contact within a technology group, go in there. If you have a contact in the business, go in there. Now, what I will say is with, not just because of the pandemic, but financial technology spend has been governed by regulatory compliance for years now. So if there is a regulatory need and your organization can help the bank or financial institution meet that regulatory need, that’s a great selling point for you. But also, I think you have to differentiate yourselves from the other 20 vendors that are banging on the door saying we can do the same thing as these guys or we can do it better than these guys. So how do you differentiate that?
I know I mentioned networking’s a wonderful thing and if you know someone in tech, go in tech. But at the end of the day, the business will guide technology to make decisions that are going to benefit the business, whether it be a control need or a profit-making need. So if ever you can get someone on the business interested in your product, that can then go and work with their IT teams, that is key as far as I’m concerned.
And on that positive note, if you’re looking for more insights on navigating your buyer personas at your target accounts, you can connect with one of the thousands of advisors in our network from Fortune 1000 firms. Contact us here to see what an Emissary can do for your business.