Lisa Moyle, Director of Strategy at VC Innovations, discusses the disruptive market of financial services, and she explores what it means to seek out and embrace innovation, whether you’re an incumbent or a startup.
Tell us about your role with VC Innovations
I’m director of strategy for a startup in the media space called VC Innovations. I’m also one of the co-founders. What we do at VC Innovations is take the model that’s out there and support collaboration and partnerships and the incorporation of new technologies across the sector from startup to large tech providers to incumbent financial institutions and our philosophy is that there’s a much better way of creating positive results and that’s the role that we see ourselves playing in the sector.
How has the financial space changed in the last 10 years surrounding technology?
The pace of change has increased dramatically. In terms of what I think some of the most significant changes are, I think it’s the extent to which the barriers to entry into the financial services sector have come down dramatically. Now there’s a combination of factors involved there, one of which is access to technology that enables you to kind of leverage that technology and create new businesses and so on. The cost of that has come down dramatically.
In the UK in particular, I would say that there has been a concerted policy effort, which is being mirrored and replicated in many places around the world to create more opportunities to enter the sector and ease that journey of innovators into what has been a largely closed sector dominated by a few large players.
How do you define what digital innovation means? Surely it means something different for every business?
Technology has always been a key driver in the financial services sector if you think about things like algorithmic trading and certain levels of automation within the industry, it has been happening for a very long time. I think the speed of adoption of technology has changed so rapidly, which has left some of the incumbent players behind because they are unable to adapt to that speed of change as rapidly as the small, nimble startup.
I don’t think innovation is just about technology. Technology is an enabler, but it’s what you do with it. So if you’re just going to do the same thing in the same way, but maybe use some new technologies, that’s not real innovation. When you’re offering consumers and businesses new products that are enabled by technology that didn’t exist previously, to me that’s real innovation and then delivering it in a different way. It’s really about the impact rather than how you do it.
How can you stay ahead of this changing landscape?
It’s crucial. You can see in industries where incumbent players, whether it’s in financial services or other industries, haven’t adapted and they find themselves out of business. I think there’s lots of examples throughout history of companies that, even if they’ve seen what’s coming down the line, haven’t been able to adapt or refocus their industry in a way that allows them to continue and succeed.
Technology is part of that, but it can be driven by so many macro factors, whether it’s demographic shifts, preference, the ways in which people organize themselves and go about their daily lives, the way they work, how they live. These are the kind of things that you’re tracking all the time and technology is an important driver. So you have to look at how you do that and this is where VC Innovations plays a role.
What role will VC Innovations look to continue to play in this sort of disruptive and transformative time?
We work with key stakeholders from across the industry, whether they’re startups, large technology providers, incumbent financial institutions and so on and we think about their role in the ecosystem, how that’s evolving, what their own strategy is. There isn’t one strategy that applies to everyone. Each entity is charged with and responsible for thinking about what their strategy and their place in the ecosystem will be and we work with them to support them in achieving their goals.
Obviously nobody knows their business better than the people who are running it. But when you’re a part of a larger community and ecosystem, there’s a lot of important learning that goes on. So what does that mean in practical terms? If I’m a startup, for example, I may start out my journey by thinking I’m going to change the world. I’m going to just intermediate what a large financial institution does and so on.
I may quickly realize that that’s a very difficult journey for a startup to go on, particularly in the financial services space where regulation and compliance play such an important role, and that my better route to market and to scale is to partner with an incumbent financial institution. That’s certainly something that you’ve seen over the last five plus years where the conversation has slightly shifted to ‘I’m going to take you on to I’m going to work with you.’ That partnership and collaboration piece is really important.
It’s not something for many incumbents that comes naturally. It’s not the way that they’re used to working and it’s not the way that their institutions are organized. So there’s some real challenges in there that need to be overcome, but it’s certainly become a key driver of change across the industry. I think that shift has been really important across the industry.
What about a cultural shift amongst the people within these organisations?
Technology only gets you so far. Understanding what is a very complicated and complex industry in many ways serving a wide variety of complicated needs for consumers and businesses takes years of experience and understanding. So it’s not just a case that technology washes away all the need for that understanding. People are very much enmeshed in their institutions and the way in which they work and adopting new technologies.
These are smart people we are talking about. They’re not dumb. They understand the workings of a complicated industry. Often they understand what technology means. But actually putting that into practice when your institution is devised in a particular way that your employees are rewarded or commended for performing in a different way within that institution requires a real shift. You have to enable people to work in a different way, which means they need support right from the top.
Is it common to see business following industry trends rather than their business needs?
That kind of change is always risky, but not changing is riskier. I mean ultimately, what we’re talking about here is the ability to deliver better products and services at a lower cost. So incumbent financial institutions come with a history of data and understanding their customers and being enmeshed in particular communities. They don’t always use that knowledge to best effect, but not moving is not an option.
Standing still really in this type of tech driven world it’s really not an option. In addition, the world is always changing. As I said earlier, the way people work, the way they organize themselves, the way they live, there are always these overarching trends that any business has to stay aware of, stay on top of, because inertia never really works out really well.
How does VC Innovations work with these ecosystems of organisations?
We tend to frame what we do around kind of three key levers. So one is around content. We feel that the message of what you do as a business and what you’re trying to achieve in this kind of online digital world is driven by content, right? Not just being hit with sales messages or billboards. That’s still part of everyone’s strategy. But that kind of informed thought leadership that’s underpinned by content.
We work with our partners first and foremost on a content strategy. Whether that involves thought leadership pieces, reports, what have you, and support them in reaching that group of people that they want to receive that message, right? So not just throwing it out there into the ether.
Everything we do is underpinned by content. Content is what helps drive the creation of communities. We would use content working with a variety of stakeholders and clients to drive interest and ignite the imagination of would-be innovators and people who are already in that space to think about this target market of the over 55 who are often kind of overlooked by innovators. And then we, with the kind of creation of those communities and they could be startups, regulators, what have you, policy, policy makers, financial institutions. So once you have this interest in community that could be brought together through various forms of content, we then look to create experiences for our clients. By experiences we mean an industry level event or a small breakfast briefing, bringing people together over the journey from content creation of community to the experience allows each stakeholder to understand what the other key drivers are. That understanding is really what forms the base of being able to work together or successfully reach your end buyers. That’s a really important way that we think that drives the ecosystem closer together.
Talk to me about the importance of knowledge sharing
It won’t surprise you to find out that I think it’s crucial. There is no single path to success. Understanding your industry is a constant and never ending project. These industry events , the content and all the other stuff is a really important way of doing that. Information, understanding, all of that is driven by human interactions and seeing what else is out there.
What advice would you give to a fintech, a start-up or an incumbent, with regards to embarking on a journey of transformation?
Take a good hard look at who’s been successful, but probably even more importantly who hasn’t, and understand where it fell over for them. I think the stories of failure are in many ways so much more educational than the stories of success and always, always, always have your end customer needs at heart.