Ahead of CA Summit 2021, revisit the Inspire Chapter of last year’s event which saw a range of innovative and inspirational speakers discussing topics ranging from the effect of impact investing to the importance of self-purpose.
The CA Summit, held on 8 October 2020, brought together the brightest minds from the worlds of finance, academia and the technology industry to deliver a series of challenging, thought-provoking and truly motivational seminars to inspire ICAS Members around the globe.
The future flow of finance
Futurist and technology strategist Theo Priestly was joined by Feyzullah Egriboyun PhD, CFO of Vive Bank and Digital Behavioural Scientist Dr Jillian Ney for an enlightening discussion focused on challenger banks and how a deep understanding of your customers is paramount for mutual success.
Theo opened the session addressing the effects the pandemic has had on businesses and the habits of the world. The pandemic has changed the digital payments landscape with cash being pushed aside in favour of digital spending.
He observed that “the positive side of this is that the digital flow of money should make many aspects of finance a lot easier to manage to track, to process.”
However, the pandemic is exposing how fragile some parts of the economy is. Theo used the example of the vast increase in people involved the gig economy and freelancers putting pressure on the banks as they struggle to keep up with the requests for sole trader licences.
Theo also posed the dilemma of how financial institutions are going to help people and business that rely on cash in the future, as the system moves towards an increasingly digital landscape. He emphasised the importance of understanding their mindset towards, what is to them, a completely unfamiliar way of doing business.
Jillian echoed this sentiment by discussing her work in helping organisations understand their customers and creating a streamlined user experience for them. Her work has also seen her help companies build customer personas which help them better tailor their services to their diverse consumer base.
Using an example of a recent project with a credit provider, Jillian made an interesting connection between the behaviour of people who struggle to manage their debt with yo-yo dieters.
“What would happen is they would be living off their credit, something would happen in their environment and they would start to pay that back,” Jillian explained
“Then they would get so far along that journey and they would say ‘I’ve been really good so I’m going to buy myself this thing’ and it would start this cycle over again.”
The understanding of the personas allowed the company to change the way they treated these customers by augmenting their messaging to them, helping them to stay away from that debt cycle while improving the way they handle their money.
The power of purpose
Gaining a meaningful understanding of people’s behaviours and their strengths was a core theme of Professor Dan Cable’s session.
The Author and Lecturer at London Business School has completed extensive research into the role a company plays in its employees’ life and how that role affects their sense of purpose.
If done well, an employee’s recognition that they are making a positive transformational contribution to the company they work for can in turn drastically improve their performance and boost their mental wellbeing.
Dan said that business leaders should be viewing this as a form of non-financial remuneration for their employees.
“What do I do with most of my waking hours? I work,’ said Dan.
“If that’s not meaningful, then that’s a pretty crap life.”
Dan also provided practical examples of processes he has researched which have proven successful in improving this sense of positive self-worth and purpose in a workforce.
One such example was what Dan calls “a living eulogy system” where employers go outside of the team and talk to people’s family and friends, asking them to provide testimony of when that person was at their best. Those stories are gathered up and presented to that person.
“This is called self-affirmation,” explains Dan.
“It is essentially reminding people what stands out about them when they make their best contribution.
“We have really good evidence that this causes people to bring more unique value into the team making the team more creative and effective.”
Jason Harvie CA, Chair of the ICAS London Area Network and Investment Manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments, touched on themes of value in his session with Sir Ronald Cohen, the man who is widely known as ‘the father of social investment’.
Sir Ronald spoke of how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the advance of ESG and impact investment.
He explained that “people have become aware of the fact that we face really huge social and environmental challenges, and it doesn’t make sense to make investments in companies that are aggravating our position instead of finding solutions.”
Sir Ronald also put this shift in focus away from traditional investment portfolios, such as oil and gas, down to a more conscientious modern investor who looks at the impact of organisations.
“They are interested in investing in companies that improve our society and/or environment,” he said.
When investing in companies that are looking to make positive change, Sir Ronald said that investors should be safe in the knowledge that they are likely to deliver better returns than companies that are not.
“We reduce, when we take impact into account, the risk associated with consumers, investors and talent leaving companies that are creating harm.”
Sir Ronald ended his session with the prediction that accountants will play a key role in developing the future of impact accounting principles.
Technology in finance
The future of finance and a dynamic shift away from how society traditionally perceives value was a key strand of FinTech influencer, writer and advisor Chris Gledhill’s session.
Chris examined some of the foremost ideas in the tech and FinTech space that we should be aware of
and spoke about how financial services are not that good at adopting truly disruptive change.
Despite how well firms deal with disruption in the sector, Chris made it clear that seismic change is on the horizon.
The idea of data overtaking the likes of oil in terms of monetary value is not a new one; however, it remains a challenge to quantify data.
Chris said: “It’s very difficult to encapsulate data into a tradable asset, something you could lend or spend or save or invest. How do you do that with data?”
The rise in power of social media platforms and the expectations of those who use them is something which Chris believes will directly influence the future of finance.
He likened this to the discovery of the Higgs boson, or “God particle”, at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.
“In financial services, we have the unstoppable force of social media colliding extremely rapidly with the immovable object of financial services,” explained Chris.
What we understand a bank to be today is going to change drastically in the future with more focus on interactions across multiple channels to create a space where the consumer has more power over the services they receive.