To paraphrase Fun Boy Three in their 80s hit (and the 1939 original with Ella Fitzgerald), “It’s
not what you do it’s the way that you do it ... .that's what gets results”. In my time working in
financial services businesses, I’ve always considered it to be a fairly even split between the
‘what’ and the ‘how’ concerning product/service differentiation, client retention and,
ultimately, commercial success: The ‘what’ being the service or solution and associated key
features and functionality, the ‘how’ being what makes it stand out from the competition
concerning reputation, client engagement, user experience, time to market and service

In the last decade or so, with continuing and industry-changing technological advancement,
it seems as if that balance has shifted to place much greater emphasis on the ‘how’; how to
stand out from the crowd, how to scale a business appropriately, how to optimise
go-to-market strategies, how to gain more clients while keeping client churn low, how to
invest for continuing success.

Technology evolution continues to deliver opportunities to reduce and remove traditional
barriers to entry with respect to accessing particular target markets, and the typical
challenges associated with launching new products successfully. To illustrate this assertion:

Advent of The Cloud
The advent of cloud computing has not only delivered almost unlimited scalability with
respect to effective data storage and management, it can also remove the burden of high
capital expenditure and ongoing costly investment in building, deploying and maintaining
physical infrastructure and software ‘inhouse’.

Open-Source Software
Increased availability of open-source software and ‘software as a service’ solutions enables
the acceleration of development and lead times for technology-led solutions. This, coupled
with more agile delivery methodologies, has significantly shortened Proof of
Concept/Minimum Viable Product timelines, and this has been further accelerated by the
growth in low-code/no-code platforms and services.

Delivery “as a Service”
Continuing demand for and adoption of ‘managed’ services, initially Software as a Service
(SaaS) but increasingly embracing the broader and deeper spectrum of service delivery
including Infrastructure as a Service and Network as a Service, through to ‘Trading as a
Service’ - or outsourced trading - offered by a number of major firms such as TD Cowen.
What all ‘as a Service’ models have in common is that they reduce high upfront ‘set up’ costs
and rigid, often long-term, (high) fixed price contracts with much more nimble and flexible
subscription models. Often consumption-linked, you pay only for what you use, as you use it.

Low code/No code solutions
Ongoing development and adoption of low-code APIs and no-code platforms, along with
expectation and demand for greater system/platform interoperability, makes it much easier in
today’s world to switch service providers. The time for software vendor complacency based
on the cost and difficulty of making a different decision are long gone. Customers today can
very much “vote with their feet” when confronted with poor service delivery, whether in terms
of inflexible contracts, product performance or customer service.

The fact is that poor response times and slow delivery will inevitably result in higher churn
and negative Net Dollar Retention (NDR).

From a service provider perspective, the positive side of all of this technological advance is
that it is quicker and easier to gain traction and to grow incrementally. However, another
factor impacting the ‘how’ of commercial success in financial services has been the recent
change in the availability of ‘cheap money’ that has until relatively recently also been a driver
in the influx of new startups and fintechs.

The most significant impact of this change is that user/customer acquisition and growth is no
longer enough in and of itself; the old school “win customers first, monetise later” approach
has to be increasingly combined with a strategy that prioritises scalable, profitable growth
from out the outset.

We are also, I believe, entering a new - and significant - disruption phase in the form of AI
that will likely place even more emphasis on the ‘how’ with respect to further reducing
barriers to entry, particularly on the ‘go-to-market’ side of things where it has the potential to
accelerate a firm’s ability to establish a presence through clever and timely multi-channel
marketing and communications strategies designed for specific target markets.

The ‘how’ of AI adoption is however critical; as with any other ‘innovation’ referenced here it
is a potentially very valuable tool in the business development toolkit. On the one hand, its
use needs to be considered within the context of the broader business strategy and goals;
on the other, it requires appropriate expertise in its use with respect to content curation and
distribution. You might think of it as a sandwich, with AI as the filling that can facilitate and
accelerate certain business activities to provide more scale, reduce lead times and increase

There is little doubt that the industry has become a lot noisier and standing out from the
competition is a lot harder. We feel strongly that AI, used correctly, can be a key component
of much more dynamic, multi-channel marketing and communications strategies that also
fuel more dynamic, data-driven MI and much more accurate insights into customer
behaviours and user experiences. This is, in effect, the fusion of AI with business and
go-to-market teams. Used incorrectly, for example simply to create “me-too” content without
context, or to generate data without actionable insights, and you could end up lost in the

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