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Highly Effective Financial Technology Leaders use technology to create efficiency and reduce friction

Author: Colin Slight

Published date: 2021/07


In this third article in our series on the 7 habits of highly effective financial technology leaders we speak to Colin Slight of The Realization Group and Thomas McHugh, CEO and Co-Founder at Finbourne Technology about how they reduce friction and create efficiency in complicated processes.

Financial technology now underpins all aspects of our financial ecosystem, front to back within organisations, and as a connector of the financial markets community. In many cases, the pandemic highlighted the importance of financial technology. Technology, of course, underpinned successful remote working and collaboration across a number of industries. For financial institutions, however, a key differentiator of resilience and success arose from the extent to which they had adopted best-of-breed financial technology solutions, whether these were AI / ML based chatbots and other tools augmenting their sales and trading or compliance functions, cloud-based market data solutions, trading platforms and connectivity suites, or operational and process-driven automation solutions. 

For the general public as well, the availability of consumer-focussed financial technology in the form of mobile banking and payment apps, and other innovative financial products and services, eased the rapid transition, during lockdown, towards a more digital and online-based economy. A common thread across financial technology firms is their constant pursuit of innovation and their desire to apply technology to the challenges, operational inefficiencies and barriers to market access and to optimal performance facing their customers, be they individual consumers or large institutions. One of the key advantages of technology is that it enables businesses to reduce friction and create efficiency in complicated processes

The ability to identify and effectively analyse the root cause of complex problems, in order to reduce friction and to create efficiency, is fundamentally important in the financial technology space. It’s a key leadership attribute when assessing client and market challenges and opportunities, as well as when turned internally, to focus on the organisation’s own areas for improvement. The transition to remote teams and to working from home, maintaining a collaborative and effective work environment whilst also recognising and dealing with the logistical challenges, was called out by all of our participants. 

For Thomas McHugh, CEO and Co-Founder at Finbourne Technology, a firm specialising in portfolio management systems and investment data management solutions, this is the single most important habit for a financial technology leader to have. However, it’s also one that has evolved and developed in new directions during the pandemic. “My immediate reaction was that this is all you’ve got to do as a leader, distilled down to its essence.  Everything else stems from it. But when I thought about it in the context of the pandemic, the world has completely changed. As a financial technology leader, your main job is to think about how your customers are served efficiently, how people can get what they need from your organisation efficiently, how you employees can efficiently get the answers and resources they need to solve the problems that they want to solve, how your teams are operating efficiently, and all the metrics and KPIs we have around those kinds of efficiency. Now, however, it’s become much more about making sure that people are on the same side and on the same team, so that we can build relationships both amongst our own team and with our clients that are strong, even if we’re only able to interact over Zoom. It’s through those improved relationships that we can maintain a focus on efficiency.”

The link between relationships and efficiency, particularly during the pandemic, is taken to the extreme for those who are trying to establish a new regulated business, new partnerships and relationships, and build a new team, in the midst of a series of lockdowns. Many entrepreneurs have found themselves in exactly this position of recruiting and hiring people they have never met in person. It has created many challenges in terms of building relationships but also some positives in terms of employees’ efficiency and focus. With no water cooler conversations at the office and the need to juggle multiple competing priorities at home, it can mean that everyone is more focused on the task at hand.