Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying something like “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It was attributed to him, probably incorrectly, by Ford boss Mark Fields. What Drucker – one of the few truly original management thinkers – did say is that culture is remarkably persistent, and you should actually try and change behaviour, based on the existing culture.
Financial services companies have tried to change customer behaviour in the past: banks have persuaded customers to use ATMs rather than branches, and to move their spending to credit cards rather than cash. In the US, with apologies to Douglas Adams, people are so amazingly primitive that they still think chip & PIN is a pretty neat idea: banks there are busy moving people away from signing credit card slips, for improved security. These changes so far have tended to favour both parties, and have been gradual and predictable.
What is happening now, though, is that customer behaviour is changing faster than ever before, and the speed of that change is outside the control of incumbent businesses in financial services. The customers of banks and insurers are learning to expect service anywhere via their phone, they expect easy access to information, they are trading their personal information for services, and they are learning to expect a high level of quality for free. When their banking app isn’t as good as Strava‘s, or their insurer doesn’t use their information to help them in the same way as any online retailer does, they are disappointed. When they are disappointed, they are easy game for new entrants.
Drucker’s statement is therefore turned on its head. It is not about businesses changing customer behaviour; it is about customer behaviour changing an entire industry. The defining factor in how fast things change is not the technology but the behaviour enabled by that technology Where fintechs are winning, it is because they are leveraging this new behaviour and using it to access customers.
To end with another quote, this time from Jack Welch: “if the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”. This is the challenge and opportunity facing financial services: learn to change as fast as your customers are changing. Just like that river, you’ve got to keep running.
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This article originally appeared on Paul Mitchell’s LinkedIn profile here, and is used with permission.
Paul Mitchell is an Account Director at PwC South Africa, where he also heads up the FinTech and Blockchain division for the company. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.