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Changes in the Financial Services Sector

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In our Leaders on Leaders series, Karen Greenbaum explores today's top trends impacting global leadership with leaders from the worlds top executive search and leadership advisory firms.

In this episode, Karen speaks with Louisa Wong, Chair of Global Sage, about innovation in financial services.

Below is a brief excerpt.

KAREN: Thank you for joining us Louisa. Let's begin with you telling us about Global Sage.

LOUISA: Yes, Global Sage is a global boutique along industries and sectors. We are a global firm and yet are very nimble in using technology and have consultants who can really work across time zones and industries. Therefore today, as you know, the financial services industry requires talent that are very global in nature, so being global is also very important for us.

KAREN: When you think about the top organizational challenges that business leaders face in financial services, what do you see are those biggest challenges?

LOUISA: Yes, I think the biggest challenge is how to address the legacy of doing business while the customer becomes so much more demanding and aware. Speed of delivery and ease of access and cost of product are now very key. The previous war between bank, insurance, asset managers are now all melting into each other and are not so clearly defined and delineated. So a shortage of all these talents in some areas means leaders have to think laterally and outside the box. So I think that this is much more challenging for international firms that have much more legacy of boundary within the organizations.

KAREN: That must make it particularly challenging finding the right people with new roles because they’re not always in obvious places?

LOUISA: Yes. You have to think about whether you can attract those talents from outside organizations, which are much more digital in their mindset already, and then melting them into your own organizations. Or, you’re trying to coach and develop and mentor your existing people who can be a lot more digital in their mindset. Both need to be explored by our clients- some are more successful in one and some are successful in others, but I think that you need to have what I call melting with the old and the new and the new into the old.

KAREN: The old into the new and the new into the old. Tell me a little bit more about that.

LOUISA: For example, I think that companies now need leaders who put the customer first, an innovator who understands the opportunities that technology can bring, and also be a visionary who can certainly infuse that technology into a new customer-focused approach. So these really need the old and the new because the old obviously understands the traditional - how banks and how companies work together and how we can actually make things happen - but the new always brings fresh ideas and being able to understand the customer and how customer-first works. Both of them need to be visionary and work together to try to meld technology into a traditional way of doing business and trying new ways of doing business. I think the client is also looking for a new leader from outside who is seen as 'best in class' or someone who stands out, and they’re not really staying internal for this kind of new breed of talent. I think that being able to meld that new talent into the - you cannot really change the organization completely at one time, so I think that you’ll see that the leader today is being able to change themselves first and being able to work with a diversified talent flow as well as being able to lead while making changes. These are all very difficult.

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