Showing up with vision

Woody Allen’s quote “Eighty per cent of success is showing up” is a favourite amongst financial services people constantly exposed to dynamic markets.  But just how relevant is it to today’s more complex and challenged industry?

In 1977, the time of Woody’s famous quip, you’d have been mad not to show up. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did with their first Apple ‘personal computer kit’. George Lucas did with Star Wars, Jimmy Carter did and became US President, Malcolm Fraser continued to show up as PM, while ABBA showed up everywhere to become the highest grossing band.  Some did better than others, but each embraced opportunity and forged a path to success.

A generation later, after financial markets had scaled pre-GFC leveraged heights and toppled back to earth, Woody’s maxim grew as a popular war cry among markets folk.  The implied meaning was that during times of difficulty, those hardy enough to stay their course would reap rewards when markets rebounded. Plus showing up preserved jobs at a time when industry opportunities were hardly in abundance.

Arguably, success in today’s testy market is more about showing up with the right skills, attitude and will to adapt.  A thick skin in financial services can go a very long way, except at critical junctures where resolve and vision is needed in order to forge a new direction. Our government is a case in point, but I’ll leave that can of worms for now.

‘Showing up’ with a mindset of wanting to do the right thing for clients should be a no-brainer, but in the world of finance, this objective often competes with what is good for the shop.  When this focus gets too skewed one way or another, the model gets compromised.

The fact that the self-managed superannuation segment is now one third of the superannuation market reflects such an inflection point where investors are wresting control of their financial affairs from financial services providers.  Many are well equipped for this, but many are not.

Financial services companies that are innovating, recognising the need to adapt offerings, anticipating future issues, being part of the regulatory discussion and, most importantly, putting the client at the centre of everything they do, are far more likely to be those who succeed than those who just stay the course and tweak around the edges.

The former risk making mistakes, but the latter face the biggest mistake of all – complacency.

In Australia, there is a band of leaders affirming the industry’s fiduciary responsibilities and advocating real initiatives that aim to regain investor trust and re-invigorate fatigued employees.  It’s a big challenge they face, but with every effort they are advocating a different culture fit for 2013 and beyond.

They are showing up with vision – just like Woody Allen did.


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