The Certainty of Uncertainty

The certainty of uncertainty


Unlike some who work in financial services, we’re not in the business of making predictions. And that’s not because we don’t have a view on what we think the world will look like 12 months from now – we’d just rather keep those views to ourselves!


The internet is littered with “What’s Going to Happen in 2021” posts. It’s remarkable how many people and companies keep producing them, despite the fact that most of what we think about the world won’t come to pass in the coming 12 months. The only certainty is uncertainty itself.


An extraordinary year


2020 provided the perfect proof. What we assumed would happen, didn’t. Predictions turned out to be futile. No one saw that coming.


We’re not saying that one shouldn’t make assessments and plan for what the future might hold. But there is a difference between predicting what specific events will happen and coming up with a few guiding thoughts that might be useful during the coming 12 months. The former is didactic and narrow. The latter, sympathetic and open-minded.


Weathermen, financial traders and political pundits are paid to predict the future, sometimes extraordinarily well, given their often inconsistent levels of success! But that’s not our job. We focus on helping clients to navigate events in real time, coming up with solutions that do sometimes attempt to predict significant developments, but are put into action as we work side-by-side with our financial services clients to navigate events as and when they unfold.


A little light on the horizon 


The feeling we have right now is that 2021 is filled with promise. After what we all endured last year, global momentum and mood seem to be largely positive, with the second half of the year, especially, laden with the potential for the world to return to a variant of pre-COVID normality. And this normality should boost confidence and growth.


But those promised lands feel distant at present. As we put this piece together, each of the UK’s devolved nations is in some form of COVID-enforced lockdown and political division seems to be only deepening in the US. A happy new year it is not, and whilst the horizon may look a little brighter, there is a way to go before we get there.


An upturn for financial services


Yet, looking to the long term, 2021 remains full of promise for many reasons. As Mark Curtis said when introducing Fjord Trends 2021: “Throughout history, after a global crisis, a new era of thinking begins.” And it’s with that spirit of adventure and curiosity that we move into 2021, both as a company and in how we’re thinking about helping clients in financial services.


Once vaccinations are in wider circulation and COVID has calmed, a period of growth in financial services should return. Organisations must position themselves for when this time comes. They mustn’t get left behind during times that will inevitably be filled with rapid change.


A few thoughts to ponder


Some parts of the path ahead look more certain than others and, whilst we don’t try to predict the future, we have spent a little time thinking about a few themes that financial services should be mindful of over the coming months.


  • Through 2021 and beyond, it’s likely that workforces in financial services will remain, for the most part, disparate and remote. Through necessity, we’ve learned that productivity can remain high without staff having to physically gather on a daily basis. But as this trend becomes more entrenched, the need for security will be higher than ever. All organisations must evolve their security solutions to suit how employees now regularly work on high value tasks from kitchens and bedrooms. Without keeping it up to date, it’s only a matter of time before serious security breaches bring growth to a halt.


  • Building on this theme, the customer-facing banking landscape looks to have changed forever too, with branch closures set to be a feature of the coming 12 months. Financial services organisations, especially more traditional firms who have attempted to stave off a full shift to technological solutions, will need to come up with innovative ways of servicing all customers – whoever they are, whatever their age, regardless of their tech proficiency – via platforms and apps. Organisations that adapt will thrive.


  • As more banking customers use technology, the trend towards data in financial services will only grow too. COVID-19 has added weight to the wave of data in financial services and the number of use cases for data is exploding. In a post-COVID world, organisations who have readied themselves for the data revolution will be well set to profit, whilst those who have stuck their heads in the sand will fall behind.


Our humble opinion


As strange as it sounds, we’re happy to admit we’ve little idea what’s going to happen in 2021! As per 2020, anything could happen. It’s why we leave predictions to weathermen.


But just like we expect temperatures to begin to rise come spring, a few general themes will guide our thinking in the coming 12 months. They help us to frame solutions for our clients, focusing on helping them to plot a course through the uncertain times ahead.


One thing we are sure of is that we’re looking forward to the challenges ahead, confident that with a little wind at our backs, we can make significant strides in helping organisations unlock the power of data. Whilst we’re not in the business of predictions, we’re cautiously optimistic about the future.

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