By Bob Ward, CEO, QUODD
For an idea of how the digital native generation behaves when faced with unintuitive technology, consider this scenario from our business school intern’s class exercise.
He is enrolled in a master’s program at a local college near Boston in a fixed-rate class that uses established or mainstream “terminals” to find information for classwork. During a recent assignment, the class groups struggled to use these terminals to find the information needed to complete the assignment. They struggled to use the application to get specific bond market data because the technology was counterintuitive to these digital-first students. The purpose of the exercise was twofold – to educate these students about the types of data they would encounter in a typical field finance job, and to familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of a manual command-based platform they would likely be using to generate it extract data in their daily tasks.
In honor of our intern, he looked for an alternative option and found a more modern platform that provides the same data, but with an intuitive interface and a straightforward process for querying, downloading, and sharing data. This allowed him to easily and quickly find the information he needed to complete the task.
Our intern’s experience shows how important it is for consumer-oriented companies to serve the generation of digital natives. This also extends to the corporate world and B2B environments.
As I reflect on where my company sits at the crossroads of financial markets, looking at the world through the eyes of the digital native generation has made me realize that many organizations in our world are staring at a real talent recruitment and retention crisis that is affecting the fundamentals of these companies.
Some may read this article and think it is an exaggeration. The imminent threat of complete disruption and alerting digital laggards is a tale all too many may be weary of. Blackberry thought the same. Among the systems and software that power financial services, for the most part, front-office applications have received the message and adapted accordingly.
But for many of the diverse players in the asset and wealth management ecosystem, the real risk comes to those who haven’t turned their attention to restructuring their back offices to accommodate tomorrow’s workforce. Centralization and accessibility of data are at the heart of the problem. Businesses thinking about the long-term success of their business and creating an environment where their people can thrive and fulfill need to rethink how their data is accessed, used and shared. While there are upfront costs associated with implementing a new system and investing in the time it takes to achieve success, such an investment will benefit a company’s business goals for years to come.
Of course, the platforms these employees use must also evolve to keep up with the modern workforce. While our business focuses on market data, this challenge is independent of the type of data we are talking about. This can be CRM data, internal proprietary data, third party content or other. Regardless of what it is, the fact is that in order for the new generation to be able to fulfill their roles more effectively and be a more valuable asset to their organizations, data must be centralized, accurate, timely, and most importantly, easily accessible through intuitive tools and interfaces.
Digital natives are becoming the heart of the (back office) workforce
Much has been written about digital natives and their impact on the workforce.
The influences of her everyday experiences with technology are also manifested in her working life. We are now conditioned to have all the information we will ever need in our pocket and to be able to access it at any time. The remote work movement played a major role in this. Certainly this isn’t exclusive to next-gen, but it’s now coming into a time where remote work is here to stay. It’s a movement that most people support. A recent McKinsey survey found that 58 percent of 13,896 employed respondents say they can work remotely at least part-time. And among respondents who were given the opportunity to work remotely, 87 percent have their employer take up the offer.
The next generation of workers is more critical than ever about the tools their employers give them to do their jobs. A survey conducted by David Stillman in his recent book, Gen Z at Work, found that 91 percent of digital natives say technological sophistication is a key factor in their decision to work for a company. If I compare that with a survey of one (our intern), I can absolutely confirm that.
The back office of the future – accessible, consumable, shareable
When planning a back office transformation to accommodate these large forces, there are three main considerations that arise when it comes to taking action.
Accessibility. The decentralized workforce is here to stay, which means remote, cloud-based tools must become the norm.
user experience. Due to modern influences, the way employees interact with technology has changed forever. Today’s workers are used to point-and-click interfaces. Legacy command-based market data systems that require extensive training run on borrowed time. I see a parallel to when MS-DOS was superseded by Windows 95. Yes, some people had an affinity for MS-DOS, but by and large, no one in the professional world has ever looked back. Point-and-click environments have replaced these archaic computer languages.
Cooperation. It’s the norm to consult with five different people before deciding to try a new restaurant. The same is true for sharing data and insights within an organization, particularly in the financial services space, where reporting and compliance considerations must also be met. This goes hand in hand with accessibility.
The next generation of the back office will corner many companies that have been clinging to legacy systems, especially when it comes to how those companies access, use and share market data.
The fact of the matter is that people are at the heart of the success of any business, regardless of financial services. Ignoring the realities of what it takes today’s modern worker to thrive in your organization means ignoring them, potentially at your peril.
It comes down to centralizing critical data like market data and creating consistency and reliability while propagating it to all downstream applications. All of this is made possible by a modern infrastructure that allows your employees to access, use and share data from the same place.
The good news is that the tools to achieve this exist today. You have to ask yourself – will your organization be at the forefront of this movement, will it be dragged along, or will it be left behind?