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Beyond the ‘Next Big Thing’: How a Collaborative Culture Accelerates Innovation

Five questions broker-dealers should ask to ensure they are making the grade.

Beyond the ‘Next Big Thing’

“Innovation,” Bill Gates famously said, “requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people.” As a product development executive, I see how collaborative cultures encourage firms to experience the freedom that accompanies change. This holds true for companies large and small - whether they are driven by operations, compliance, technology, sales, marketing or some combination of these disciplines.

A collaborative culture is particularly necessary for broker-dealers who need to overcome business challenges like: 

  • Meeting regulatory obligations to shareholders in a more timely and personalized way;
  • Streamlining operations to reduce costs;
  • Responding to clients who expect “anytime, anywhere, any device access” to advice and information; and
  • Implementing friction-free investor communications that engage prospects and clients

These challenges can make it difficult to become an early adopter of the “next big thing.” Immersed in an uncertain world driven by the impact of daily pricing volatility on assets, most broker-dealers tread carefully before applying tech solutions. 

Fortunately, innovation does not always have to arrive as a big shiny object that creates a major breakthrough. Innovation can evolve with small, incremental product and feature changes that enhance business in discrete ways. 

Making the Grade

Innovators share a common characteristic: the ability to initiate change today and manage the pace of change tomorrow. Regardless of approach, once a firm delivers on the promise of ROI, “return on innovation,” product preparedness is transparent to all.

Want to determine how closely your innovation approach aligns with your goals? Answer these five questions: 

1. Are you nurturing a culture of innovation?

No two firms have the same risk profile. The same goes for their pace of adoption. Does your organization encourage new ideas? How cross-functional is your team? Enlisting marketing insights into collaboration can be especially useful. For example, some firms are using innovations like mobile, SMS texting and AI to connect with customers, enhancing their brand while allowing investors and advisors to interact more meaningfully with their content. 

2. Have you unlocked the value from your data? 

Most advisors still struggle to use their client data to build relationships. According to Wealth and Asset Management 2022, a study conducted by Roubini Thoughtlab with Broadridge, JPMorgan, Oracle and other firms, digital mastery is remarkably uneven for many broker-dealers1. Innovators have enterprise-level access to global data networks, and they deploy data to personalize messages to enhance the user experience for both advisors and investors. 

3. Have you prioritized your firm’s unique digital needs? 

While the report stated that tech-savvy broker-dealers consider time to market a top priority, adapting products to digital needs was a close second. As firms send more communications on regulatory announcements like proxy, prospectus and corporate actions, it will become important to integrate them into the digital experience. What is your team doing to upgrade the digital experience for shareholders? 

4. Do you apply a 360-degree communications perspective to your investors? 

It’s extremely important to have a centralized view of your client and their preferences as it can help make investor communications more personalized, informative and frictionless. A holistic view of client information also streamlines the innovation process and enables you to aggregate and analyze client data points at the macro level. 

5. Are you transforming compliance challenges into competitive advantages? 

Financial firms can thrive in regulatory cross hairs, and gain a leg up on the competition, by maintaining an early adopter stance on rule-making changes at the SEC, FINRA and other regulatory bodies. For example, several global firms we know are working on strategies for Europe’s new Shareholder Rights Directive (SRD). In the U.S., active participation in forums like the SEC proxy roundtable keep firms current on leading-edge regulatory trends. 

A Look Ahead

Next-gen broker-dealers build collaborative cultures to meet today’s challenges and prepare for tomorrow. They encourage out-of-the-box thinking to allow the best ideas to surface from unexpected sources. As “employee number 15” in my very first Fintech job, I learned firsthand the importance of wearing many hats out of necessity – an out-of-the-box skill I still use today. 

Are you ready to deliver the innovative products your clients need most? Keep sharing ideas, setting expectations and forgiving mistakes to shape your team for the investor challenges ahead.

1Wealth and Asset Management 2022: The Path to Digital Leadership; Page 8: “35% of firms leverage data to understand client needs;”

Corey Fiedler is Vice President of Product Development for Investor Communications Services (ICS) on behalf of the banks and broker-dealers and advisory solutions segments at Broadridge. Corey manages Broadridge’s regulatory communications, post-sale fulfillment, proxy services and reference data solutions.