As the SEI Wealth Platform recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary, Sanjay Sharma explains how an internal philosophy of constant evolution and revolution keeps us on the forefront of change.
Stay on the forefront of change
"Change is a constant" became leaders’ mantra throughout the pandemic. But as we shift to operate in the change paradigm of inflation, interest rate fluctuations, and geopolitical uncertainty, we can be certain that the next decade will be won by the leaders who don’t just weather storms, but lead organizations to success through them.
As I reflect on the first 15 years of the SEI Wealth PlatformSM (SWP) and plan for the future, it’s clear that change ties the past to the future. It continues to be a catalyst for growth, and we use change to our advantage, anticipating and addressing future challenges as opportunities for our clients—and the industry. But as the pace of change seems to continuously increase, how do we tame change and use it as an ally for ambition? What can we learn in order to create the next generation of wealth management together?
Change is part of SEI’s DNA. Our history is filled with brave firsts, helping to shape the future we live in today—and tomorrow. SWP began as an idea that our Executive Chairman Al West jotted down on a napkin. When considering how to solve clients’ challenges, not only was the idea of an end-to-end technology platform brave in itself, but launching it first in the UK (rather than in our home market at the time) demonstrates our global mindset and willingness to take calculated risks. We face change head on and embrace it, finding comfort in the journey of forging ahead.
SEI thrives in change. We take technology thinking and iterative approaches and embody them in how we show up every day. We believe we must have a willingness to fail fast and learn, be transparent, and accept that we’re all on a journey. But this is often easier said than done.
When I talk to leaders in the wealth management industry who are curious about how technology-led thinking will help them get ahead, I focus on three key points:
Internal team members are an important source of innovation. Part of a well-defined change strategy includes “grassroots innovation.” In practice, this means tapping into your workforce to drive critical thinking and new ideas.
Wealth managers can borrow from a popular internal innovation sprint that my technology industry peers love: Hackathons. In its original form, a hackathon is a computer coding challenge for software engineers, designed to bring a large group of people together to iterate on and improve a new software program. Companies across all industries have adopted the practice as a shorthand for an employee innovation challenge. For a wealth manager looking to drive change, tackling it head on with both the change evangelists and the naysayers—and making them part of the change and innovation—will only help drive its success in the longer term.
Change and innovation can’t just come from within. The best programs are those where leaders recognize that their external network is vital. Whether that is one-to-one coaching, a root-to-branch audit of challenges and opportunities by a consultant, or bringing in strategic partners to collaborate with internal teams for projects and programs, they all have the potential to both accelerate the change and increase the impact.
These strategic partnerships can be about short change moments, or they can last for years, as outside experts can supplement or augment internal teams and act as an extension of the organization with a clear delivery mandate.
You might think innovation can only form either within an organization or outside of it. But we’ve utilized a third way to bring together the best of both worlds with a clear mandate to self-disrupt: Investment.
Building a venture capital program or an incubator can be an effective way to invest in disruptors that could add game-changing enhancements and capabilities. While most wealth managers may not be interested in investing in emerging fintech, they could consider forming strategic partnerships with industry-leading incubators and accelerators to help derive benefits for their business with a smaller investment. SEI Ventures has helped us scale and test within the safety of our own virtual backyard.
While change may be a constant, managing change for opportunity and benefit begins with investing the time, energy, resources, and critical focus into what matters most. And you will only drive desired business transformation by addressing the change ahead, creating a plan, and seeking support from colleagues and your broader network.
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