Welcome to the future

It’s approaching that time of year when we step back and think about what’s happened and what’s ahead. Only this time, we’re doing it from a very different perspective.

When I look back at the predictions Iress made for 2020, I talked about what would be game-changers in financial services over the next decade. Turns out, the biggest game-changer came along a lot sooner than expected. It wasn’t blockchain and it wasn’t APIs.

It was a pandemic which fast-forwarded us into the future and a new digital way of working. We’ve been living through a strange, unsettling, challenging time ever since. But for all the lows, there have been highs too and many changes for the better as we've adapted to our new world.

So what have we learnt so far?

Technology rules. But don’t let it rule you.

We’ve seen digital transformation that I thought would take years to achieve, happen in months. More of our clients have accelerated adoption of financial technologies like digital signatures and client portals, others have brought forward strategies to digitise and automate further, driven by the momentum they’ve made.

Tools like Zoom, Slack, and Miro have become mainstream and using them to stay connected and collaborate is almost second nature, even for people that never touched them before. Most events and conferences have moved out of the real world and into a virtual one - just as we all have. Don't underestimate how much of a leap forward this has been (if you want to know how any of this stuff works - even if it’s not our tech - just ask us).

We’ve seen digital transformation that I thought would take years to achieve, happen in months.

Andrew Walsh
CEO

The flipside of all this? It wasn't long before too much screen time started to suck the life out of us. When Zoom fatigue became very real at Iress, we didn’t hesitate to ruthlessly shake up the way we do meetings. Like many businesses grappling with the realities of the current situation, there’s a lot we can’t control so we focus on the things we can - meetings are one of them, and so is technology - don’t let it rule you.

We found out what it means to be productive.

In the beginning, no-one really knew how long we’d be in this situation. From our homes, driven by the novelty of remote working, we threw ourselves into a huge surge of productivity - lots of people got a lot of things done. But as the situation continues to stretch out, the initial euphoria has worn off and task-based productivity has dropped. That’s no bad thing if it’s replaced with deep, strategic thinking (if you’re going from one Zoom to the next, when does that get done?).

To perform at our best we need to have the discipline to switch off and focus - we’re humans, not machines. And so 2020 will also be known as the year we became more mindful and realised that productivity isn’t just about tasks.

We still need the office, just not every day.

Despite the push to remote working, we still believe people work better together. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the year, we launched full refurbs of our offices in the UK and those offices have largely stayed empty. One day we’ll get the benefit of them.

The reality is, even without the pandemic, as a global business we rely on technology to proxy what it would be like to be as close as humans can be and look for ways to bring people together. In a world of more flexible working, this could include businesses using physical workplaces and shared spaces as ‘hubs’ for meetings, thinking and collaboration - much in the way start-ups operate.

The kind of thinking that will come into our future is ‘where do I need to be today to get the best work done?’

Andrew Walsh
CEO

Some companies have already announced a permanent move to remote working and it will be interesting to see how that goes. For us, it feels too soon to make any assumptions or bold predictions. The kind of thinking that will come into our future is ‘where do I need to be today to get the best work done?’

You're more resilient than you think.

We believe a more sophisticated world of work will emerge, based on factors we won’t fully understand for some time - like how the virus continues to impact social distancing and the economy, as well as personal pressures such as childcare. All that’s just too unpredictable right now.

More sophisticated businesses will emerge too - with smarter ways of working, focused on the right things with less waste. As individuals, we'll be more resilient, more considerate of time (and that of others), digitally skilled and more open to change.

The adjustments you're making means you’re already some of the way there. The big digital transformation might have happened faster than any of us expected and some days it might not feel like progress is being made at all, but stop scrolling, switch off for a moment, and take a step back to see just how far you’ve come.

We want to hear how you’re adapting to the new world. Email your digital transformation stories and experiences to ceo@iress.com for a chance to be featured on our website and social media.

For free resources and support, including tips and advice from our team on how to work effectively and securely from home, visit our dedicated hub.