Financial Services as an industry is characterized by an interesting duality. On the one hand, the size and importance of the industry- with almost every human on earth interacting in some ways with money and markets- lends itself to enormous complexity: Ask people in the data community in FinServ or FinTech and they will tell you how many moving parts they deal with. On the other hand, the industry strives for simplicity: To be clear, complexity is bad for business as it drives confusion and therefore fewer transactions.
Take for instance even seemingly mundane and quotidian workloads like payments and expense management. Every organization, no matter how big or small, makes and receives payments. Even in situations when this process has been largely digitized, simplicity does not prevail. For instance, perhaps payments are made electronically based on e-invoices but what about continuous reconciliation with GL and Account Systems? At best, organizations are a combination of analog and digital- and often to a larger extent than the rhetoric about “Digital Transformation” would have us believe.
In such cases, technology plays a huge part but is not a sufficient condition. More integral yet to the process than technology is business design. To take the specific arena where Zact plays, think of that universally maligned part of business-life—the expense report. Many expense reporting companies exist—and their products are very useful- but were they designed as a connected platform that connects to all relevant systems? Point solutions can be brilliant but designing a set of products and services that is simultaneously a platform and best-of-breed is the nirvana state that should be striven for.
At the heart of the matter is simplicity. Just as Amazon.com makes it trivial to order, pay for, and receive a product (despite the complex technology and process behind the scenes), FinTech needs to simplify what is still considered to be an obscure and opaque space.
This applies to PropTech where, in the worlds’ largest asset class (real estate), the data suggests that over 90% of buyers (and sellers) think of the process as too complex and encumbered. That insight alone should spawn an entire bevy of companies whose mantra is, simply, well, “simplify!”
The data community ought to heed this as well. A prime directive for most data-work should be to divine simplicity out of complexity. The reasons for this are not necessarily obvious. After all, most systems are indeed complex and to suggest that silver-bullet approaches work is a fool’s errand. But as we’ve learned from decades of “analysis paralysis,” decisions have to be made even with imperfect and non-comprehensive data and as such must be presented as simple. Decision-makers cannot be perennially detained by the intricacies brought about by complexity.
Just as we all know the importance of “location, location, location,” it is high-time we talked about “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.”
Written mutually by Romi Mahajan & Jayant Ramchandani.