Preparing for problems

Mark Davies

June 10, 2019

Mark Davies (pictured) is managing director of Link Mortgage Services

There is an old saying: “Pioneers take the arrows, settlers take the land”. The implication of this in our world of evolving technology and new business models is to beware the bleeding edge of innovation lest your initiative perish.

The world is littered with examples of fallen business heroes. You might invent the first cell phone for example, but someone (Apple) will come along years later and make all the real profits with the iPhone. This view essentially posits that ‘first mover advantage isn’t all one way traffic.’

When Metro Bank opened in the summer of 2010 it promised a new way of banking.

It emerged from the financial crisis of 2008, it was the first high street bank to launch in Britain in 100 years and it pledged that it would be doing things differently.

However it is currently experiencing troubled times and a string of incidents have colluded to paint a much more conventional picture of banking. Nine years later a series of blunders and errors now sees this dynamic, challenger bank looking a little more like its established financial counterparts.

You cannot avoid problems in business but you can, in the technology and finance businesses at least, avoid them with rigorous planning and development processes.

These can alert us to possible organisational failings. In engineering, products and ideas are constantly developed, tested, reconfigured and then brought to market. The key is to have people internally and externally who can help with that process.

Maybe because Metro Bank promised a different way, the fall has appeared harder. It will recover, of that I am certain. Pioneers are the ones shaping the future and most likely (if they persist at it), win out in the end.

The counterpoint to my opening statement is that waiting on the sidelines to jump in can cost you dear too. Timing is everything but not participating at all is no way to get ahead. As others might retort, ‘You have to be in it to win it.’

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