Early in my career, I spent quite a bit of time and money working with a professional career coach. The experience was an exceptionally useful one, and I had an ex-managing director of a huge shipping and transport company assigned to me. As a mentor, his constructive input had a lasting effect on me. And the one bit of advice that stood out more than anything else was this:
"James, if you want to get to the top of an organisation you must be connected to the money. The ones who bring in the revenue are almost always the ones that achieve the most senior roles in organisations"
Now this is a very interesting insight, but it wasn't something I'd thought about until it was pointed out to me. But consider your own organisation! The CEO will invariably be the one who has spent most of their time in roles which directly impact the top line. Frankly, you want someone who knows how to get the money in the door, because pretty much anyone can manage costs.
But this leads to an interesting question. In the future, who will be the ones with the experience bringing in the money? Will it be the traditionalists, who have spent decades managing large institutions in a steady fashion?
Or, will it be the innovators, who have lots of experience in doing things that drive new growth?
I am of the view that we face an interesting inflection point. There are innovative disruptions that touch the very core of the financial services business either with us now or on the horizon. It is possible that traditional banking practice is not an effective counter to these, and one must therefore look to doing new things to preserve one's franchise in the market.
It will be these new things which drive future value for institutions.
And that brings me back to the advice I got from my coach. When the innovators are driving a business process to create new things, and when those new things are the long term source of top line growth for an institution, who do you think will be in the top jobs in banks in the next decade?