Two recent pieces of economic data have provided some reasons to be optimistic as we come out of lockdown. Firstly, UK consumer confidence rose in April to its highest levels since the beginning of the outbreak, with consumer spending up to pre-pandemic levels.
This suggests a rebound in the economy at the start of the second quarter and is a barometer of how people feel about their own financial situation and the financial health of the nation. Confidence amongst the population will be vital for our recovery.
Secondly, the purchasing managers’ index for services reported a surge in services activity, which grew in April at the fastest pace in more than six years. Growth and expansion at this scale in this sector is another indicator of a rosier economic picture ahead.
These are good signs but I think many businesses understand they are facing a watershed moment right now. The pandemic has shown us that we can change quickly if we want to and it will take a toll on those businesses who have refused to adapt or, even worse, who seek to go back to where they were before the pandemic.
This is particularly relevant for those of us operating in the financial, legal and professional services industries because our sectors have traditionally been some of the worst culprits for sticking with the status quo.
This year has shown us once again that the economy has a habit of giving sectors a shove when they get too comfortable and self-satisfied. When they stop challenging themselves to innovate, create and solve, to push things forward and serve their customers better.
Customers vote with cash and clicks
But why did it take such a global crisis to introduce this urgency and action? There are already plenty of examples all around us of industries failing to act until it’s too late, when they have been blindsided by disruptors and paid the ultimate price for their inertia and complacency.
Like Blockbuster when Netflix came along. Or taxi cabs who were picky and choosy about the fares they took when Uber arrived. Some of these ideas have the power to disrupt more than one sector. Uber hasn’t just invigorated our expectations of the taxi industry, it’s starting to reshape our relationship with public transport and impact on our car-buying habits too.
We are all replaceable and when a newer, better business model comes along then customers vote with their cash, and their clicks.
Amazon will fail – one day
Amazon goes from strength to strength but if further proof of the reality of replaceability was needed, Jeff Bezos has been openly predicting the death of his company for a number of years.
It’s difficult to imagine that Amazon will fail, less still that its own founder should be the one predicting its demise. But if he also happens to be the world’s most successful businessman, we need to pay heed to the lesson: if the Amazon business model is disruptable – so is yours, ours, everybody’s.
Disrupting financial advice
Fellow tech titans, Microsoft, spend billions of dollars a year on research into Artificial Intelligence. If, for example, they decide to turn their attention to financial advice or any other profession like it, then we are all contending with a very different landscape.
Regardless of Microsoft’s strategic direction, if we do nothing now and do not progress and challenge the status quo, we risk the financial advice industry disappearing completely in a few years’ time. We have no option but to innovate and push things forward ourselves, driven by improving service, experience and delivery for our clients.
This has always been our central ambition. The simple, disruptive question Progeny exists to answer is: why shouldn’t clients have their financial and legal advisers in the same place? When things have always been done one way people just assume that’s the way they always will be. So all those advisers stay in their silos and the client is the one who has to compromise. It does not have to be that way and we are committed to proving that every day.
So as we come out of the pandemic, businesses have a choice. They can go back to where they were and hope that the status quo will see them through. Or they can choose to keep up this momentum of change and innovation and keep evolving and improving in the years ahead. I know what we’ll be doing.