How To

April 27, 2020

Financial services companies need small but strategic thinking in a crisis

Five tips for planning projects in uncertain times

Nikolai Hack

3 min read

Supported by


Financial services companies need to adapt their innovation style during a crisis. Thinking small but strategic will be the way to stay ahead without exposing the business to too much risk.

We are navigating unchartered waters at the moment — the adjustments Covid-19 has brought to all aspects of life have certainly been disruptive.

In times of distress, innovation might seem like it should take a back seat. Everyone is learning how to cope under new conditions, so venturing into a new project seems scarier than it would normally and resources are scarce.


We even see this in times of business as usual. Many companies see new tech projects as scary because they will take up vast resource or will mean big organisational change. This doesn’t need to be the case. Here are some ways you can keep innovating, even in times of crisis, while keeping risks minimal:

1) Recognise the wood from the trees

Innovation in financial services can be an arms race of competing functionality, user experiences and propositions. There is so much going on that when looking at the next big thing to drive adoption, engagement or conversation, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.

By looking at the small versus big and hidden versus obvious benefits of innovation, we can regain clarity and understand which areas to focus on first. With organisations having to use their resources carefully at the moment, it helps to take a step back to evaluate whether to go ahead with a new tech initiative.

2) Don’t start where it hurts the most

Now is not the time to attempt a steep learning curve within your organisation. Go for transformations that can happen in increments or phases only for selected audiences and embrace quick wins. It’s best to allow for learning in one potentially lower-risk area and then allow for the transfer of knowledge to core functions afterwards.

3) Know your strengths

To conceptualise, build and implement a new technology stack requires specific talent, and it is rare for financial services companies to be able to do this without outside help — rarer still in times of crisis. The key here is a keen awareness of what you are good at and what you need to be good at. Scale back your ambitions and be humble.

4. Small is the new big (sometimes)

A common mantra for business success is to ‘think big’. While ambition is important, in the organisational context of technology innovation this can be counterproductive. During challenging times it pays to look out for those smaller incremental changes that can make a big impact.

5. Think long term, act short term

When making decisions in a crisis we must consider the long-term implications. If a newly introduced functionality tool sits in isolation, will it only be relevant for the time being or can it be expanded later to become a meaningful part of the whole? Or can it be removed without repeated disruption?

In an ideal world, the basis from which to start is a platform approach that is flexibly enhanced as the situation evolves. Given an adjustable framework like that, the tactical decision to add a temporary fix can be made quickly and locally, while the technology base is covering for you in the strategic long run.