Our introductory post on careers discussed the various pillars of the FinTech ecosystem. One of the key roles gaining significance is that of a FinTech innovation consultant who acts as the glue and catalyst driving the innovation journey ahead.
FinTech innovation consultants have the unique opportunity and challenge to understand what keeps their clients awake at night. The best FinTech consultants leverage this understanding to not only alleviate their clients’ pain areas but also enable them to gear up for the future.
The FinTech ecosystem in India is maturing rapidly. According to PwC’s FinTech Trends Report, 95% of financial institutions (FIs) want to partner with FinTech firms. 1However, the explosion of FinTech firms makes it challenging for FIs to navigate through the entire ecosystem, assess firms on multiple evaluation parameters (relevance to the FI’s growth story, the business and operating model viability of the FinTech, the market potential of the firm, etc.) and select the best fit. Further, as FIs establish their innovation CoE to engage with start-ups, they are keen to partner with third-party specialists. The benefit of having of a consultant as part of the journey is that s/he adopts an outside-in, unbiased view of the FI’s innovation journey. Unlike employees, consultants are typically not impacted by the FI’s existing power structures, business-as-usual (BAU) processes and decision-making hierarchies. Hence, they are in an ideal position to assist the firm in stitching together its innovation story.
Innovation consultants help FIs embark on their innovation journey and conquer challenges at each juncture of this journey from ideation to strategy, execution, management and continuous improvement.
Hence, consultants wear multiple hats to help bring about all-round innovation at the FI:
The innovation journey starts with evangelising FinTech. The consultants scout and scan FinTech trends, tracking innovation as it happens.
The consultants should be passionate about investigating and deriving insights by studying the market landscape. Further, they should be able to explore solutions in the client’s industry and educate the client about the applicability of these solutions. This activity helps the client visualise the art of the possible.
The consultants should be able to stimulate focus groups and encourage blue-sky thinking. Leveraging pointed leading questions, an experienced consultant should be able to unearth innovative ideas that can transform the client’s current way of conducting business.
Through these innovation sprints, the consultants should be capable of generating ample innovative ideas and capturing them under key innovative themes.
Illustrative opportunity themes
To attract FinTech start-ups relevant to the client’s focus areas, an outreach campaign needs to be designed covering social media, digital marketing and offline marketing. The consultant’s marketing arsenal should include hackathons and accelerator programmes. The consultants will be required to wear their ‘first principle’ lenses, to better understand start-ups’ needs and create a value proposition for them. Consultants should explicitly help the client communicate the benefits start-ups can derive from the programme.
They will have to put on a marketing hat and think creatively to come up with captivating messages, hashtags and social media posts, and recommend attractive designs for infographics and social media banners. In addition, consultants should enthusiastically promote the programme at start-up connect events, incubators and co-working spaces.
Illustrative marketing proposal for an accelerator programme
To help the client evaluate start-ups, consultants will have to use structured design thinking to formulate a scoring model and/or framework to identify the most competent start-ups aligned with the client’s strategy.
Similarly, consultants should be able to create scoring models to prioritise innovative ideas and facilitate the involvement of various stakeholders in order to envisage their use case from the lens of start-up technology.
Illustrative scoring models to assess FinTechs
Technology teams and business teams look at the same use case with a different lens and hence, every project comes with problems. Taking on the role of a business analyst, the consultant helps clients implement start-up technology solutions in a cost-effective way by understanding the business use case and translating it into the start-up’s language.
Consultants must have critical thinking and evaluation skills to consider stakeholder needs, explore possible solutions, challenge the requirements and determine the scope of the project. They must be able to facilitate multiple business teams and technical stakeholders, both on the client’s and start-up’s side, to determine the requirements of the use case and communicate them clearly to stakeholders.
Illustrative chatbot with MIS on the go
FIs have a risk-averse approach to innovation. On the other hand, FinTech start-ups are nimble and agile, and thus able to try and test products faster. Hence, for FIs to be equally quick, consultants help create an enabling environment conducive to both FIs and start-ups to co-create innovative solutions.
Consultants are instrumental in establishing a governance structure and facilitate project steering committee meetings to monitor progress. Leadership and management skills are required to work with various client business teams, define project milestones and deliverables. Consultants need to have a good understanding of the wider objectives of the programme, coordinate interdependencies, align deliverables to the programme’s outcome, manage risks and provide regular updates to the senior management.
Given the dynamic and evolving nature of the FinTech ecosystem, a FinTech innovation consultant plays numerous roles. The unpredictable daily challenges and vibrant responsibilities of a FinTech innovation consultant provide an opportunity for limitless learning and personal development.