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Forget the cheese, who moved my maze?: The impact of COVID-19 on business priorities

By Gavin Little-Gill, Partner Manager, Appway

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by Appway
| 07/04/2020 12:00:00

How have business priorities changed with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic?

Appway and its employees hope you, your colleagues, and family are, and will remain, safe and healthy in these challenging times. We look forward to putting the current crisis and resulting tragedy in the rear-view mirror of 2020, and to having the opportunity to speak with you in person once again.

What a difference a few weeks make. The challenges and business disruption COVID-19 has wrought pale in comparison to the personal tragedies. Against this backdrop, the strategic priorities and goals we set for our businesses in 2019 and 2020 seem like a distant memory. I’m reminded of Dr. Spencer Johnson’s Book, Who Moved My Cheese?, and can’t help but think that the changes we will see on the back of this crisis will look more like a full-blown movement of the maze. As I reflect on previous financial crises in modern memory, I am struck by the ways in which this crisis is different. It strikes hardest with the most vulnerable: The immune-compromised are the most physically vulnerable and our services industry is the most financially vulnerable.

The mark COVID-19 will leave on the financial services industry is likely to be profound. Previous socio-economic crises caused us to re-evaluate and reprioritize our goals and objectives. Remember the Credit Crisis of 2008; the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2002; September 11th, 2001; Black Monday (October 22nd, 1987)? The list goes on… These crises were moments that not only shook the financial markets but also changed business and technology priorities. Without meaning any disrespect to those affected by these historical events, COVID-19 is bigger. It will eclipse the aggregate human and financial impact of all these recent financial crises. Nevertheless, we will emerge – as we have done in the past – and we will emerge with a new perspective on our strategic goals and priorities.

In 2019 and 2020, the strategic priorities of the financial services industry focused on client acquisition and retention, its strategic initiatives on innovation and transformation. Firms prioritized personalization initiatives, digital transformation, omni-channel experiences, and the application of cool technology like Blockchain, AI, and RPA. As I reflect on the changes of the past few weeks, I find it hard to imagine that the narrative will not shift as people and their firms evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on their business. Firms will start to think more acutely about the needs of a population that chooses to – or is forced to – interact in a paperless, physically disconnected world. In 2019, omni-channel alignment meant reducing friction between on-line and physical channels; post-COVID-19, it will mean blending the channels. This is not to say that the priorities of 2019 will be forgotten. But rather:

  • Pre-COVID-19: Innovation and transformation dominated our strategic priorities
  • Post-COVID-19: Priorities will align with the challenges of the most recent crisis: operational agility, alternative working environments, and an acceleration of investments in digital tools which connect firms with their employees and clients.

History tells us that the crisis will force firms to ask themselves, “What can we do better? How can we adapt to better weather the next crisis?” When that happens, I believe they will look to solutions that connect businesses with their employees, clients, and wider ecosystem; solutions that ensure business continuity, support business agility, and enable the provision of essential services through remote channels and digital products, blurring – or even erasing – the lines between channels. They will look to collaboration tools, Virtual Document Management, Digital Signature, video identification, and other tools that can facilitate connectivity and productivity even if we are physically disconnected.

These discussions are secondary until firms are sure their employees and customers are safe, and all business processes are functional. Today – stay safe and let Appway know if there is anything we can do to support you during this challenging time. As we work to support our clients, partners, and the broader financial community, we will continue to explore and share what we learn about how firms can respond to this crisis. Best wishes to you and your families.

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