Making Sense of the Financial Communications Market
By Graham Halliday, Co-founder, Coodash
Hybrid working isn’t going away; the latest research suggests that office attendance is still only half its pre-pandemic level. Workers want to retain the flexibility they gained during lockdown. If the railways go on strike, climate protestors block roads or the petrol stations run dry, having a flexible workforce can benefit companies too. But how do you stop flexibility leading to fragmenting teams and falling productivity?
Even when everyone was in the office coordination could be tricky, with individual teams and business units spreading communications and content across multiple platforms, creating an unwieldy configuration of disjointed systems and channels for lots of companies.
During the pandemic the focus was very much on the communication tools that made Zoom and Microsoft Teams into household names. However, there’s a lot more to communications than online meetings and video conferencing. Many employees probably feel they have overdosed on this channel! Meetings are not always an effective use of people’s time, yet they will rarely speak up against them.
Other products offering differing approaches to online communications and team working come from the likes of Webex, Slack, Basecamp and Asana, but in many companies – officially or unofficially – employees have simply repurposed the social chat platforms they are already familiar with: WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, WeChat etc. Although offering the ultimate convenience, data generally goes untracked, companies are reluctant to formally approve their usage and questions remain around monitoring encrypted channels.
As companies assess their experience during the pandemic and the future requirements of hybrid working, the enterprise communications space is experiencing a major product replacement cycle. However, there isn’t yet a consensus about what’s needed and the products themselves continue to evolve with Zoom targeting cloud-based telephony and Symphony acquiring Cloud9 for its markets focused audio offering.
The financial sector makes an interesting case study for real-time communications, having already spent many years wrestling with some of the issues in this space. In the front office Bloomberg reigns supreme, offering a content rich environment and cross-asset functionality covering everything from news, data and research through to messaging, analytics, execution and reporting. It’s a great product, but it costs $24,000 a year and offers more functionality than most users need, so not everyone can be part of this exclusive network.
This creates an immediate gap in communications and workflows between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Trying to bridge the gap is Symphony, a chat platform with an expanding range of add-ons which is backed by the major banks. This is much cheaper and already has 100,000 more users than Bloomberg, but it faces competition as a work-flow solution from Teams.
This tussle illustrates the competing priorities facing many companies. Do they need a simple in-house chat, something to manage workflows across the firm or a solution for information management and delivery? Is this one product or many and would there be a benefit if it could all be in one place.
A number of other solutions have been created to address the ongoing issues but these products may still be missing the mark of what is really needed: a simple, yet flexible workspace that is easily accessible on any device, from anywhere; something that delivers a real-time environment where information can be continually updated and shared within teams, across departments and to clients as necessary.
Enterprise-grade platforms need the flexibility to adapt to suit individual businesses, whilst incorporating the popular features of messaging platforms in a system where a firm can properly monitor and control its own network, an important measure for security and in many cases a regulatory requirement.
At an industry level, the financial sector as whole would benefit from a move away from inherently exclusive, closed networks towards more open, adaptable platforms. With cost pressures only likely to intensify, material savings are possible through reducing cumbersome and expensive licensing fees.
High profile tech investor Cathie Wood of Ark Invest sees enterprise communications as a $1.5 trillion market, particularly with the ongoing shift from fixed-line communications to cloud-based solutions. A key ingredient for success will be in successfully combining the convenience element of mobile chat with financial-sector style real-time content sharing and distribution, all in a controlled enterprise solution. Making the best enterprise communications technologies accessible for everyone.