The Mad*Pow 2021 Financial Experience Design (FXD) conference included 12 keynote presentations and welcomed a global audience of more than 150 industry leaders and progressive thinkers at the intersection of financial services, design, innovation, and technology. This unique, hands-on conference has moved organizations forward to confront new challenges for the past five years. This select gathering of executives, experts, visionaries, and progressive thinkers across insurance, banking, wealth management, and fintech incorporates presentations, workshops, and discussions that help drive real-world change. Leaders at the intersection of financial services, experience, and innovation come together at FXD to share insights, case studies, opportunities, and how they have come up with solutions to challenges we all face. This year, we took it a step further by peering into the future during our leadership workshop on Day One of the conference.
In a system mired by frustrations, complexities, regulations, and shifting priorities, we have no shortage of obstacles to overcome. Leaders across the financial ecosystem are trying to understand and define what the future of finance holds. By tapping into Futures Thinking, a design strategy that prompts practitioners to reveal what could happen in the future due to decisions, actions, and issues occurring in the present, we can begin to unravel possible future horizons.
At FXD, we challenged our leaders to imagine their own preferable futures of finance (plural because there is not one single future) by digging deep into the weight of history, push of the present, and pull of the future and the systems, barriers, and opportunities that each carries with it.
By examining the past, we realize that our financial present has been shaped by the biases and missteps of our own systems and structures. Leaders pointed out major historical disadvantages in the way financial service organizations have served their select clientele. In many cases, firms focused their efforts on wealthy customers – opting to serve those who were already enjoying financial success rather than assisting newcomers. For many, these decisions have reinforced an ingrained distrust in incumbent financial organizations. Moreover, the lack of basic financial education in public school systems makes it even harder for struggling citizens to improve their financial situations. We can see the challenges we’ve set ourselves up with over the past century through these factors and many more.
We might imagine that some of these factors have ironed themselves out in the present, and we’ve reached a consensus on a path forward – but in fact, we’re more divided than ever. Political and ideological rifts trickle down from a societal level to the finance industry. These friction points can be felt in everything from climate change to AI, and within the real current trend toward cryptocurrency and the digitization of finance. In our present, social media and the internet simultaneously offer both fascinating connecting capabilities and terrifying misinformation and bias.
Across the board, we see trends towards human-centered priorities in our futures. Even the most antiquated financial institutions realize that “profit over people” just doesn’t fly anymore, and are trending towards a Triple Bottom Line (people, planet, profit). Our leaders agreed that socially-minded decisions will be “cool” in the future – and not just “cool” but imperative to business success. People will want more meaning in their life than just making money – they will want freedom for leisure and adventure, demand remote work options, and value equity and accountability for themselves as well as the businesses they patron.
Futures thinking is not an effort to predict the future, but rather a means to illuminate unexpected implications of present-day issues that empower individuals and organizations to actively design desirable futures. The emphasis isn’t on what will happen, but on what could happen, given various observed drivers. The outcomes and observations from this particular workshop and these leaders will vary significantly from other workshops with other leaders. It is important to keep in mind that our preferable futures might not all be the same.