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Pursuing balance in a brave new world

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The Financial Technologist, Issue 2 2021

Resilience is something I think about a lot as we go through this extraordinary age, this new era.

These are times of uncertainty with many challenges. Socialising determined and defined so much of our physical and digitally mediated lives. Now, as we weigh purpose personally and professionally in different ways amid the global pandemic, things have become somewhat more distanced, more nuanced.

As well as my work with 10x, I am involved with a number of other businesses as a board advisor. What I see in all of them is great human spirit and endeavour, people doing really incredible work in difficult circumstances, and achieving a lot. Life and business are complicated at the best of times. People are managing their work-life balance in ways that they had not planned for, let alone imagined.

This is a direct example of what resilience is. It is about getting back to where you were before.

We know enough though from what we have all experienced in our lives and businesses these past 18 months that resetting to how we were is not a card that can be played. The table stakes have changed. The commute for many has simply moved from the bedroom to another room in the same home. Sometimes it hasn’t even done that.

At another level, resilience is about recovery, getting back to an upright state of mind, a right state of being. Yes, you might be heading in a slightly different direction in a slightly different way, but a sense of balance has returned.

You may not have physically moved far, but you are stronger for it.

I saw this at a personal and professional level when I joined 10x Future Technologies last November. In the space of five years, the business has grown from small beginnings into a commercial reality with a 500+ strong team delivering for clients at opposite ends of the world and in between.

New clients have adopted our platform since I joined the business and one of the things that struck me and I see today is that our clients buy our vision. They believe in what we are trying to build and what it can achieve for their businesses.

That belief and that vision is one of the most important things for us to keep going back to every day – both for ourselves and for them.

Why? Because when they joined us they knew it was going to be a journey. They knew it would have some challenges. We were building something with them that had never been done before. This is the lived experience. It is the proof point. The cold hard reality.

When someone joins a company they too know it will be a journey. This is their lived experience. The lived experience is ultimately what determines whether they are happy to get up and go into work - whether it is in a city, a shared office workspace a tube or cycle ride away, or simply a place in a different room, a short walk from where they wake.

10x had been on its own interesting journey in the months before I arrived. In a relatively short period of time and right in the midst of the lockdowns, several voluntary and employee-led networks were established inside the company.

They included the 10x Women’s Network, the Black Professionals Group, and the 10x Pride LGBT+ Network. During the summer of 2020, 10x also created an employee-led Culture Action Team and an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee with volunteer members from across the business.

Beyond this, 10x’s Impact and HR teams helped manage a series of employee-focused awareness raising webinars, anniversary events and speaker programmes. These included Black History Month, Islamophobia Awareness Month, Diwali, leadership and mental wellbeing and nutrition talks, and awareness training. Among external initiatives, there were work experience programmes, mentoring, local community support, and virtual summer camps for students focused on supporting their career development.

While our teams in Australia could work and socialise more freely, our lived experience in the UK around where our teams are based in London and Leeds was pretty much 100% virtual. The business has hired more than 220 people in the past 12 months and those new members of the 10x tribe as it were, are starting to meet each other in the same room for the first time. Fortunately, they already know each other. They have a shared, lived experience.

What got us from a place of many challenges to a place where we are more confident is cooperation.

I don’t mean that just in terms of how we work with our clients, who are navigating their own journeys. I mean that in terms of how we are with each other in every call, message or meeting. This is our shared and lived experience. This is something unique to every business, its teams and the individuals that make up the organisation. The way they work, the way they come together or don’t come together when challenges arise. What matters is how we reset. That is what becomes our lived experience, what we learn from and how we become more resilient.

Recently at an industry event I was asked what the bank of tomorrow will look like. Basically, it was a question around how will the business of tomorrow and the people who make it happen, be organised and operate? How will they make it be?

There is not a silver bullet answer here, but I do know that it will be different from today. The realisation has set in that business models have changed – consumers want change, so do regulators and technology is making it happen. The bank and financial services business of the future will constantly need to redefine itself to its customers and the communities it serves. The industry is on a journey.

Given what we have all been through these past two years, that is something that fills me with hope.

This this article was first published in The Financial Technologist, Issue 2 2021