Responding to changing client needs and fostering innovation in professional services by Sponsor Barclays

As the year draws to a close it seemed like a good time to reflect on some of the issues discussed at our Professional Services Conference at the end of last year – topics that continue to preoccupy all the professions.

 

Responding to the shift in client demands

 

There’s no doubt the environment in which professional services firms operate is rapidly evolving.

 

John Cleland, Managing Director of law firm Pinsent Masons, told our conference he believes change isn’t just linked to market-disrupting technology, but also the changing demands of clients.

 

This shift in clients’ expectations – towards technology-enabled, more responsive services – was a key theme at the conference. While professional services firms may sometimes be uncomfortable with the sheer pace of change, the needs of clients must come first.

 

Responding to that challenge should begin with understanding how change is affecting your clients. Given that they are also having to embrace new technology, it’s essential firms understand these emerging technologies, the way they interlink and, crucially, their impact on clients’ businesses and advisory needs.

 

As a major buyer of professional services, Barclays can provide some useful insights on this. For example, at Barclays we feel that as clients become more sophisticated and demanding, the balance of power is shifting from the law firm to the client and, in particular, away from the ‘magic circle’ and larger firms. “We don’t just want a law firm, we want a solution provider.”

That may be a challenging concept for some – but it also opens up huge opportunities for smaller, agile and progressive niche firms.

 

Fostering innovation

 

One of the ways that some firms are responding to change in today’s increasingly complex commercial environment is by developing an ‘innovative culture’ to capitalise on disruptive technology.

 

This should start from the top. John Cleland believes that senior management teams within a firm need to instill a culture that’s all about innovating to meet client needs, which in turn will make the firm more successful. This can be a very powerful message.

 

However, fear of failure prevents many firms from taking new, technology-based ideas to clients. The instinct to control everything tightly from the top to stop things going wrong can stifle innovation and progress.

 

So how do you actively encourage and empower innovators at all levels within a firm? Peter Hasson, of Clyde & Co, told the conference his firm has put in place targets to drive innovation down through the organisation. “The idea is that there isn’t only one ’right‘ solution. You have to experiment and your depth of empowerment could be a key differentiator for your business.”

 

Attracting and retaining innovators also of course requires the right incentives and rewards, both financial and non-financial. If firms are to attract the next generation of talent with the technical skills to drive new client solutions, arguably they should be affording them commensurate kudos and remuneration. Whether this is through partnership status, cash or equity rewards, their importance to the firm’s future should be paramount.

 

It's interesting to think that staff who are motivated to get involved in solving client challenges through technology can be a firm’s ‘secret weapon’, given the right encouragement!

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to drive innovation at all levels within a firm, what’s working for you and any new challenges you are seeing.

 

To find out how we can help your business contact: paul_jarrett_rd-min_1 

Paul Jarrett, Relationship Director

MOBILE: 07917 503485 | EMAIL: paul.jarrett@barclays.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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