I’ve been working with Berkshire Hathaway since 1986 when Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger bought a mentor’s business. On the strength of this relationship I’ve been lucky enough to work with many great financial service organizations’ leaders for the past 30 years. I’ve also been blessed to work with many of the best and brightest rising stars in this market.
It’s fascinating how a few renegade leaders continue to change the market by leveraging technology and evolving their business models. Think of Peter Lewis at Progressive or Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan Chase, and many other lesser known but highly effective leaders around the world. These leaders have transformed the financial services landscape forever. Disruption is coming and its going to change how we buy our financial services forever.
I’ve worked with many financial service startups to Fortune 5 organizations in these global markets. For the past several years I’ve written and spoken at many leading technology conferences serving the financial service markets.
Many of the rising stars from the business schools ask me where I would go given an opportunity to build my next career. I invested significant time in executive search recruiting leaders for my clients over the years. For many younger leaders financial services is a very unappealing business. On the other hand, they are very happy to join startups that fail and leave them looking for a new position every 9-12 months. Oh, to be young again.
When my wife almost died last year, I was given an opportunity to explore this with many friends who helped me through this challenging time. Nothing brings your life into clearer focus than being unable to provide the best care for the people who are important in your life.
Lucky for me I was able to decide how we invested our time together. But it showed me several key flaws in my financial planning process. Writing checks for close to $45,000 dollars in unexpected expenses in the past 18 months put a strain on our savings.
As a self-employed entrepreneur, I had to cancel projects, take her to doctors and help her deal with the surgery and her own mortality. Needless to say, this was a bit stressful. I found out just how underinsured we were. I lacked liquidity and all the best intentions were not going to help pay our family’s bills.
The universe has a funny way of providing you insights when you’re under pressure. As I talked with friends about what was going on financially, almost all of them shared they weren’t certain how they would deal with this situation for their families in the future. Many are responsible not only for their wife and children, but many have parents who will require long term care.
They make good to great money, but somehow, they have limited cash reserves, no matter how much they are earning. They have long term savings, but they were limited how they could access this without paying significant penalties to access their own money.
As smart as my friends are about their financial planning it may not provide for their families when they need it most. When I talked to my banking clients, they shared that over 80% of the population does not have enough money to go more than several months with a reduced paycheck or to pay for their own family health benefits because of a temporary job displacement. I believe this is why so many people feel uncomfortable even when we have a stronger economy, and shortage of good team members.
When I talked with my friends who own their own businesses, they shared how they worried about their employees’ futures. They are not certain who will be leading their businesses as they and key team leaders retire. Something must change if we hope to secure a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. Better technology is not a complete solution for organizations of the future.
I started searching for answers. I went back to the school of hard knocks. I spent the past several months talking with leaders about what worked and what didn’t. I started to explore what people were doing to ensure they were ready if this would happen to them. I began reconnecting with both many leaders, former clients, and past employees.
I started to uncover some key success factors for serving leaders who were thriving in this fast-changing environment. Next week I’ll begin sharing what I’ve learned in these discussions. More importantly, what you can do.
See you next week.