The Financial Services “Adapt or Perish” Scenario

Recently I visited the Fram Museum in Norway. It is a fascinating museum dedicated to telling the story of Norwegian polar exploration through artifacts, maps, diaries and journals. One display in particular caught my eye – it featured a quote from a letter written by an explorer – it stated, “you have to adapt or perish!”  While clearly he was referring to the harsh climate and circumstances he was facing – it got me thinking. I have always been fascinated by the notion that throughout history, civilizations, industries, businesses, even entire ways of life have disappeared, not because anyone did anything wrong but because the world changed and they couldn’t adapt. A road is rerouted and inns that have been well run and profitable for centuries go out of business; thousands of people lose their way of life with the advent of new technologies like the sewing machine or automobile; social norms and fashions evolve wiping out entire industries – and so it goes. It occurred to me that we too live our lives as though the way we live, our customs and civilization will ever be thus. But of course that’s not the case. Which brings me to the here and now. The financial community in North America has, arguably, been fantastically successful for hundreds of years by catering to male clients. It absolutely made sense – men controlled the money, they were the only market. But our society is rapidly changing, evidenced by the huge strides women have made as recently as the past decade. Men are no longer the only ones in control of the money – in fact women are poised to control 2/3 of the wealth in North America by 2030. My point here is that although no one in particular has done anything wrong (apart from being somewhat myopic), the industry faces an “adapt or perish” scenario. That may seem like a rather dire prediction and perhaps perish is a strong word – but certainly the industry will have to change and in the process many advisors’ business may perish if they can’t adapt to this new order of things. My partner Paulette and I have spent the better part of the past five years helping the financial industry and financial advisors understand and adapt to the notion that their future success depends on connecting with women  – so rather than saying “adapt or perish” we prefer to say “adapt and flourish”. We speak at events, conduct workshops and have created a number of courses, written blogs and published a book INVEST(in)HER – all in an effort to help advisors flourish. Related: Women Look for ‘Good’ Rather Than ‘Smart’