The disruptive power of FinTech and what it means for boardroom leadership


Financier Worldwide Magazine

August 2018 Issue

Innovation is moving up the corporate agenda in the financial services world and is transforming businesses. Having faced extensive change and upheaval over the past decade, a major current challenge is adapting to and embracing the disruptive potential of FinTech.

Technologies, such as Big Data, cloud technology, artificial intelligence and blockchain, are constantly evolving, with pioneering FinTech start-ups starting to threaten prevailing business models and traditional job roles.

Over the past couple of years, blockchain technology has attracted massive investment across a diverse range of sectors. It could change the way that every industry in the world economy does business and how companies interact with their customers and employees. The financial services industry is no exception, with the advent of ‘open banking’. By cutting out the middleman, it has the potential to revolutionise the efficiency and security of transactions, simplify compliance and ensure anonymity. The application of blockchain technology is creating new commercial opportunities and could make old business models redundant.

The financial services sector needs visionary leaders to take advantage of the opportunities these advancements in technology present. And if they are to compete with the new players entering the marketplace, it is vital for them to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate and embrace future technological changes.

All businesses need to act fast and find innovative leaders with the ability to deliver effective solutions to these new business challenges.

Driving change from the top

Financial services businesses require a new approach to leadership to prepare for these challenges. They will need boardroom leaders in place with the capability and vision to embrace disruptive technologies.

While the sector is appointing an increasing number of board members with digital backgrounds, capitalising on this disruption requires much more than digital comprehension. A company’s senior leaders need a wide range of new skillsets to tackle the threats and harness the wealth of opportunities offered by evolving technology.

Understanding the potential of new technologies and a readiness to adapt in this fast-changing environment demands people with core competencies in change management, innovative thinking, the ability to drive values and build trust, and, of course, some entrepreneurial spirit.

In order to create a high performance executive team that is accountable, empowered and aligned with business strategy and vision, it is important to hire for values as well as talent. Trust and transparency are critical.

The new breed of financial services executive needs self-awareness and confidence in her leadership style to influence other people, drive her teams and organisations and make the right strategic decisions, while recognising her own limitations.

Leaders must be able to set strategy and get buy-in across every level of the organisation if they are to compete and thrive in this business environment.

One of the biggest challenges is finding people who fit the company culture. So it is important to fully understand the organisation’s vision, business model, strategy, competencies and needs.

Digital leadership

What does the C-suite leadership style required to embrace disruptive technologies look like? So-called ‘digital leadership’, popularised in Silicon Valley, is increasingly being integrated into traditional organisations.

Digital leadership is an approach that has dramatically redefined strategy and management. It relies on agile management and leadership principles that include allowing more decisions to be taken at lower levels of an organisation, and delegating responsibility to small teams.

This style of leadership is collaborative and transparent, offering unrestricted communication, real-time problem-solving and quick, creative thinking. Digital leaders are often thought of as coaches tasked with creating the right conditions for their teams to perform at their best. Their focus is on driving disruptive vision, delegating authority, fermenting new cultures and concentrating on a client-centric execution of business strategy.

FinTech leaders must have the flexibility to mix this new leadership style with elements of other, more traditional authority-based and high-performance leadership styles.

Outside the boardroom

An advisory board can be a useful complement to digital leadership. A good mix of advisers can give access to additional expertise and contacts, offer fresh perspectives, help with the hiring of key players and provide a sounding board for C-suite leaders when making key strategic decisions.

Change is also happening to the composition of the workforce in many financial organisations, with new roles being created and filled quickly, while some of the more traditional functions are under threat.

Values such as curiosity, openness to others, assertiveness in challenging how things are done, collaboration, adaptability and agility all need to be integrated into the workforce if an organisation is to respond and succeed.

The future

Adapting to these disruptive changes and harnessing the potential offered by FinTech will require leaders with vision, the ability to drive growth, identify new revenue streams and embrace emerging technologies. Ultimately, it will be the ability to drive transformational change that will separate the winners from the losers in the financial sector.


Yanouk Poirier is chair of the technology, media & telecoms group at Penrhyn International. He can be contacted on +1 (514) 864 5459 or by email:

© Financier Worldwide


Yanouk Poirier

Penrhyn International

©2001-2019 Financier Worldwide Ltd. All rights reserved.