Brexit and Change in Financial Services - more science, less rhetoric pleaseRSS icon

Written by Mark Cotter, Guest Blogger on Tuesday 21 June 2016

On the 23rd June 2016 we will face the biggest political decision in a generation when the polls open for the UK EU referendum. There has already been much written on this subject of course but what strikes me more than anything else is the way both campaigns have actually been run - on a mix of misinformation, scaremongering, fear and political mudslinging.

Now of course both sides on the debate feel passionately about this question and the outcome but surely something that is so fundamental and so important to our national economy involving a massively complex array of technical, legal and political variables deserves a more measured and information (rather than emotion) based approach?

We do hear ‘facts’ but they are quickly rubbished by the other side making a truly informed decision virtually impossible. To make matters worse there is next to no mention of what a ‘post-brexit’ world would look like. Norway and Switzerland are trotted out as possible examples but it seems that no one has seriously mapped out a ‘To-Be’ plan for the UK if we do leave the EU.

As there is no precedent it is unclear how long it would take for things to unwind, which laws we would keep, which we could overturn or what new agreements and trade contracts we would require. Some legal experts have even suggested that if we do get a ‘leave’ vote – in practice nothing will actually change for several years if at all. There is no mechanism or clause in place that ‘kicks in’ and so it will be down to the government and parliament to actually make changes through primary legislation.

Whilst bemoaning this information vacuum, it occurred to me that there are some parallels with ‘our world’ and important decisions we see being made on major transformational projects in financial services. Much like the EU debate, far too many projects are launched on the basis of gut instinct rather than hard facts and then flounder for the lack of a clear picture of what the future model should look like. Key decision makers are often sold shiny new technology solutions to the wrong problems which well-meaning project teams then struggle to implement as they discover the real business challenges on the fly.

Perhaps these kind of complex decisions, be they transformational change in financial services or national membership of the EU would benefit from a few more hard facts and, crucially, a clear picture of what the future should look like.

This is certainly the approach we take to change at Altus and I only wish something similar had been attempted with the EU referendum. The consequences of transformational change without a clear picture of the target are usually disastrous for a business but imagine how badly the wrong call on the EU could prove for UK PLC.

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