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Management Strategies

09:50 AM
Sam Maule
Sam Maule

Shift Happens

Banks have to be able to react, pivot, and shift in an ever-changing environment.

I was asked by the organizers of NextBank to present a keynote at NextBank Americas in Mexico City last week, October 16, 2014. The focus of the talk was on the macro trends driving disruption in financial services. The presentation, titled "Shift Happens," focused on technology and its remarkable pace of change that requires all of us in fintech to hold true to one key mantra: You have to be able to react, to pivot, to shift in this ever-changing environment. 

The shelf life of products continues to compress dramatically, thus requiring us to ship solutions faster while still maintaining the integrity of our consumer deliverables. We have to be open to shifting our mindset in regard to how banking is approached, how we engage with our customers regardless of channels, and, most importantly, how banks and fintech companies engage with each other in support and development of the financial services space.

This sounds a bit audacious, but it is a message that I hold dear and am passionate about. Little did I know, I would have a real-time test of my message in the midst of delivering this presentation.

Here’s how it went down: Fifteen minutes into my keynote and I was really feeling juiced. The audience was laughing at my jokes, nodding along with my points, and was fully engaged. I could feel the connection with the crowd, which every public speaker will tell you is one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

Then all hell broke loose.  At least inside my head.

I, like all good speakers, had three distinct speaking points I intended to cover. I had just finished discussing the first macro disruption trend, and I pressed the presentation remote to move on to my next slide. I glanced at the monitor in front of the stage and immediately thought “Oh sh*t.” The slide on the monitor -- which was the same one displayed on the massive screen behind me -- was from a completely different presentation. And it was my fault.

You see, I finished my draft and edited the deck on the flight to Mexico City. The PowerPoint deck contained 40+ slides, so I was forced to save the finished deck into five different files to allow me to email the finished copy to the organizers. I broke the deck into sections (slides 1-10, 11-20, etc.).  In my haste to get the finished product out the door, I somehow managed to click on the wrong file for slides 21-30. I realized all of this in the span of about 1.5 seconds while standing on the stage.

Shift happened to me in that moment. As a presenter I had three options:

  1. Pause the presentation, explain the situation, and attempt to have the correct slides displayed -- the ultimate buzz kill.
  2. Walk off the stage in panic thus ending my career as a speaker.
  3. Pivot, press forward, and deliver.

I went with option three. I’m not so sure how seamless a transition it was. And, I’m confident someone in the audience figured out that I managed to move directly from macro trend one to macro trend three. They probably figured I was trying to save time or couldn’t count. Regardless, the energy and connection with the crowd remained strong, and I was able to continue on.

Look, we all face situations where things don’t go as planned. Our product specifications change, new technology is introduced, product testing reveals a plethora of code bugs, etc. We, as leaders in fintech, need to be prepared to be just that: Leaders. It is our responsibility to encourage, coach, do whatever it takes to help our teams pivot and shift when applicable. This isn’t easy stuff. If it were, I know I wouldn’t be doing this. I love the challenges, the puzzles, and the stress that comes with this industry.

So, let’s continue to encourage each other. Shift happens to all of us. It’s the nature of the beast. Next time I’ll check the dang deck before I present. Lesson learned. Pivot and move on.

If you're interested, here’s a link to the deck as it was meant to be delivered:

Sam Maule serves as a Consulting Manager at Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group. He joined the firm in June 2011 focusing on the Cards & Payments Community of Practice. In this role, Sam provides industry subject matter knowledge and experience to CG's Financial Services ... View Full Bio

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