Relationships: The 5 rules for success

 David M. Brear photo
David M. Brear Co-Founder & CEO, 11:FS
5min read

It’s Valentine’s Day. Obvious opening statement for a blog published on February 14th but on the off chance you forgot, you might want to bookmark this blog, run and buy a card. I’ll be here when you get back.

Okay, so next obvious statement: all relationships that are worth having require work.

In the new age of financial services thankfully we’ve seen the relationship narrative shift substantially, to a much more productive conversation.

Cast your mind back a few years. Every single damn conference, webinar, article had some variant of the ‘bank vs fintech’ play. At first it was fun, you know put two people on stage who were opposed - in background, in culture, in ideas, mindset or beard length. Sit back watch the sparks fly. Hilarity ensued.

But that got very old, very quickly.

It was never framed about how to build meaningful relationships, just airing disagreements on a public stage. Break the banks! Disruption is coming from everywhere! Old banks will be irrelevant! Let's all live on in a commune and use funny money currencies based on technology no one understands.

Like a relationship we knew was doomed to fail, we all moved on to something far more productive. Or at least most of us have…

Truly great partnerships work out of a genuine understanding of what needs to change and what each party brings to make it happen

Fast forward to today. The fundamental issues have not gone away - banks are still figuring out how to retain relevance in the digital age - but it’s no longer this narrative about ‘us’ vs ‘them’, but just about “us” in the way I use it that I know drives Sam Maule crazy.

We have entered the era of experimentation. There is an acceptance that together firms can do great things: a bank and fintech; fintech with another fintech; fintechs from overseas and even sometimes a big group of banks and fintechs together all can achieve results. Whoa, that got weird.

A great relationship, one that will last, takes more than initial attraction and some flirting about AI or Big Data. It means hard work and both of you have to be willing to put in the effort to create something special. Through good times and bad.

Success is based on culture and passion - two things that no matter how hard you try, can’t be purchased

And that really means both parties - and it really has to be both - displaying five traits.

  1. Honesty: We all want to find like-minded people - the ones that just ‘get’ you. The ones that will listen to, and be interested in, what you’re thinking. Truly great partnerships work out of a genuine understanding of what needs to change and what each party brings to make it happen. And that requires a deep and honest assessment of strategy, value chains and service lines, as well as transparency about what they don’t bring or don’t know.
  2. Communication: Honesty also means that when things will fail, and they will fail at some point, both parties communicate openly and honestly to find a solution. It also ensures the important conversations centre on getting minimum loveable products into the customer's hands, iterating and improving. Great partners will have these conversations and solve for being relevant to customers not for being right.
  3. Commitment: Successful partnerships should not be box-ticking marriages of PR convenience. I’ve said this before but to me, lasting success is based on culture and passion - two things that no matter how hard you try, can’t be purchased. They have to be instilled. You may think you can change someone but you can’t and you shouldn’t waste your energy trying. Spend that time and energy on the partner that will love you for who and what you are.
  4. Patience: Great relationships are not linear and never transactional. No relationship is perfect all the time. There will be disagreements about small things and about truly important things. Highlight issues, discuss, find a path forward because ultimately you both want to be happy.
  5. Trust: Seems so obvious, right? But so many people are with partners they don't trust. In life, in financial services. Real partnerships are about building a desired, shared future. They are about looking at today and wanting to build a tomorrow with someone. It’s not a transference of responsibility. A partner is someone who is given the power to accelerate your future, and vice versa. To build it with you. And you trust them not to break it.

Here is a fundamental for you; a healthy relationship in financial services isn’t about finding a different way to procure. It’s about finding the people you want to have the difficult, but important and life-changing conversations with.

It’s about being in with someone that challenges you, makes you question and not just accept things. They complete the things you’re not good at but importantly complement the things that you are good at. You have tough, awkward conversations that dramatically move you forwards and ultimately neither of you are in control.

That's what love is. That's how to make relationships work. It’s the giving up on control in sometimes major and sometimes subtle ways, and being totally comfortable that you’re both much better off for it.

Go forward and find your loved ones, at 11:FS we have.

For further reading on the topic from 11:FS Chief of Staff, Leda Glyptis, and insights from some of our partners at DNB and RBS click here.

 David M. Brear
About the author

David M. Brear

David is the CEO of 11:FS and since his dream of being a sportsperson was crushed (along with the ligaments in his knee!) and he had to get a proper job. He has worked in pretty much every angle of the financial services industry but never lost that competitive desire to win.