Today’s workforce is now home to five generations of employees, spanning from Gen Zen, those born between 1996 to the present, to Traditionalists, those born between 1925 and 1945.(1) While the experiences of these employees range from the well-seasoned to the newly employed, each of these generations houses a knowledgebase that can propel the financial services industry forward, and help further thought leadership within the industry.
This latter term—thought leadership—is a new way of thinking for many industries, and while it may be discounted by some simply as a buzzword, thought leaders are the ones who can help drive change when and where it’s needed. Thought leaders are defined as “the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success. (2)
How can financial services, then, benefit from thought leadership to advance the industry? How can the industry as a whole use the expertise of all levels of employees to better position itself as the go-to source for clients as well as others? Here, three ways to integrate thought leadership in the financial services industry to boost success.
Share your knowledge
Helping others helps you. In an industry that is based on helping others figure out their needs to plan for a financially healthy, happy life, showcasing that expertise—both to colleagues within financial services as well as the clients—is a straight path to gaining the respect and loyalty of those you serve. As the expert, you are the one to whom people will turn for advice and guidance, and by putting your gained experience and knowledge at the forefront you can better assist people with their needs.
But, that knowledge has to be rooted in concrete actions. “There needs to be real business value in the content. In one way or another, the thought leadership content must enable the audience to achieve substantially more than they would otherwise,” writes Russ Alan Prince in a 2015 Forbes article on thought leadership. What’s more, “professional services firms that produce and deliver authoritative thought leadership become magnets for new business. As such, they are well positioned to substantially increase revenues.”(3)
Make it a group effort
More people means more innovation. When leaders come together, it opens up a whole new world of opportunity and ideas. Two heads are better than one, as the saying goes, and when those two (or more) are the advancers of the industry, the brainstorming, innovation, and implementation of new ideas are limitless. Additionally, bringing together thought leaders can better boost a brand’s (or in this case, an industry’s) identity, profitability of both internal productivity and outside gains, and sales with quality clients.
“Companies with a large portfolio of services benefit from cross selling,” writes Aarni Heiskanen. “Experts can promote and sell work of other departments or disciplines in their company.” (4)
Look to the Future
Actively develop thought leaders for a successful, sustainable industry. The average age of employees within the financial services industry is steadily climbing, and the industry could see a lag in growth as the older generations retire and the younger generations aren’t there to fill in the gaps. A recent study by LIMRA, however, showed that fostering mentor/mentee relationships among generations was not only wanted, but highly beneficial when they happen.(5) Mentors teach their mentees the needed skills for success that can’t be learned in a classroom; in return, mentees educate their mentors how to engage and connect with younger generations, and put in perspective both the differences and the similarities of multiple generations.
As these mentor/mentee relationships blossom, the outcome is a connected cohort of thought leaders who can bring the industry to the next level of success.
While thought leadership may sound like a nebulous, amorphous term, it’s meaning and action are situated in the bedrock of knowledge. For those who wish to succeed both personally as well as an industry as a whole, being a thought leader isn’t an option, it’s a necessity in today’s working culture. Said Bruce Rogers, chief insight officer of Forbes in a recent article, “By becoming thought leaders, professional services firms garner enormous business benefits. They become the go-to providers for their expertise. They make it dramatically easier for clients and centers of influence to refer new qualified prospects to them.” (6)
By sharing knowledge, collaborating with others, and actively developing thought leadership within financial services, the industry and those who serve it are primed for a diverse and auspicious future.