Last Wednesday I chaired a cracking debate over and around lunchtime of the LGIM DC Conference in London’s swanky Sheraton Hotel.
There were three questions on the table
Is regulation a spur or a hindrance to innovation?
Do we make progress through competition or collaboration?
Can individuals make any difference to the pace of change?
Talking of individuals , we had three panelists talking
Con Keating– who has through five decades led the charge to a more effecient and open service from finance
Stephen McGlennan who gave up a top job in the City to build the world’s largest aircraft
and Richard Dallas who has been at the forefront of change in transactional banking.
What became clear during the debate is that innovation comes from competition and collaboration but that collaboration is needed for innovators to succeed.
The big banking advances Richard Dallas had been involved in were driven by competition by well- capitalized market players but the innovation from entrepreneurs had to be collaborative. Neither the human or financial capital exists within start-ups for them to change things on their own.
Stephen McGlenna’s amazing story of how he built Airlander involved a collaboration with the US Military. Con Keating has worked with Regulators to innovate in financial matters as diverse as the funding of people’s pensions to the measurement of the charges we pay on our funds. In a smaller way, Pension PlayPen works with Sage and other payroll providers to bring innovation to the choice of workplace pensions.
Stephen spoke feelingly about the regulatory conditions that exist in the UK (and to a lesser degree in the US, to enable small ideas to access large capital flows. In a week where I’ve been engaging with regulators on the Pension Dashboard, Stephen’s grounded and measured approach to working with regulators was salutary.
The room was full of senior managers of large consultancies and of LGIM and it was interesting to watch the body language of those listening. The presence of three such entrepreneurial individuals was both challenging and disruptive. Body language was divided between those who clearly saw what was being said as a threat to what they considered “received ideas” and those who were looked inspired.
These polarised reactions was precisely the feedback I was looking for as Chairman and it was heartening to see the debate that started between us , spill over to the room. We had to call it a day after 70 minutes as there were rumbling tummies. But I felt that no-one in the room wanted to leave the debate behind.
Thanks to our participants and thanks to LGIM for making it happen. I hope that those who were there are still living with the questions; we didn’t find any answers but I sense that where people are trying to make change happen, recognising the differing roles of regulation , competition and collaboration, is critical to strategic success.