Dale Says

March 24, 2010

Faye Brill Service Award

Filed under: Competitive Intelligence — Dale @ 9:50 am

Created in 2000 in memory of Faye Brill, longtime member of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Practitioners (SCIP) and competitive intelligence practitioner, every two years the Society bestows the Faye Brill Service Award on an individual who has provided direct and extraordinary support to the association. Only through the selfless volunteer efforts of Faye and others like her has the Society been able to advance competitive intelligence and serve its members.

The definition of a corporate competitive intelligence practitioner often includes the ability to deal with constant demands and too little time and resources. While serving as the Vice President of Market Intelligence at Visa International, Dale Fehringer carved out the time to support his local SCIP chapter, speak at conferences, and serve as editor for SCIP’s first book, Competitive Intelligence Ethics. In addition Dale analyzed the results of SCIP’s last CI survey and wrote the 160 report. Although now pursuing a second career, Dale continues to support SCIP initiatives and publications. This year, the recipient of the 2010 Faye Brill service award is Dale Fehringer.

October 20, 2008

CI in Financial Services

Filed under: Competitive Intelligence — Dale @ 1:34 pm

Note:  This was published in the book “Starting A Competitive Intelligence Function” by the CI Foundation in September, 2008.

Financial Services: An Industry in Upheaval 

Dale Fehringer and Melanie Wing 

 

The stodgy and traditional financial services industry your parents grew up with is gone. In its place is a fast-paced, high-tech, and highly-competitive business, which is in constant change.  

Several recent trends have substantially altered the financial services industry landscape, making it more difficult to decipher for both consumers and employees.  

  • Modifications to banking regulations have increased the burden of compliance and blurred distinctions between categories of financial services organizations.
  • Consolidation has reduced the number of organizations, increased competition, and produced financial service “supermarkets” that offer wide ranges of financial products and services.
  • Globalization has extended the reach of financial services companies across borders and introduced additional competition and layers of complexity.

 

Despite this turmoil, the financial services industry offers an ideal setting for competitive intelligence (CI). Rapid change and heightened competition imply the need for complex and crucial decisions – the bread-and-butter of a well-planned and well-executed competitive intelligence function.  But starting a CI function in financial services is tricky, as it requires hitting a moving target. The odds of success improve as you increase your knowledge of the industry and the transformations it is undergoing.  

This chapter provides an overview of the size and nature of the financial services industry and discusses implications of starting and running a competitive intelligence function in an industry in upheaval.  We discuss the major trends that are impacting financial services, along with suggestions for how you can deal with them.
A LARGE, DIVERSE INDUSTRY
 

The financial services industry includes virtually every type of business that deals with money and payments. That includes businesses such as banks that have long been associated with this industry and others not usually considered part of the financial services, like venture capital and asset management (see sidebar 1). 

Sidebar 1Financial Services Industry Businesseso        Bankingo        Insuranceo        Asset managemento        Investment bankingo        Securities brokerageo        Private equityo        Venture capitalo        Corporate lendingo        Consumer finance 

      Financial services is a major segment of the world economy and workforce. For example, in the U.S. it comprises more than eight percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and employs nearly seven million people, or approximately five percent of the

U.S. workforce (BizStats 2007 p1). That makes financial services the ninth-largest employment sector in the

U.S.
It’s also a rapidly-growing industry; from 1994 to 2004

U.S.
financial services employment increased 17% (see table 1).  

Table 1 

Total US Employment in Thousands (000)Source:  BizStats

 

 

Projected

 

 

COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE IS RELATIVELY NEW  

Today, most large financial services organizations have a CI function, although it’s a relatively new activity for many. Before CI was a formal activity, those companies typically performed some type of informal competitive monitoring, generally in a decentralized manner within a variety of divisions. Heightened competition made it necessary for financial services companies to develop a more formalized structure, often as a centralized competitive intelligence, business intelligence, or market intelligence unit located in the marketing, strategic planning, or other key organizational division.  

Typically, much time and energy went into planning the CI function, defining deliverables, and deciding out how to best serve a range of internal clients. Some financial services organizations created centralized units that serve the entire organization while others distributed CI responsibilities throughout several business units and maintained small central organizations to coordinate those activities.  

Today, some financial services competitive intelligence units are well-established and effective, while others are more nascent and struggle to meet the needs of their internal clients. Several recent studies bear this out.  

A survey of competitive intelligence professionals by the Competitive Intelligence Foundation (CIF) found that one of seven (14%) respondents worked in the financial services industry (CIF 2006, p130).  By comparison, the second-highest industry — pharmaceutical, biotech, healthcare — employed13% of survey respondents. 

The CI Foundation survey reported that many competitive intelligence functions are relatively small and support several types of business activities with an assortment of competitive intelligence tools and techniques. That is indicative of the typical financial services CI function, which is often relatively new, working with lean budgets and staff, and supplying a variety of services to several levels of internal management.  A recent Global Intelligence Agency (GIA) survey found that most financial services organizations have effective CI activities (GIA 2007 p17).  However, some struggle to obtain management support and fulfill management needs. The majority of respondents indicated their CI functions were good (nearly 50%) or satisfactory (20%); fewer reported they were excellent (10%) or poor (5%). 

CI in financial services organizations is conducted most often for top and middle management. A smaller number of respondents reported that CI is done for internal experts or other employees. The primary CI users in a majority of financial services organizations are strategic planning/business development and sales/marketing. A smaller numbers of respondents primarily support product/technology R&D, or other functions. 

CI provides a variety of benefits including “increased quality of information,” “higher awareness of threat and opportunity,” and “improved distribution.”  CI units in financial services use a variety of analysis tools including profiling (most frequent), benchmarking, SWOT analysis, and financial analysis. Critical issues for CI in financial services organizations include top management’s commitment and identifying critical information needs.
 
The Ostriches & Eagles survey of

U.S. companies placed several financial service companies on the list of organizations that make good use of CI (Outward Insights, 2005). That study’s top CI operations (“eagles”) included seven financial services organizations (Bank of America, Toyota Motor Credit, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo,

National City Corporation, and Fifth Third Bank). On the downside, financial services firms were less likely than the survey norm to:
 

·         make intelligence an integral part of the strategic planning process.·         have a process in place to deliver early warning of emerging threats and opportunities.·         use CI to anticipate and thwart competitor strategies.·         integrate likely competitor reactions into plans for product and service launches. ·         engage in scenario planning and competitor response modeling. 

 

In addition to becoming established in their organization, many recently-formed CI units are struggling to provide value-added services to clients in senior management and other business units, become integrated into the strategic planning process, and add value to the organization’s decision-making process – all with minimal staff and budget. Many of those CI units are also coordinating loosely-connected staff who work part time on CI in other parts of the organization, and identifying and filling the needs of a senior management in flux due to mergers and re-organizations. In addition, many CI functions are confronted with many significant trends that are collectively changing the nature of the financial services industry. 

FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY TRENDS  

The financial services industry is evolving from thousands of local, single-service companies to a handful of international firms offering a smorgasbord of financial services.  Added to the mix are a few specialty companies that meet particular customer needs. Over the last quarter century, the financial services industry has experienced several significant trends, including: 

  • Consolidation
  • Increased competition
  • Changing demographics
  • Burdensome regulations
  • Need for liquidity
  • Focus on customers
  • Globalization
  • Risk aversion
  • Outsourcing and off-shoring

 

All these trends have made it more complex (and more important) for financial services firms to establish and maintain effective competitive intelligence functions.  

CONSOLIDATION 

The past twenty years have brought unprecedented consolidation of financial services firms in many parts of the world. For example, during that period the number of commercial banks in the

U.S. dropped by almost half (46%). Ken Thompson, CEO of Wachovia Corporation, put it this way:
 

In 1982 there were 14,000 banks in the

United States. Today there are half that many. That’s astonishing. But even more significant … the share of assets held by the five largest banks has increased from 16% in 1990 to almost 50% today
. (Thompson 2006) 

Horizontal consolidation (within industry sector) and cross-category consolidation (among different types of financial institutions) are creating huge conglomerations of banking, insurance, and securities firms: 

Consolidation driven by client demands, technology, and the relaxation of financial regulations is creating huge conglomerations of banking, insurance, and securities firms – a development that is likely to continue. (Knowledge@Wharton 2001 p1)  

 

Consolidation produces larger companies, which have some advantages over small organizations, such as: 

·         A variety of financial products and services can be sold to customers.·         Diversification of businesses, activities, and risks.·         Less vulnerability to volatility, shocks, and risks.·         Reduced dependence on a few lines of business. 

There are disadvantages to being big, too, including a broader and deeper span of management control, larger downside risk implications, and complex management reporting lines.  

Consolidation in financial services is driven by internal and external forces such as relaxation of financial regulations, need for additional customers and a larger capital base, shareholder demands for profitability, and technological advances in telecommunications and information processing.  It impacts the nature of the financial services industry – both for players within the industry, and those who provide products and services to it.  

INCREASED COMPETITION 

Competition in financial services is intense – both within the market sector and from non-traditional rivals. According to Ken Lewis, CEO, Bank of

America,
 

Today, customers have tremendous choice. Not only can they choose from different kinds of banks offering different value propositions within the same market, they also can choose from a myriad of non-bank financial service companies both locally and nationally to handle any number of financial needs. (Lewis 2003) 

The removal of bank branching restrictions in many countries blurs the competitive lines between banks, insurance companies, and brokerage/investment firms. 

New entrants from other countries have also increased competitiveness in the financial services industry. ING Direct and HSBC are examples of international financial services organizations that have brought “no-frills, no-branches” approaches to the

U.S. and have taken market share from traditional banking operations.  In addition, the Internet and improvements to processing technologies have enabled new entrants to compete in the financial services sector as “online” companies sell banking, investment, and insurance services on Web sites, without having to build and support a brick-and-mortar infrastructure.
 

As competition intensifies, banks find it increasingly difficult to maintain margins, find growth opportunities, and differentiate themselves from competitors. Information technology, deregulation, and liberalization have dramatically affected the financial services industry. The struggle is to find quick, short-term profit, which leads to more efficiency, lower costs, and expansion of profit-making clients. Collectively, these competitive forces offer CI practitioners a rare opportunity to start a CI function in an industry that needs and values effective competitive intelligence. 

CHANGING CUSTOMER DEMOGRAPHICS 

Several significant customer demographic trends affect the financial services industry, including the ascendancy of minority markets (such as the Hispanic market in the U.S.), growth in the number of small and at-home businesses, increases in female business owners, and changes in the way health care and retirement are funded.  

But perhaps the most significant demographic trend affecting financial services companies is the aging of the baby boomer generation (people born between 1946 and 1964).  In the

U.S. alone, 77 million individuals became 60 years of age in 2006 (see sidebar 2). As individuals reach retirement age, they typically shift from accumulating money to spending it, and the impact on the financial services industry (especially on insurance and investments) is significant.
 

Sidebar 2 

Today, there are more people over 65 years old alive than all the people throughout history who were over 65. During the 20th century, the number of Americans 65 or older increased eleven-fold, from three million to 33 million. By 2050, that number will double again.”  Ken Thompson, CEO of Bank of

America  
 

Today, record numbers of consumers have money to invest, and many of them with financial savvy feel empowered to take control of their finances and aggressively manage their own money.  In response, financial service organizations are developing more innovative products and services to help their customers gain access to and control their funds.  

Changing demographics present specific challenges to financial services organizations, which strive to develop and provide products and services to their most profitable customers. And it presents equal challenges to CI practitioners who work for those organizations to take those demographics trends into account as they analyze how their organization and competitors deal with them. 

REGULATION 

Compliance with complex regulatory mandates such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the New Basel Capital Accord (Basel II), the USA Patriot Act, and the Bank Secrecy Act particularly affect financial services firms, which have to invest significant money to understand and meet the requirements. The burden of compliance for financial service organizations contributes to significant cost increases and operational changes.  The following example is from

Europe:
 

The most tangible cost is the out-of-pocket expenses that firms run up in order to comply with the rules. The total compliance cost of HSBC, for example, is said to be US$635 million, up 60% compared with three years ago. And apart from the direct costs there are also the indirect costs of regulation, such as the diversion of productive resources and the potential negative impact on innovation, which are even more difficult to gauge.– Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, Member of the Executive Board of the  European Central Bank  (June 2006) 

Regulatory scrutiny of issues such as privacy, consumer protection (e.g., fee transparency), and international regulations specifically impact the ability of financial services companies to compete. CI practitioners starting or managing a CI function should closely monitor the financial effect that compliance has on their organization and on major competitors.  

NEED FOR LIQUIDITY 

Financial services organizations require adequate liquidity levels to cover withdrawal of deposits, differences in the maturity pattern of assets and liabilities, increases in demand for loans, shortfalls in projected cash flows, and unplanned expenditures.Financial institutions use a variety of techniques to meet their liquidity needs, including: 

·         holding cash and readily liquefiable assets.·         maintaining assured standby arrangements with other banks.·         developing and sustaining a stable core of deposits.·         maintaining a suitably matched maturity structure of assets and liabilities.  

The goal of most financial institutions is to maintain just enough liquidity to cover expected and unexpected situations, but not so much as to restrict profits. With the various trends pressuring them, it is increasingly difficult to determine the exact level of liquidity an organization should have. How successfully a financial service organization manages its liquidity has a direct effect on its profitability. CI practitioners must be familiar with the process and techniques used by their organization and their major competitors to handle liquidity.  

FOCUS ON CUSTOMERS  

Most financial services companies have sharpened their focus on customer relationships in an attempt to retain clients and increase the number of financial products used by each customer – a philosophy sometimes referred to as “protect and grow.” Strategies involve preserving customers through price breaks and additional services, and generating new relationships through expansion and cross-selling.  

Although it would be nice to attribute this focus on customers to an altruistic desire on the part of financial services institutions to treat their clients better, in reality the principal driver behind the trend is profitability. Financial institutions now calculate the net contribution of each customer relationship; and in a typical customer portfolio a small portion of accounts contribute most of the profits, while up to half actually generate losses.  

As a result, management in financial services organizations are changing the way they make decisions. At the structural level, they weave customer profitability into long-term decisions about market positioning and target markets. To change unprofitable relationships to profitable ones, they coax customers into service packages that include price incentives for using automated teller machines and other low-cost channels. At the operational level, banks base marketing solicitations on customer value data, selectively offering fee waivers and rate breaks to retain high-value clients and varying service responses based on customer profitability profiles. 

The Internet and increased access to information has changed how organizations sell to customers and how they service companies. This in turn impacts the economic model for the industry. This is particularly true for consumer-related companies, but it is becoming important in the business-to-business space as well. 

Basing decisions on customer retention and profitability is a relatively new activity for some financial institutions. CI practitioners should be aware of how, and to what extent, it is done both by their organization and by their major competitors.  

GLOBILIZATION 

Many larger financial services organizations expanded across national boundaries and their competitors now face opposition both from local institutions and multinational companies. At mid-year 2002, for example, foreign banks accounted for 27 percent of all

U.S. commercial and industrial loans.  (Encyclopedia of American Industries, 2007). Financial institutions from Europe, Australia, Canada, and

Japan
are reaching outside their borders to find growth opportunity, and are increasingly buying or establishing branches in other countries.
 

Cross-border issues can have a pronounced impact on the way CI is conducted by a financial services organization. Companies that have a presence (or are planning to have one) in other countries usually require current competitive profiles and competitive tracking of existing and potential competitors in those countries. When competitors from other countries begin to operate in a new market, CI staff add them to the list of direct competitors and begin to conduct profiles, analyses, and activity tracking of them.  

RISK AVERSION 

Allan Greenspan, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, once said, 

It is the general human experience that when confronted with uncertainty, whether in financial markets or in any other aspect of life, disengagement is the normal protective reaction. (Greenspan 2000)  

This is true for many financial institutions. During unusual situations such as economic uncertainty, consolidation, or changes in regulation, financial institutions reduce their willingness to take chances on ethical issues, legal issues, and other business decisions. They increase their risk aversion, and replace deliberate trading strategies with caution. The outcome can be a tactical decision to set aside higher reserves to cover losses that emerge when investors suffer a loss of confidence. 

CI practitioners should understand their organization’s risk aversion level and compare it with the competitors’. Much of this knowledge can be derived from company and analyst reports, company earnings calls, and competitor financial statements. It’s also helpful to review tactical competitor actions and compare them with what the competitors say about their risk tolerance. OUTSOURCING AND OFF-SHORING 

Outsourcing and off-shoring have become increasingly popular in the financial services industry as banks try to improve efficiency ratios. Web services and service oriented architectures are forging a new era of information technology (IT) and service distribution, with common standards and components available via the Internet. Consequently, many financial services firms rely on outsourcing commodity functions such as IT and customer service as a way to lower costs, achieve greater standardization, and furnish 24-hour connectivity to customers, partners, suppliers, and staff. 

CI practitioners should be familiar with the extent that their organization’s major competitors use outsourcing and off-shoring, and the affect those activities have on their bottom line. Senior management of your organization should be made aware of any changes to those policies, and the effect the changes will likely have on competitor strategies and financial performances.
 

DEALING WITH CHANGE IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY 

The trends shaping the financial services industry have major implications for starting and running a competitive intelligence function. For each trend we provide suggestions for shaping a CI function so it will provide actionable, decision-relevant intelligence to help management navigate those trends. Consolidations provide a mix of opportunities and challenges to CI professionals.  

The result of a consolidation is often a newly-merged and re-structured organization that faces several major decisions. This setting is tailor-made for competitive intelligence. In such an environment, senior management may be so focused on integrating the merging companies they lose focus on the competition. A well-planned and highly-efficient CI staff can help management maintain focus and understand competitive opportunities and threats.  

In addition, a CI unit with broad perspective can watch other outside forces such as suppliers, customers, substitute products, and new entrants. In particular, an early warning system will give advanced notice of an impending threat or potential opportunity for the organization. The CI function can also help identify further merger prospects and help management prepare for or react to additional industry consolidations.  

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1.      Meet with your management as soon as possible after a merger or consolidation is announced. Ask what you can do to help make the transition as smooth as possible, and what information is needed to help keep an eye on the competition. 2.      Modify CI monitoring techniques, companies watched, analytic techniques, deliverables, and distribution lists to meet the needs of the new organization. 3.      Regularly review management information needs and modify priorities and deliverables based on the feedback. 4.      Anticipate likely consolidation within your industry that doesn’t involve your organization, but which could impact it. Develop scenarios of likely mergers, the direction the merged organization could take, and how that would affect your company. 

Heightened competition makes CI more complex – but easier to justify.  

Regulatory changes now allow consumers to choose financial service products from several types and sizes of financial service companies. This cross-pollination is great for consumers, but challenging for financial service organizations. They now have a broader landscape to track, additional potential competitors to watch, and more competitive products to monitor. It also gives competitive intelligence staff more to do.  

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1.      Find out which employees or groups in your organization are monitoring competitors or potential competitors. Meet with them and work out a clearly-defined division of responsibility. 2.      Review the list of competitors your organization regularly monitors. If appropriate, add new or potential organizations to the list and review the revised list of competitors with your management. 3.      Take into account all types of current and potential competitors and furnish a comprehensive evaluation of them to your management. 4.      Predict, track, and analyze competitive developments for your company from organizations in your existing sector, other financial services sectors, and potentially encroaching industries, and suppliers. 5.      Develop an Early Warning System that will alert your management to competitive trends before they become a problem. 6.      If your management is receptive to simulation techniques, develop a war gaming or similar technique to play out the impact of new competition. 

 

Changing customer demographics make life more complicated for management and more demanding for the CI function. 

The bargaining power of consumers is one of Porter’s “five forces” and an increasingly significant force in the financial services industry (Porter 1985). Changing demographics present extraordinary complications to financial services organizations as they strive to develop and market products and services to their customer bases. And it presents additional demands on CI professionals who must take demographics into account as they analyze how their organization and competitors deal with customers. 

In many financial services organizations monitoring and interpreting the effects of customer demographics is the responsibility of groups such as market research or marketing. However, the responsibilities of the CI function include monitoring and reporting how competitors respond to changes such as customer demographics. This dichotomy presents a challenge to the CI staff, who must devote most of their time to other CI functions and cannot focus the time and energy necessary to monitor customer demographics. But this trend has such significant competitive ramifications for the financial services industry it must be added to the activities of the CI staff. 

By partnering with the market research staff (or reviewing industry reports, if there is no internal market research function), the CI function can help management monitor how competitors are responding to changing consumer demographics and compare that with internal responses. SWOT analyses, competitive profiles, and analyses of competitive product sets are useful tools to help frame this type of comparison.  

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1.      Work with your Market Research staff to see how demographic changes differ between your company and others in your industry. 2.      Examine the product set your organization offers versus that of major competitors. Evaluate where your company’s competitive advantages lie. 3.      Produce analyses that compare your organization’s products versus the products of major competitors and show how your company’s products and your competitor’s products correlate with specific, profitable consumer sectors.4.      Compare the marketing approaches toward key population segments of your organization versus that of your competitors; highlight strengths and weaknesses of your organization’s approach and identify the threats and opportunities they present. 

 

 

Effectively dealing with regulatory requirements can differentiate your organization from its competitors. 

A host of very complex regulatory mandates – most notably the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the New Basel Capital Accord (Basel II), the USA Patriot Act, and the Bank Secrecy Act – post challenges to financial firms.  The question for the CI function is not whether your organization and your competitors are meeting regulatory requirements (everyone has to), but how efficiently each company is accomplishing it. Regulatory compliance is a drag on the bottom line for all financial service companies – the extent of which could be a competitive differentiation. 

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1.      Read and understand the regulations your industry imposes. 2.      Analyze whether complying with regulations offers competitive advantages to your organization or to any of your competitors.3.      Monitor the financial impact of regulatory compliance on your competitors, compare it with your organization, and report any significant differences to management.4.      Be sure your Key Intelligence Topics include monitoring for new regulations, or changes to existing ones, that may impact your company’s strategy.  

 

Tracking how competitors manage their liquidity should be part of routine CI responsibilities.  

One goal for financial institutions is to maintain enough liquidity to cover expected and unexpected situations, but not so much as to restrict profits. How well each company does this liquidity balance can have a noticeable impact on their organization’s bottom line. If the responsibilities of the CI function include monitoring the financial status of competitors, it should also include tracking how effectively they manage their liquidity.  

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1.      Regularly check and report how your competitors handle their liquidity by studying their financial statements, calculating liquidity ratios, and reporting trends and changes. Comparison of the same statistics and ratios for your organization will provide a baseline for your management.2.      If your organization has a group or division that already computes these competitive comparisons, include those statistics in your competitive reports and presentations. 3.      Be aware of your competitor’s need to have available funds and the increased pressure on profits. Watch for signs of financial difficulties and report them to your management.  

How well companies retain customers and cross-sell products and services can be a key competitive differentiation.  

As a CI practitioner, you can help your organization with its efforts to focus on relationships with customers by studying how (and how well) competitors are accomplishing it, and comparing their efforts with those of your organization. Study competitive marketing strategies and communications with customers, including promotional material, advertising, new and bundled services, cross-selling, pricing, etc. Compare those with the efforts of your organization. Highlight differences (both favorable and unfavorable) to your management.  

A SWOT analysis might be an appropriate way to start this comparison, as it will help frame your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and provide a basis for defining opportunities and threats.   

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1.      Analyze how your organization’s major competitors are protecting and growing their customer bases. 2.      Help your management see where your competitors are trying to cross-sell to existing customers and generate new customer relationships. 3.      Compare the depth and breadth of your organization’s customer relationships with those of your competitors.  

 

Cross-border expansions present complex competitive analyses to the CI function.  

Globalization presents unique challenges to financial institutions, such as regulatory differences, multiple languages, and different cultures. While some of those responsibilities will fall on your legal and marketing staffs, competitive intelligence should also play a significant role.  

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1.      Help predict and prepare your organization for the possibility of foreign institutions entering your organization’s markets. One analysis technique well-suited to this is Porter’s Five Forces analysis. (Michael Porter’s five forces include the bargaining power of customers, the bargaining power of suppliers, the threat of new entrants, the threat of substitute products, and the level of competition.)2.      Watch for organizations from other countries that may become competitors and develop an Early Warning System to alert your management about them.3.      Carefully monitor competitors from other countries that enter your market; analyze and report differences in their product lines, pricing, target audiences, and marketing approaches.4.      If your organization intends to enter another country prepare and deliver in-depth analyses of the major competitors operating in that country.  

  

The CI function can help management assess competitive levels of risk aversion, and can avoid causing risk by defining and adhering to a CI ethics policy. 

Financial services organizations have traditionally been risk averse, since they operate in an industry in which even small mistakes can cause massive over-reactions and loss of customer trust. The degree to which competitors are accepting or avoiding risk should be carefully monitored and reported. Also, you should help protect your organization by being diligent to define and enforce company and in-house CI ethics policies. Err on the side of over-checking rather than over-stepping when moral or ethical questions arise.  

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1.      Monitor the risks taken by major competitors and report changes or deviations to your management. 2.      Define an ethics policy for your CI activities. Ensure that you and other CI staff carefully follow the guidelines in that policy. Review and update it regularly.3.      Establish a working relationship with members of your legal staff and check with them whenever you are in doubt.  

 

Outsourcing and off-shoring can have major impacts on a financial service organization and should be included in competitive analyses.  

In some cases, outsourcing is an emotional issue for an organization and management may be reluctant to discuss it. But the extent and effectiveness to which it is used can make a huge difference to an organization’s bottom line.  

CI functions should monitor and report the affect that outsourcing and off-shoring have on competitors’ ability to serve their customers, and on their financial situation.  

Suggestions for the CI practitioner: 

1. Watch what your competitors are doing in the realm of outsourcing and off-shoring. Measure how it affects their financial reports and convey that information to your management. Track it over time, as front-end announcements tend to be optimistic.2. Keep detailed and accurate records of the cost and resources dedicated to the CI function and of the analyses, reports, presentations, and other deliverables the function is producing. Be ready for your management to ask how much money could be saved by outsourcing part or all of the CI function and have a prepared response that shows the value CI adds to the organization. 

AN IDEAL ENVIRONMENT FOR COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE 

Today’s financial services industry is a complex but ideal environment in which to start a CI function. A well-planned and well-executed CI unit can provide significant added value to management in an atmosphere of turmoil, and those who provide that value will likely be well rewarded.  

However, starting a CI function in such a setting has its challenges. To offset them carefully plan the function, proceed thoughtfully and methodically, and adhere to a deliberate process that has been approved by key members of the management team.  

o        Be aware of management’s needs. Continuously work with management to assess whether CI is meeting their needs and adjust priorities and responsibilities to adapt to changes. 

o        Anticipate changes in your industry and react quickly when mergers or alliances occur. Early warning, scenario analysis, and simulation techniques (such as war gaming) are tools that help anticipate and react to consolidations. 

o        Develop effective interfaces between the CI function and other organizational divisions – especially market research and marketing – to anticipate demographic trends and help develop competitive responses to them. 

o        Help your organization deal with government regulations and accounting practices by understanding them, analyzing competitive responses, and clearly demonstrating to management how your organization compares with industry peers. 

Starting a successful CI function in an industry in upheaval is not easy, but the odds of success will improve as you concentrate on satisfying the needs of your key internal clients, increasing your knowledge of the industry and the transformations it is undergoing, and developing effective internal networks.   With focus and attention to the needs of key internal clients, you can be successful in providing actionable intelligence and added value to your organization.  

 

[can you give me a 45-60 bio for each of you to add to the author information at the end of the book?] 

Dale Fehringer started and managed a CI function for Visa International.  Today, he is a freelance writer and editor.  He is a regular columnist for Competitive Intelligence Magazine and his articles on people, places, and contemporary culture have appeared in a variety of publications.   He can be reached at dalefehringer@hotmail.com.
 
References 

RocSearch Ltd. (2005). U.S. financial Services Industry: An Analysis.  http://www.rocsearch.com 

BizStats.com (2007). Total

U.S. Employment by Industry 1994-2007.  http://www.bizstats.com
 

Competitive Intelligence Foundation (2006). State of the Art:  Competitive Intelligence 2005-2006.  Competitive Intelligence Foundation Research Report. www.scip.org  

Global Intelligence Agency (2007). GIA White Paper: Market Intelligence in Large Companies.  http://www.globalintelligence.com/news/whitepapers 

Greenspan, Alan (2000). Remarks Made at the Journal of Financial Services Research and the American Enterprise Institute Conference,

Washington D.C., April 14.  http://www.federalreserve.gov/BoardDocs/Speeches/2000/20000414.htm
 

Knowledge @ Wharton (2001). “From Consolidation to Regulation FD:  Financial Services Face a Major Upheaval.”  http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/results.cfm?searchstring=consolidations+to+regulations&x=19&y=14 

Lewis, Ken (2003). “Diversity, in All Its Wonderful Forms,” Remarks to the Executives’ Club of

Chicago, November.  http://newsroom.bankofamerica.com/index.php?s=speeches&item=47 

Outward Insights (2005). Ostriches & Eagles:  Competitive Intelligence Usage and Understanding in U.S. Companies. http://units.sla.org/division/dpht/meetings/annual2007/2007best-overview.ppt#262,1,BEST PRACTICES IN MANAGING A CI FUNCTION 

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