20 July 2021

The Art of Listening: Highly Effective Financial Technology Leaders listen to customers and look to solve their problems


Author: Colin Slight. First published by Harrington Starr

In this second article in our series on the 7 habits of highly effective financial technology leaders we speak to Colin Slight of The Realization Group and Liam Huxley, CEO & Founder, Cassini Systems about the art of listening, creating customer value and building trust and how these skills have helped them navigate the tumultuous market conditions of the past 18 months. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has created challenges at all levels of society and the economy. The financial services community has faced a particular pressure, in continuing to perform and to support and underpin economic activity, whilst individual employees cope with the demands of working from home whilst home-schooling and caring for children, social isolation and uncertainty about the future. For financial institutions, the importance of all employees – not just sales and traders, but also middle and back office, technology and support staff, and legal and compliance teams – was vital in ensuring their smooth continued operation. And, often unrecognized and overlooked, behind the scenes these institutions and teams are supported and enabled by an array of financial technology providers.

Organizations are defined by their leadership. Leadership sets the culture, tone and values which then permeate down and through the wider organization. The strongest organizations are those with leaders who actively define the culture and values that they want to espouse to both employees and clients and take steps to ensure that these are instilled across the organization.

The Art of Listening

A business of any kind would not have a market, if it didn’t understand customer needs and wants, and how to add value to the customer throughout their journey. In financial technology, leaders need to keep their ear close to the ground, to understand the challenges facing their customer base and spot the opportunities to address these. The pandemic didn’t only create new market opportunities; it also highlighted certain client needs that had been there all along but were exacerbated by market conditions, and gave financial technologists the opportunity to respond to these and to strengthen their client relationships.

The phased introduction of new regulatory requirements around margin and collateral for uncleared trades has created a need, amongst financial institutions that are subject to those Uncleared Margin Rules (UMR), for a better understanding of margin and collateral data and exposures.

In order to fully understand the cost of trading, firms need to be able to assess, on a pre-trade basis, comparative trading routes on different exchanges or with different counterparties, and the costs of collateralizing each of those options.

Responding to Customer Demand

Cassini Systems provides a margin analytics platform that addresses precisely this need, having identified it as a growing problem for clients, as the rollout of the UMR progressed. In the early stages of the pandemic, markets became extremely volatile, all over the world. This created huge spikes in demand for margin and collateral and made collateral liquidity a front and center issue for market participants. Firms were being called for hundreds of millions of dollars in collateral and having to unwind huge portions of their book just to free up cash to meet their margin calls. This helped to emphasize Cassini’s key message, around visibility of data, cost management and risk management. As that sort of stress in the market came to the fore, it emphasized, for Cassini and its clients, the role that their product could play in addressing these challenges and solving clients’ problems.

Building Long-Lasting Trust

Liam Huxley, CEO and Founder of Cassini Systems, describes the importance of listening and adding value to customers:

“I think that listening to customers is in our DNA. We position ourselves to our customers as partners, rather than as a vendor – we want to create a long-term engagement with them, and to have an ongoing understanding of their needs and how we can evolve to address them”

He continues, “We have quarterly review sessions with our clients, and actively respond to them in terms of the types of data and analytics that they need. That’s not just about Covid, it’s our general business approach – but as a principle it has served us and our clients very well during this time and enabled us to better respond to their needs. Customers need to know that they’re going to get a great level of support, and that they can trust us to deliver and to help them. That trust creates a bedrock on which to grow the business over time.”

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