Breaking Patterns: The 2015 BBH Markets Symposium

What do Air BnB, Netflix and Rent the Runway have in common?  They were all founded by individuals who broke with traditional business models and met consumer demands in a new way.  Their unconventional ideas and drive to experiment catapulted these firms from humble startups to industry leaders. So what can financial services learn from these businesses to achieve equivalent success in our own industry?  

Over 180 senior executives sought to answer that question during the 4th annual BBH Markets Symposium, Breaking Patterns, on November 5, 2015.

With discussion topics that ranged from the Irish potato famine to Moneyball, and investment management in between, Symposium participants walked away with some powerful takeaways.

Fix what ain’t broke…Before it is
“Potatoes… Really?”  If attendees were saying this when they entered BBH Boston, they weren’t saying it when they left.  With a witty presentation titled “A Brief History of the Potato: The Persistence and Peril of Patterns,” BBH Chief Investment Strategist Scott Clemons turned a long-told historical development into a cautionary modern tale that warns of an over-reliance on what works.  We expect many in the audience will remove the phrase “don’t fix what ain’t broke” from their vocabularies forever.

Rapid prototyping is your (best) friend
“If someone tells you they need 8 months to create a product, tell them you need it in 6.  If it takes a year, make it 9 months.  You will be surprised by the result.”  So said IdeaPaint CEO John Stephans in an interactive panel discussion centered on best practices for promoting productive experimentation.

Know when to fold ’em
“Don’t do what’s not core,” is the mantra of Lord Abbett Partner, Doug Sieg, who has made a career focusing on what matters to his investors. John Stephans adds, “A business has to be willing to get rid of what isn’t working.”

Yes, you can institutionalize innovation… if your corporate culture supports it
Businesses thrive when employees are offered tools and resources to implement innovative ideas, as well as a solid foundation and structure to follow through in their execution. According to Breakaway Chief Strategy Officer, David Knies, “It’s about bringing innovation into everything you do.”

Double down on what matters
In sharing BBH’s latest innovation, InfoFX Live, Chris Gothard, Head of BBH FX for EMEA, spoke of a tool that provides more transparency and client control than any other automated FX tool in the market.  Why?  Because this is what investment managers are craving.

It’s OK to borrow from other industries… In fact, it’s encouraged
Wall Street, notably Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett, inspired Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane to change baseball forever. The result: team after team that punched above its weight.

When competitors catch up, run sideways
As his analytical approach to baseball became common knowledge, Billy Beane was forced to devise new methods to keep his team competitive. Instead of continuing to run forward, he ran sideways, and found new undervalued competencies and metrics to exploit for his team’s benefit.

The best part?  The side benefits
Beane’s methodology changed more than how baseball teams built their rosters.  It made baseball a level playing field and changed who can make it into baseball’s front office.  Once filled with players and scouts, now filled with math majors, engineers, and a few more women.

Our parting thought:  Break patterns or stagnate. Your choice. 

We hope to see you at next year’s event.