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Intellectual gluttony

Recently I returned from an amazing experience that can best be described as summer camp for adults. 140 of us were nestled in the Alps for 4 days of crisp mountain air, delicious French fare, engaging discussions and a seemingly endless supply of alcohol. Our gracious hosts were the Anthemis team, the leading financial services advisory and venture investment firm. The annual event, called Hacking Finance, is an opportunity for them to exchange ideas and build relationships. They organized thoughtful discussions around the future of work, internet of things, venture design, among other trending topics. If you ever get the opportunity to participate in something similar, please don’t hesitate!

It was inspiring to meet thought leaders from the industry in a place that provided so many opportunities for meaningful interactions. The stimulation was almost overwhelming because the casual chats were often as intense as the structured ones. I immediately felt at home, which confirmed a suspicion that the Anthemis CEO and I both had. It’s about time that I move out of traditional product development into a more people-centric role. For those of you who have been a sounding board during my self-exploration process these last 8 months, this won’t come as a surprise. In fact, I’m sure many of you are probably wondering why it took so long! In the Fall I’ll be joining Anthemis to help infuse design into their business.

What will I actually do?

The short answer:

Design processes to help companies create new ventures, make and deliver presentations to sell services and report research findings, create info-graphics to visualise complex data sets, and facilitate/participate in brainstorming and synthesis sessions.

The long answer:

At a high level, the Anthemis advisory business helps large companies utilise their innovation spend more efficiently and hedge against risk. The financial services industry has watched the disruption of many other sectors by technology startups (hotels by Airbnb, taxis by Uber, movies rentals by Netflix, the list goes on). New technologies are enabling what’s commonly referred to as the “unbundling of financial services”, where banks, insurance providers and other incumbents are being marginalised by new offerings that effectively address human needs in a more efficient and engaging way. Companies fear their inability to maintain relevance in this brave new world and traditional management consulting firms are typically ill equipped to help companies navigate these choppy waters. The position Anthemis has earned in the digital financial services (FinTech) ecosystem makes us uniquely capable of addressing this need.

You’ve probably read that 65% people studying today will assume careers that don’t yet exist. With the exponential speed of technological development and large cultural shifts, we have already seen the emergence of jobs like social media marketer and executive mindfulness coach that you could not study when I was in school. The convergence of two trends has made the type of work I do now possible: the proliferation of startups and the rise in status of design. Enter venture design. While there is nothing truly new about starting businesses nor developing new offerings , this holistic approach to new ventures is a relatively recent phenomenon. Trained designers are building scalable companies and joining venture capital firms (ie. Maeda joins KPCB). Businesses are setting up startup incubation programmes that mirror design centres. Consulting firms are offering design as part of their services portfolio (ie. McKinsey buys Lunar). At Anthemis, I am building out our venture design offering so that we can provide this expertise as a service. This involves designing our processes and engagements, articulating the value to potential collaborators, as well as actually executing on this vision with clients. My training as a designer and experience in startups has provided me with an unusual skill set that is well-suited for this role.

Also, I’m becoming increasingly clear regarding what I’m truly passionate about, the type of impact I want to strive for and how this dovetails with my role at Anthemis. I care deeply about adult friendships because strong personal networks are integral to individual and collective resiliency. The Harvard Study of Adult Development results show that relationships are an essential part of a happy, healthy life. In parallel, strong professional networks are what enable companies to differentiate themselves and be sustainable. As the lines between personal and professional life continue to blur, these worlds will become interchangeable. One of the keys to Anthemis’ continued success is our strong network and ecosystem, which we acknowledge and actively cultivate. I am interested in understanding how social networks can be grown, strengthened, maintained and leveraged with the help of a well-designed ecosystem.

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