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Applied Art Thinking in Financial Industries

by | Oct 5, 2021

Imagine attending a leading fintech conference, expecting to hear all about the finance industry’s new trends, ideas, and strategies, but the opening keynote is… about art.

This was our case in Finnosummit Miami, the pinnacle event for financial and insurance companies in Latin America. Venture capitalists, investors, and founders from far and wide were gathered, perhaps expecting a more traditional recipe for transformation and innovation for their industry. 

 

Source: Finnosummit 2018 – Finnovista

 

If you are reading this, perhaps you wonder how art can be relevant to your business in the financial world. What usually comes to mind is the financing of art, the sponsorship, or the curation of corporate collections. But this is far from the truth. 

We are talking about the transformative power of art and the originality that may derive from the artists’ thinking.

See the story of Square, for example. An online mobile payment that revolutionized the world of financial technology and it was started by an engineer-glass artist who couldn’t sell his glass art through mobile payment. That’s right, an artist who founded a fintech now worth $100B. 

We tend to think of art as an object, but in reality, it is a mindset. A mindset, and environment, that encourages originality.

When combining the two – mindset and originality – we can realize why art has served and benefited many other fields outside of the arts, especially those seeking to cultivate creativity and undergo transformation. Applied to the business and financial world, an art mindset can shift perspectives, break barriers of thought, and develop important soft skills that can be useful in a financial setting. 

No one was expecting to talk about art in Finnosummit Miami, but many were surprised by the possibility and the reach of it; as was echoed by an experienced VC who provided us a subtle but frank comment afterward – “I have been to so many finance conferences in my life, when hearing about art, I was about to leave, but it is the first time, someone actually surprised me.” 

Managers scratch their heads at night wondering how their team can be “more creative” or “disruptive.” After all, in the fast-paced industry, financial institutions ought to keep up. However, the real advantage of leveraging the power of art for your business is finding new inspiration, shifting your and your team, perspective upon something, and ultimately channeling these experiences into skills and knowledge. At The Artian, we curate and deliver these experiences and knowledge that will impact and challenge the ordinary bounds of what is possible in the financial industry.

 

Source: Jim McKelvey, Co-Founder of Square.Inc – Glass Blowing Studio ​

Art as a source for business innovation

A couple of years ago, Bancolombia, one of the leading financial institutions in Latin America, was looking to inspire its retail middle management; committed to different thinking, they sought to encourage autonomous initiative.

With the challenge to inspire an audience of +1,000 managers in four different cities in Colombia, we presented our keynote “Renaissance of Renaissance Thinking,” a conference meant to break down mental barriers, inspire, and provoke divergent thinking. 

No one expects to talk about arts at a business conference, but no one is left unchanged when they leave the room…said Sergio Pelaez, the Director of Customer Strategy for Bancolombia.

Pelaez’s seemingly simple comment is particularly powerful for two main reasons. One, it envigorates the relationship between art and finance, and two, it subtly praises the benefit of transdisciplinary collaboration. Financial institutions can become saturated with existing solutions. They may be looking at transformation through the same outdated lens; however, transdisciplinary collaboration provides new sources of innovation.

The reality is that we regularly attend (virtually or in-person) conferences on financial technologies, investment opportunities, and insurances. Although there is exciting knowledge out there, we still find more and more of the same. However, when you lead a conference with a slide titled art – a new source for business innovation, heads will turn, and most likely, your audience will be eager to find out what art could do in their business.

 

Source: Sergio Pelaez, Director of Corporate Customer Strategy at Bancolombia

Developing skills for finance through art

Art is not only a way to transform minds but also to develop skills to navigate this journey. 

There are skills applicable and beneficial to the business world that can be inherently developed through art. For example, while working in the Visa Everywhere Initiative, a yearly innovation program for fintech startups, we worked alongside founders to help them develop skills relevant to innovation – namely, observation skills and questioning skills.

It would be valid of you to ask if questioning is genuinely a skill and if financial companies truly need observation in their toolbox. Given the execution-oriented fashion of the industry, there is not much time for questioning and observing; however, these skills are crucial – and they require cultivation and practical tools on how to do so.   

When considering existing research, we see that questioning skills are declining with age [1]; that is why we instigate the practice of such an ability because it might also highlight a point of difference for your organization.

Observing and questioning the world around us leads to discovering insights, identifying problems, and potentially, solutions for these problems. For example, one of the startups in the Visa initiative even changed part of its business model upon participating in our training. 

The creative process is messy and chaotic – but necessary to create value. To land ideas and tie down the narrative, storytelling plays a central role in delivering the value of such innovation. Of course, as a service industry, you probably already know how important it is to tell compelling stories and envelop your audience with customer-centric narratives. Nonetheless, sometimes we are blinded by our product and forget to focus on our customer’s problems and needs. Appealing stories convey emotions and seek to empathize with the audience. To master the “art of storytelling,” we can learn from (you guessed it) art. 

This is where our work with Startupbootcamp fintech scaleup was particularly impactful; growth stage financial startups seek to captivate and sell their story to the customer in a better way. Expressly with fintech, these startups might struggle to convey their story and solution in a non-technical way. The result of our work? 

“We were able to transmit, with greater clarity, the benefits of our platform, as well as defining the real impact it may achieve in the lives of Latin American people. With his help, we transformed a sales pitch into a humane and valuable pitch,” said Mariana Burgues Aguiar, Head of Marketing, Koibanx.

Companies within the finance sector can implement art in their operation to cultivate a divergent mindset over a more extended period. When you subscribe to an insurance magazine, for instance, what comes to mind? Latest trends? Regulatory updates? Or just opinions about the future of the industry? However, imagine an insurance magazine that posts about art thinking and skills regularly. 

The magazine is El Asegurador, the leading Mexican magazine for the insurance industry. With over 35 years of experience, El Asegurador seeks to be the reference point for innovative products and solutions in the industry. With a regular segment dedicated to art, they are doing just that. 

Although art is a discipline that has not traditionally been part of business education, it brings a new lens through which professionals can learn valuable skills. In addition to skill acquisition, the arts may provide avenues to think critically, opening the mind to alternative ways of seeing and understanding.

An eye-opening keynote can inspire and provoke new ways of thinking; art-based workshops can develop skills such as storytelling, observation, and questioning; and the regular inclusion of art thinking can help stimulate new ideas. 

 

Interested in bringing this perspective into your own company? Check out The Artian’s training!

 

Listen to other insightful interviews and perspectives on The Artian podcast!

 

 

-Tomás Hoyos

 

[1] National Center for Education Statistics (2010). The Nation’s Report Card: Grade 12 Reading and Mathematics 2009 National and Pilot State Results (NCES 2011–455). Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2009/2011455.pdf 

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