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Digital Economy

5 elements of a successful digital platform


There’s an unprecedented amount of change happening in digital business right now, and Fidelity’s president of personal investing Joanna Rotenberg, is at the center of it. With $4 trillion in assets under management, Fidelity competes on a large scale, and it’s up to Rotenberg to help devise personalized strategies that will help customers manage their money.

Speaking recently at the MIT Platform Strategy Summit, Rotenberg said that Web3, artificial intelligence, 5G, and blockchain are significant catalysts for change, especially when coupled with growing digital usage among young people.

“Those are some factors that I would say are really important catalysts that are helping us accelerate our thinking as to how we go to market,” she said. “It's an incredible amount of change.”

Rotenberg was interviewed about Fidelity’s ecosystem strategy by Geoff Parker, a research fellow and visiting scholar at MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy. 

Here are five tips from Rotenberg on how to build a successful digital platform.

1. Serve your clients where they are.

Fidelity has clients who “insist on meeting face to face,” Rotenberg said. Others pick up their iPhones to make a purchase or do research. Fidelity has to meet the needs of both groups, and often, that means doing so in creative ways, such as finding and serving the Internet-savvy on Twitter and more untraditional places for banks, such as TikTok and Reddit.

“Reddit is a particular area where we've been quite active in building the community,” Rotenberg said. “I saw a stat this morning that said a lot of Gen Z is using TikTok and Instagram to be able to do their search needs. And so that's a great example of we've got to meet our clients of today and tomorrow where they are.”

Whether it’s to answer their questions or resolve service issues, “we're starting to think much more broadly than just some of the things that we can maybe do by phone on our sites but also making sure we’re meeting them where they are, and we think that’s going to be a critical part of the future.”

2. Build a healthy ecosystem.

Rotenberg likened Fidelity’s ecosystem to baking a cake: “If you don't have the right ingredients, it’s not going to be great, and it doesn’t matter what kind of icing you put on it.”

Fidelity’s digital business mantra is “scan, try, scale,” which Rotenberg said means “scanning the universe, thinking about where the world is going, investing in applied technologies, and being able to try and incubate those capabilities.” To do so, the company established Fidelity Labs — an in-house software incubator that develops tech solutions to better serve customers.

A healthy ecosystem also means finding new talent and cultivating it internally. “We are spending a lot of time thinking about all the talent out there, and not just finding new talent,” but also thinking about how we create it in our own walls,”  she said.

Above all, it’s important to make sure you’ve got the right processes and the right data. “Those are going to be just incredibly important parts,” she said.

3. Use data to create value.

“Data is everything for us,” Rotenberg said. Making sure you have high quality data and that you can constantly iterate on it and improve it should be a priority when building a platform. “That’s something that we spend a lot of time on because it’s such an important foundation,” she said.

One way the company uses it is to personalize the experience for clients. For example, this might mean using digital credentials. It may sound simple, but having the right mobile phone number means that Fidelity can interact with clients in the way they want. “Sometimes it’s the most basic things that actually make the biggest difference,” she said. 

4. Measure the right things.

Fidelity measures success and performance metrics in a variety of rigorous ways. One of them is thinking about a customer’s lifetime value and staying patient; gains might not always be immediate when acquiring customers.

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With younger clients, for example, Rotenberg asks, “How are we serving them in an experienced way that’s improving satisfaction? How are we getting down our cost to serve?” This group, while young, is valuable because “we're going to hold onto them for longer, have a longer relationship, but they'll naturally be smaller upfront, in terms of the relationship size,” Rotenberg said. “We're ‘patient capital,’ [and] that's important to us.”

5. Learn from your competitors.

Like many traditional banks and investment houses, Fidelity is asked frequently about competitive threats from financial technology startups. As fintechs continue to gain market share, Rotenberg said it’s important to pay attention to what they “get right that we can emulate.”

There are a lot of different ways that fintechs and Fidelity could work with or against each other. “A fintech could be our competitor, our vendor, [or] we could be a client as well, and vice versa,” she said.

Successful fintechs, in particular, usually have gotten something right in understanding a “customer friction” that other firms haven’t figured out. “They go deep in understanding the friction, they create success, and then they scale outward,” Rotenberg said. “That's something that I think we benefit from because we're always raising our own bar in terms of competition. That deep understanding of a customer insight that others might have missed has to be where we're playing as well.”

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For more info Tracy Mayor Senior Associate Director, Editorial (617) 253-0065