I have new frameworks to work with, which becomes a strength in areas where I may lack market experience. I have colleagues who know the markets well, and when you put together these frameworks with their innate market knowledge, our approach is extremely powerful.
“You could tell that the faculty knew the frameworks well, and that they knew the industry they spoke about even better. The in-depth knowledge they had of these industries made what they were talking about from an academic perspective much more impactful because I could see how they would put it into practice in a rapidly evolving environment like payments.”
The competitive advantage of a company can be compared to a moat surrounding a castle — the deeper or wider it is, the more difficult it is for competitors to encroach on their territory. For business development director, Morgan Beard, this concept, known as the competitive moat, has been a game changer for the way he develops strategies. He explains:
“It changed the way I looked at competition in the markets, not just the ones my company was defending, but also the ones we were attacking and trying to gain market share.”
He adds that his understanding of the concept and ability to practice it effectively is thanks to the INSEAD Fintech Programme.
Defending against digital disruption
Morgan’s path to INSEAD can be likened to deepening his own competitive moat and defending against the disruptive forces at play in the payments industry.
In recent years, he has seen the double-edged sword of AI cut through organisations to the heart of their strategies. He’s observed companies struggling to transition from tried and tested legacy infrastructure to the cloud, and felt the increasing pressure to reach the rising number of unbanked people worldwide.
With the payments sphere in such flux, Morgan acknowledged that despite having 15 years of experience in the industry and counting, there were areas he needed to close the gaps in knowledge. For example, he says:
“We were sitting on a treasure trove of data, but nimble startups were able to do more with the data and bring new products to market faster. On the one hand, they were a threat, but on the other hand, they were also potential partners and maybe even clients — but I didn’t know how to speak their language. I didn’t know what motivated them, their business model or how they expected to grow and succeed.
Highly relevant and applicable lessons
Post- programme, Morgan credits INSEAD with helping him understand how fintechs think and enabling him to better understand the nuances of emerging technologies such as blockchain. Although he clarifies he is far from an expert, his confidence in discussing these topics has grown considerably.
“It has enabled me to be well-informed enough to ask the right questions, so I can gauge if the people I’m talking to are serious players. I can ask pertinent questions, and if they don’t have the right answers, I know the company isn’t one I want to partner with, or that they aren’t quite as well-qualified as I had been led to believe.”
Even in areas where Morgan felt he already had his “finger on the pulse”, the course offered valuable lessons, he adds.
“It was a great opportunity for me to gauge my knowledge against my peers and find out how well I really understood the topics. Inevitably, I found I knew less than I thought, but because I had the foundation, it was easy to pick up the threads, run with them and understand the implications for my role and company. ”
Developing new styles of communication
The biggest highlight of the Fintech Programme for Morgan? The opportunity to work with a learning coach who knows the payments industry inside out.
“I wouldn’t have got so much out of the programme if she had not pushed and prodded me and challenged both the quality of my work and my assumptions about the market.”
Particularly valuable was how his coach insisted that Morgan present his ideas visually rather than in prose chunks to make them more palatable to the audience.
“Unless you have a personal taste for the topic, the original version of my Action Learning Project (ALP) might be dry and uninteresting. But the moment I started to overlay graphs and tell the story more visually, it took off — which is one of the reasons why I earned that distinction.”
He’s taken these lessons from the virtual classroom into the workplace. Now, interactive storytelling is an important part of Morgan’s strategy and he works closely with colleagues to create Tableau dashboards on which to test scenarios and hypothesise.
Thriving in the digital classroom
Worth noting is that Morgan considers himself “a bit of a technophobe”. The online learning experience, however, surpassed his expectations by being intuitive and easy to follow. It also helped that despite being self-paced, the programme still had strict deadlines to meet. This, Morgan explains, offered a sense of structure and kept him on track with the learning.
“I liked that I knew what was expected of me each time, and had a good feel of how well I was doing as well as where I needed to work harder, with deadlines and milestones to track my progress.”
There was also a “real sense of community” when interacting with classmates through discussion forums.
“Whenever there were participants who were not as well-versed in an area, others were happy to share their insights, perspectives and experiences. Sometimes, even as a passive observer, I could glean a lot of insights from my peers’ comments.”
The sum of the benefits is why Morgan hopes to continue his journey with INSEAD in the future, likely taking courses on digital transformation, big data and AI. It's also why he highly recommends the INSEAD Fintech Programme to his peers.
His advice to those considering the programme is to actively network and ask questions — naïve as they may seem. In his experience, the support that one will receive, and insights unlocked, are priceless in one’s career journey.