One-On-One With Scott Goeden of Reference Point

Oct 20, 2022 /consultingmag/

An exclusive interview with ConsultingMag

Reference Point Managing Partner Scott Goeden recently sat down with Consulting magazine for an exclusive interview, reprinted below, or available with a subscription at consultingmag.com.

In July of 2022, Reference Point marked its 20th anniversary by enlarging its New York City office in One Chase Manhattan Plaza. Reference Point’s Managing Partner, Scott Goeden noted, “The founding partners launched the firm to serve an unmet need in the industry and offer impactful solutions to help our clients deliver successfully.”

Consulting magazine followed up with Goeden to find out more about the strategy, management and technology firm, its growth and future plans for serving the Financial Services industry. 

Consulting: Briefly describe Reference Point’s history and your industry focus. 

Goeden: Founded in 2002, our differentiated approach ensures  clients achieve their goals by pairing renowned former C-suite  executives with top-tier consultants to deliver practical,  innovative, and impactful solutions supported by top-notch  implementation. And we foster an inclusive culture where team  members have the opportunity to work with some of the largest  global banks and financial services companies in the world,  alongside talented consultants and former C-suite executives. 

Our interrelated offerings fall broadly into four service lines  Strategy, Digital & Technology, Data & Analytics and Risk  & Regulatory Compliance with a focus on Capital Markets,  Wealth & Investment Management, Retail and Consumer  Banking, Housing Finance, Insurance and Finance & Treasury. 

Consulting: Reference Point is celebrating 20 years in  business, what would you attribute to the continued  growth of the firm? 

Goeden: I would say that you can be flexible in the details  but inflexible in the vision. Our vision is at the core of  everything we do. By pairing industry executives with top tier consultants, our highly analytical teams cannot only help  solve the most strategic problems our clients are facing, but  more importantly, we can drive the efforts to operationalize  them. We help clients achieve their goals by bringing in the  teams to make their strategic visions a reality. 

We understand that there are plenty of business consultants  vying for the attention of the financial services industry. This  concept of truly keeping clients at the center of what we do  and delivering on our promises enables us to continue to be  successful. 

Consulting: What plans do you have to maintain and  elevate the firm’s growth trajectory? 

Goeden: With regards to growth, we’ve made significant  strides in the past couple of years. Reference Point is  stronger, more relevant and more innovative than ever. And  our growth reflects that—we’ve added new services, more  experts into our network and a refreshed brand. 

As a company, we like to think about growth in the  nontraditional way. If you focus on your growth before needs  of clients, you’ll be managing staff and team to sell services  that your clients don’t need. Our strategy is to continue to help  clients solve for their needs and elevate our brand to further  position us as a firm that can solve the most strategic problems  and trust that the growth will come with it. So instead, we  focus on helping clients and understand that the outcomes of  those projects will continue to garner more business. 

We will continue to develop service offerings across our four  service areas across strategy, digital and technology, data and  analytics, and risk and regulatory compliance that support  the needs of our clients and reflect the expertise of our  people and we will continue to hire bright, entrepreneurial  people who are driven to bring our vision to life. 

Consulting: What would you say has changed the most  in the banking and finance sector over the last 10 years? 

Goeden: Technology has redefined all elements of finance  with a material impact on the banking segment. The  prohibitive cost of technology and the near immediacy of  obsolescence of technology has created a permanent change  in the banking business model requiring each firm to decide  based on the need whether they need to build, buy/partner or  outsource to a third party. 

In addition to the business model change, technology has  dramatically changed both the competitive landscape by  creating entirely new legions of competitors both within  the legacy regulatory world (online banking and instore  banking) to FinTech entrants who are attacking the most  profitable highest margin and largest portions of the available  spend. These new competitors are gaining traction because  they have the newest technology, low operating costs and  fast delivery—mostly without the same level of regulatory  oversight faced by traditional financial services companies. 

Consulting: What keeps your clients up at night? What  are they are looking for Reference Point to provide? 

Goeden: More often than not what keeps our clients up at  night are the unknown unknowns. They are not necessarily  concerned about being adequately prepared for what is  happening in the market, but whether they have the ability to  adjust quickly and see their strategy implemented smoothly  and without significant operational or technical risks. 

Beyond that, clients are worried about many of the issues  that you will hear about when you turn on the news. Cost  control is certainly top of mind. Organizations are cognizant  of where they can do more with less and looking to scale  without losing their service levels. This goes hand in hand  with digitizing processes. Optimization and identifying the  right balance between scale and customer service is key. 

Knowledge retention in the aftereffects of the great  resignation have left companies looking to build solutions  around maintaining information amid high turnovers.  Information Security also remains top of the list. For  businesses the majority of cyber-attacks are still from  phishing emails, so they are not just looking for technological  solutions, they are looking to help educate employees about safe behavior. Finally, regulatory compliance is also a key  topic—with Cryptocurrency becoming more mainstream and  organizations looking to leverage more artificial intelligence  and machine learning, it’s important to understand the  requirements that go along with that, and this can be tricky  because in some cases, regulators have yet to take a stance. 

Consulting: What elements drive you personally and what  is your favorite part of being in the consulting industry? 

Goeden: The development and success of my colleagues  and Reference Point are a genuine source of motivation  for me. The team members and clients that I have had the  pleasure and privilege to work with drive me to raise the bar  and deliver my best. 

I believe that the sign of a true leader is when you view your  team’s success as more important than your own and the  same goes for clients—you have to truly believe that their  success is important and thrive when you see it come to life. 

Consulting: Regarding ESG and DEI as a matter of  practice, how has your work changed/expanded as these  elements become more and more important? 

Goeden: This is an interesting topic as there is still so  much regulatory uncertainty for banks and other financial  institutions with regard to ESG risks. We see clients  questioning what measures they should take and stepping  back to let the market drive their actions. A good example  is the demand for investment products that focus on  environmentally friendly companies but creating these types  of products can cause risk. 

In fact, there have been a number of headlines recently where  regulators are questioning these investment tools and asking  questions about the methods by which the companies are  vetted. With the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision  recently issuing its principles for the effective management  and supervision of climate-related financial risks, banks now  have high-level “principles” to work toward. But “how” they  should work toward them is still unclear because regulators  around the world are still working out the rules. 

So, what does that mean to us? We are currently working  with a number of clients to help them determine how to de risk the situation. 

Consulting: Regarding ESG and DEI as a matter of  operations/policy, where is Reference Point? Do you see  these matters impacting your policies and practices? 

Goeden: Providing a great place to work that is supported  by corporate governance, sustainable business practices and 

making a positive impact on the community has always been  important to us. 

We embrace differences and actively integrate those to  create a vibrant and inclusive culture. We commit to learn  from and empower one another, which enables us to deliver  for clients and create an atmosphere where employees of  all backgrounds can achieve success. For this reason, we  continue to focus on fostering a culture of inclusion that  attracts, develops and retains diverse talent. 

Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a great example.  These self-driven groups have sponsorship from leadership,  involvement from our expert network and help they create  a culture of inclusion that connects colleagues from across  the country and creates a sense of belonging. Community  support is also at the heart of Reference Point’s culture. Our  employees dedicate their time, talent, and monetary support  to a number of charitable organizations worldwide—many  of which are focused on supporting future leaders. 

Consulting: How do you see firm culture tie into continued  growth and health of Reference Point? 

Goeden: Reference Point prides itself on offering a dynamic  and entrepreneurial environment where people can truly  chart their own course for the future. It’s supported by our  core values of humility, integrity and drive and despite  our exponential growth, we maintain and are committed  to maintaining a family-orientated atmosphere that is not  always available at other firms. By embodying these values,  we are able to humbly offer guidance and advice to our  clients and do whatever we need to get the job done well.  This has created an environment where people want to help  each other out and see each other be successful—because we  are all humble, have integrity and are driven. 

Consulting: Looking back on the impact of COVID, what  are some of the pandemic-driven changes affecting your  clients? 

Goeden: Covid has changed the world—and our thoughts and  prayers go out to anyone impacted by this deadly virus. There  are so many things that have impacted the industry. Certainly, the  virtual working environment that stemmed from the pandemic  has forced clients to reimagine their own operating models,  deliver structures and how they approach talent acquisition.  Additionally, there is an accelerated need for digital strategies  to meet the needs of consumers and how to implement those  tools and technologies while maintaining the appropriate  

level of controls, protection and service. Finally, this crisis  has heightened awareness around adaptability. Organizations  understand that they need to be prepared and ready for anything  and have the technology in place to make swift changes. This  has been a key topic among our customers, and we have helped  a number of them work through these challenges. 

Consulting: Briefly share your outlook for the future of  the banking finance sector? Growth and/or success for  the next decade. 

Goeden: The industry provides an incredible service to the  health of the global economy. We expect how the industry  operates and distributes its products and services, how it  manages talent, and the investments it makes in data and  technology will continue to evolve, but the core of the business  will remain the same. At the same time digital delivery and  efficiency through leveraging technology are going to be the  dominant themes. One material change from the past is the  ease with which customers can and will change providers is  going to be directly tied to the quality and cost of service. 

Another big question, as FinTech’s continue to disrupt the  industry, is who will emerge as market leaders. The landscape  is changing, and we see no evidence that it will stop. 

But Central Banks and their supporting regulators will  push to require unregulated FinTech entities and especially  Decentralized autonomous organization organizations to  implement robust KYC/AML policies and implementation. 

Ironically, the great difference between those that prosper  and those that become marginalized is highly likely not be  technology, but the ability to bring on board the strongest  and most motivated talent and then train and retain them.  Given the global nature of today’s financial services the  most successful firms will consider themselves similar to  the Olympics—where they are competing in every “event”  with the best in the world. Without the most outstanding  individuals, they will not only miss the gold medal, but they  will also be removed from the competition. 

I certainly look forward to continuing to leverage our  expertise and attract top talent so that we can assist our  clients as they bring their visions to life—whatever they may  be faced with! 

Consulting: Thank you Scott, and we wish continued  good fortune for you and the firm. 

About Reference Point

Experience. Expertise. Execution. Results. Reference Point provides end-to-end strategy, management, and technology consulting tailored for the specialized needs of the global banking and financial services industry. Founded in 2002, our differentiated approach ensures clients achieve their goals by pairing renowned former C-suite executives with top-tier consultants to deliver practical, innovative, and impactful solutions supported by flawless implementation. For more information, please visit www.referencepoint.com or contact us at info@referencepoint.com.

Ph: 703-663-1745
info@referencepoint.com