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
Reference Point is a strategy, management, and technology consulting firm focused on delivering impactful solutions for financial services clients. We combine proven experience and practical expertise in a unique consulting delivery model where our engagements are led by former industry executives supported by top-tier consultants, ensuring our clients receive superior quality and value. Please visit us at referencepoint.com.