Balancing Tradition and Innovation in London


The view from my office is pretty amazing. To the left is St. Paul’s Cathedral, a site upon which a church has existed since 604 AD. To my right is a direct line of sight up Bow Lane, which is one of the oldest surviving lanes in the City to maintain its original layout. Dominating the gaps in between are a plethora of ultra-modern buildings housing some of the largest and most innovative firms in the City. These are interspersed with shops, leisure and entertainment venues that have very recently redefined themselves to meet the needs of the post lockdown office worker. Upon these historic streets, innovation is ongoing.

This interplay of tradition and innovation is mirrored in the way I view Citisoft. Our company was founded in 1986 as the original asset management operations and technology consultancy in the UK. To provide some context, this was around the time the UK government decided to de-regulate the financial system. It was the same year that Maradona used his hand to score vs Peter Shilton in the notorious “Hand of God” incident, the Chernobyl Disaster occurred, and mad cow disease was discovered in cattle in the UK. I don’t consider myself as ancient (multiple daughters who think otherwise), but goodness me that does feel like a long time ago. To have survived within our niche for this entire period, with consultants omnipresent at clients, I think is quite an achievement.

Our long and rich lineage provides our business with a strong foundation, but our industry has gone through many phases of evolution in the decades since. To keep pace with technology, expanded markets and investment strategies, and the trends that have pushed asset management forward, we’ve never been able to rest on the strength of our lineage—we’ve had to evolve continuously. Marrying tradition with innovation is core to our business and our value proposition to clients.

I originally joined Citisoft in 2004 and re-joined the firm in 2020 to help lead the next phase of Citisoft’s evolution. In the time since re-joining, I’ve been focused on two goals: offering our clients the time-tested and proven frameworks that have guided decades of successful change programs, and bringing clients new, forward-looking ways to think about their operational strategy. This blend of tradition and innovation helps our clients meet near-term capability, scalability, and efficiency challenges while building a foundation for the future.

So how do we strike the right balance of pragmatism and innovation? Very simply, we have honest and authentic conversations with our clients, prospects and solutions providers and use these to both identify emerging trends and ground them in what is practical for the complexities our clients face. We don’t do this academically, through surveys, or via formal focus groups. We think the best results come from actively engaging on a peer-to-peer basis to keep a pulse on what’s game-changing and what’s pie in the sky. As themes like ESG, data as a service, or digital assets make headlines, we make sure we are ready to embrace what will move our clients’ businesses forward and backburner the buzz.

Keeping our goals grounded but forward-looking is something driven by an intricate understanding of our clients’ unique businesses gained through active and authentic dialogue. Authenticity is endemic within our culture and though it can be uncomfortable, we genuinely believe this is the bedrock upon which a successful change program is built. We think our clients would attest to this—in fact, we had recent client feedback that we “certainly didn’t pander to our [their] confirmation needs.” I did check, and it was a compliment!

In some cases, this means that we deliver bad news to key stakeholders—perhaps there is a gap between what their service provider offers them vs. the market or maybe we must highlight that the maturity of a client’s operating model has fallen behind, despite best efforts. In many cases, we see that prioritizing cost savings has had unexpected consequences for client experience or the ability to embrace new technologies. These hard conversations are what propel us and our clients forward. With pain, comes growth. Any operations leader brave enough to confront where their organization has fallen down is paving the way to a future-proofed business.

Within Citisoft, we try to have hard, authentic conversations about our own consulting practice as well. As we navigate significant growth in headcount of our consulting practice in London, we make a point to embrace the outside perspective of our new hires and constantly seek new ideas and feedback from our consulting team. Through these authentic conversations and innovative thinking, we’re proud to carry on Citisoft’s tradition of evolving with the market.