11 Nov 2020
Silicon Valley Bank on how clients' expectations of ‘value’ has changed due to the impact of COVID
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Erin Platts, Head of EMEA and UK president for Silicon Valley Bank offers advice for optimal performance in the current economic environment; the importance and value of a network, and how leaders should be trying to lessen anxiety and stress in people.
This is the second part of Odgers Berndtson at-home interview series with Erin Platts. Mike Drew (Partner and Head) of Odgers Berndtson Executive Search’s Global Technology Practice, and Nick Miller (Partner) of Odgers Berndtson Executive Search’s Financial Services Practice, lead this interview on how technology is evolving and the impact of COVID on the meaning of value.
Mike: Erin, when you lend to technology businesses, how did you apply a Silicon Valley Bank values lens to the clients that you are interacting with?
If you take a step back and you think about what we offer our clients, its commercial banking services, its lending products, and services. Some of that is commoditised, and it is increasingly competitive. It is important that we find ways to add value to our clients outside of the day-to-day, frankly, that is why they choose to work with us. Historically, that has been a combination of leveraging the network that we've built up globally over the last 30-plus years in the innovation sector and leveraging that and utilizing that to help make our clients more successful. That manifests itself through introductions to sources of capital, sometimes sources of talent, sometimes customers and clients that they could bring on board.
“What I've observed is actually the expectations of value has pretty dramatically changed over the last six to nine months driven by COVID. I think our clients want to interact with us in a much different way, and the value that they're looking from us has changed.”
It has never been more difficult to network, we are all working from home and the traditional ways to network are no longer available to us. It has never been more important to utilise your respective networks, and that is really what our clients are looking for from us. They are looking for ways to expand internationally. If they are looking to set up in the US, that is where they are looking for bespoke and specific value add so they can make that transition easier.
Clients are looking for us to convene our portfolio of innovation businesses and share best practice. How can you manage and lead remote teams? How do you onboard, how do you train? They're looking for us to, of course, take care of the banking and the lending and make sure that's working like clockwork, but really it's about convening what we're seeing externally and packaging up those best practices for a bespoke value add experience. That is something that I have been spending a lot of time on recently, really trying to understand what value add means in this new environment.
Watch a ten-minute video on 'How to stay ahead of the ever-changing technology curve’ interview with Erin Platts Head of EMEA and UK president for Silicon Valley Bank.
How do you stay ahead of the curve? Many of the businesses that you have lent to, that you interact with, technology, by nature, at one point is cutting edge, half an hour later, it is suddenly commoditized. Technology is in cars, watches, coffee machines, stuff that before you would not have seen as technology or technology-enabled, are now clearly very much household type view on technology. How do you stay ahead and relevant as a business that operates at such a top end within one niche of the broader market?
I would answer that in two ways. We have restructured all our teams globally to be sub-sector focused. It is not good enough anymore to have TMT teams or technology teams. We have got FinTech experts, enterprise software, consumer, and then you double click on any one of those areas, and then you have subsector specialization in each one of those broad topics as well. We have deliberately shifted our internal set up to face off to market in a different way to be able to keep up with our clients who are growing and evolving faster than any client base globally.
Are we experts in every piece of innovation? No, which leads me to my second point, a lot of times, our clients do not need us to be technology experts. They need us to understand how their businesses grow and scale and how we can help some of the founders and management teams with that pattern recognition of a company going from a series A to series B to series C. There are things that, regardless of the sub-sector, most companies need to do. They need to expand internationally, they need to hire at pace, they need to set up the financial infrastructure in a way that is going to be able to scale with them in perpetuity.
That is the other part, which does not really change from a subsector perspective. There's usually a couple of different flavours of business model, and that is where we also connect our value. It is being proactive and making sure we understand the sub-sectors by way of our team structure, but then it is also just about scaling companies and sharing our expertise in that regard.
What advice would you give to a client in the current economic environment in this point in the cycle?
Part of its advice, part of it is what we're hearing from our clients externally, and what I'm observing across our business internally, which is in itself a fast-growing business. We have hired 65 people since lockdown, so there is a lot of lessons learned there. Firstly, externally, our clients expect different levels of support from us and they want different ways of working, any CEO is going to find that to be the case for their client base. Spending more time with your clients in this environment is hugely important.
Again, the value of a network is incredibly important, but it is hard to build up new relationships in this environment.
“We're encouraging all of our CEOs to spend an increased amount of times with some of their professional advisors, whether it be people like Silicon Valley Bank or auditors or a law firm, but then also spending time with each other. We've been doing a lot in terms of convening CEO, CFO, founders, together to help share best practices because we are, in many respects, all figuring it out together”.
The other thing is the amount of support that our employees need in this environment is substantial. There has never been a time where leadership and internal communications has been more critical and been more important. We have invested a huge amount in our internal comms program to ensure that we are supporting our employees in a way that we have not had to historically. The amount of anxiety and stress that is present for people personally and professionally is at an all-time high. As leaders, how do we ensure that we can take some of that anxiety and stress away and allow people to focus on what is important, whether that be their family and friends or their work? Investing in internal comms, investing in managing teams remotely, performance managing remotely, training remotely, onboarding remotely, that's hugely important and I think it needs proactivity and a deliberate approach as opposed to maybe learning on the job.
Erin, thank you so much. That concludes the interview. I just wanted to say on behalf of Nick and myself, it has been insightful listening to all your great points and insight.