Mickey Gambale, CEO of independent wealth management proposition INN8, is changing the way investments are done

Change is inevitable. The ability to get ahead of shifting trends and market dynamics is the lifeblood of any successful organisation. The financial services industry – usually considered risk averse, slow to change and somewhat staid – is ready for a shake-up.

Today, we require more from our service providers: more innovation, a wider choice, a greater understanding of our needs. To stay competitive and ahead of the game, financial services providers need to be willing to be brave and step outside their comfort zone.

It takes a certain type of person to challenge the status quo, particularly in this industry. One such leader blazing the trail is Mickey Gambale, CEO of INN8, SA’s first purpose-built, adviser-inspired wealth management proposition. Gambale has two decades of industry experience under his belt and knows how ‘things have always been done’. He believes it’s time for something new.

More than just another investment platform, INN8’s proposition goes further than current investment platform offerings, which are often built on legacy or banking systems and were not designed with the advisers’ needs in mind.

Gambale maintains that it all starts with an audacious outlook. ‘Our vision is simple: to change the way investments are done – a big, bold idea, especially in this industry. At the core, we’re no different to any other industry: we need to be thinking ahead and be willing to adapt, or we’ll be left behind. Keeping our vision simple and clear is crucial in ensuring we stay on track.’

It’s a grand idea that sounds good on paper, but how do you translate this into a successful business proposition? ‘We needed to distil our vision into a rock-solid strategy, and then build the culture that would enable us to deliver,’ says Gambale. 

To articulate this vision and ensure that it always remains at the forefront, it’s important to have what he refers to as ‘a reason for being’; why INN8 does what it does. ‘For us, it’s our staff, our financial advisers and their clients,’ says Gambale. ‘It’s as simple as that.’

Building a culture to deliver a vision
‘To bring such a daring vision to life, you need to create the right culture first. A mismatch between your grand vision and the environment in which it must grow is a fatal blow to any new venture.

‘Our culture is dynamic, agile, it’s ready and willing to adapt, and always two steps ahead. Curious, boundary-pushing and always learning – that’s the core of who we are at INN8.

‘Setting our culture and vision first and then recruiting the team in line with that was crucial to getting the right people on board,’ says Gambale. ‘Everything in our business, from our job descriptions to our organisational structure and service promise, is aligned to our vision and checked against it constantly.’

Gambale embarked on a global search for people to help create this unique, fresh culture and inject new thinking and external best practice into the organisation. The result, he adds, is a very clear focus on how things are done in the business: lean, agile and always improving.

Customer experience over  client centricity
In a world of constant noise and options, how do you set yourself apart? How do you get a financial adviser to choose your offering and, most importantly, to stay with you?

A buzzword often bandied about is ‘client centricity’ – but Gambale believes that this is an overused, nebulous concept that doesn’t take it far enough. So he approaches it from a different angle: ‘How do we want our clients to feel after they interact with us? The answer: We want to delight our advisers and their clients every time. We want them to come away thinking “That was a great experience”,’ he says.

‘We all know from our own daily interactions with brands and service providers that it’s not always product features or even pricing that builds brand loyalty. Leading brands have realised that it’s the customer experience that makes the difference.

‘In our industry, compliance considerations, legacy processes and the cost of change have often got in the way of providing that awesome experience to customers. Our job at INN8 is to find ways to balance the fundamentals of industry requirements with the satisfying journey we want to provide to our clients.

‘How our clients feel about us is what will define our success.’ One way Gambale and his team have applied this thinking is by returning once again to the vision and culture they worked hard to create. ‘By ensuring that our customer experience [CX] aligns with our vision at every touchpoint, we can make sure that we stay on track and attain our goals.’

Thus, customer experience is at the heart of everything INN8. ‘CX is a much more clearly defined concept than client centricity. It allows our business to focus and mobilise teams better.’ Gambale understands that making the decision to become a customer experience-focused business can be a seismic change for an organisation, and for many it can feel like a step too far, as it involves a fundamental shift in the organisation’s approach, strategy and tactics, from top to bottom.

It’s a big step, but it’s one Gambale and his team are excited to take. ‘This is not something you can do alone. Every one in the business has a role to play, and collaboration is key,’ he says.

Visionary reality
‘The technology and tools INN8 has developed to bring this vision to life are only one part of the bigger picture,’ says Gambale. ‘We all expect more from our technology, and what may seem cutting edge today can been seen as standard tomorrow.’

Investment platforms are evolving to enable advisers to use a single platform to access information, manage compliance and gain insights to inform their investment choices, going further than simply reviewing and managing investments.

Gambale likens today’s investment platforms to a more common consumer convenience. ‘Think of them as the supermarket of investments products and tax vehicles, such as tax-free savings accounts, pension or provident funds, where you can purchase the likes of third-party collective investment schemes and exchange traded funds, or other investments from a range of providers – all in one place in a simple, cost-effective manner. This allows advisers to spend more time doing what they do best: serving their clients and building their business.’

A culture of collaboration
Gambale acknowledges that ‘nobody can be the best at everything – and you don’t have to be. What you do need, however, is access to those who are the best in the game. So, we focus on what we do best and partner with the experts in the industry, whether technology or investment specialists’.

Successful collaboration depends on the culture that has been ingrained in the organisation. Gambale and his team have worked hard to ensure that everyone is given a voice: staff, advisers and their clients.

Even those internal departments that don’t deal directly with customers play a role in the customer experience: their contributions play an important part in creating that superlative customer experience that INN8 aspires to. Shared learning across teams, and even with external partners, is crucial.

‘Collaboration prevents stagnation and allows us to learn from the best,’ says Gambale.

Back to basics
‘At INN8, we ultimately exist to help the adviser grow their business and, in turn, provide holistic advice to their clients, achieve clients’ investment goals and meet their outcomes. We aim to help advisers continually improve their practice and grow their book. That’s our job,’ says Gambale.

‘While the tools we’re offering to do this happen to be cutting-edge, innovative wealth management platforms, it’s really about being willing to take on the challenge stated in our vision: changing the way investments are done.’ 

17 Melrose Boulevard, Melrose Arch,
Johannesburg, 2196
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