This article was written by Gregory Van, CEO of Singapore-based financial technology company Endowus.
To me, competition is a good gauge of relative performance over peers but not necessarily a good gauge of success, which is more absolute in its meaning. Success for our generation of entrepreneurs should be about creating value through sustainable positive impact on our clients, society and the planet.
Competition is merely a means to an end and often leads to very short-sighted and tactical actions. We all have to be much more long-term and strategic in our thought process.
Friends would say that I am competitive. When it comes to competition in sports, it definitely gets my blood boiling, though I would say that I enjoy a great contest over the need to win. But we are all different, and when I watch my six-year-old daughter in action, I'd say she enjoys winning over competing.
But as a fintech entrepreneur, I completely understand that funding and customers are finite and would say differentiation is critically important to success rather than competition. As a fee-only wealth advisory platform across private wealth, public pension (CPF, SRS) and best-in-class strategies across public markets, private markets and alternatives, our clients know how different we are, which has been a key driver of our early signs of success. That said, we are far from being successful and not even close to one percent done with our mission to help everyone invest better to live better.
Competition is a key driver of innovation
In business, competition is a key driver of innovation—it has transformed from a simple buzzword to a necessity for both organisational development and financial growth. Often used interchangeably with ‘invention’, innovation encompasses more than the creation of something novel. It refers to adapting to changes by modifying existing models or processes to achieve better outcomes. In open and competitive markets where businesses are motivated to innovate to stay ahead of the curve, this leads to improved processes, better products at lower price points, and those who best meet customer needs will and should win.
At Endowus, we have innovated a financial service that is structurally aligned to our clients’ needs—where we are only paid by the clients we serve rather than receiving sales commissions or trailer fees from product providers. In addition, we work with the industry's best money managers to provide access to their best-in-class funds at low fair fees, something many individuals could not access before.
In the world of fintech, we have seen a lot of money splashing around as competitors try to one-up each other, whether through giving out free stocks, cash, crypto or coins. To me, this is dangerous as it incites the wrong types of behaviour and sends a lot of false signals in terms of acquisition. It is also extremely wasteful and we try not to engage in or get distracted by this type of competitive behaviour.
We obsess over comparing what people can do with Endowus and outside of Endowus to explore what's right and what’s best for our clients. This includes improving the overall digital client experience, curating the best funds and portfolios and improving our processes to function better as a well-oiled machine.
Use competition to drive growth
Competition should serve as a catalyst for improvement. If others are faring better than you in certain aspects, chances are, they’re doing something right. So if you find yourself in such situations, use it as a learning opportunity to improve on your existing ideas or strategies.
Additionally, instead of shutting your competitors out, use competition to exchange conversations and ideas among different players to drive shared learning and growth. This is crucial as it can prevent the stagnation of the industry as a whole.
Unhealthy degrees of competition and comparison is a distraction and breed envy. In such cases, it’s important to take a step back to refocus and realign yourself with your goals and priorities. Someone else’s success and achievements do not negate or undermine your own.
At the end of the day, everyone’s idea of success is different. Previously, the success of an organisation usually depended on quantitative metrics and if their figures are better than their competitors'. But, in today’s world, a lot of our traditional notions of what it takes to ‘win’ and ‘succeed’ no longer apply. Many people have started to look beyond the numbers and comparisons and recognise that success is the positive lasting impact you make on the community and planet.