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Disruption Brings Great Opportunities & Risks to Middle Market, Capital One

June 28, 2017, 07:00 AM
Filed Under: Economy

Most executives of middle-market companies not only expect their business to experience disruption in the near future, but welcome it, according to Disruption in the Middle Market, a report released by Capital One Commercial Bank. However, this optimistic view does not always translate into action; only a small portion of middle market companies have taken a full range of defensive measures to protect against disruption's potentially destructive consequences.

Capital One surveyed more than 300 senior executives from companies with annual revenues ranging from $100 million to $3 billion to determine their views on disruption—a significant interruption to an existing business arising from innovative technology, a new business model, or political, economic and environmental forces.

The study revealed that attitudes toward disruption correlated to size.  Smaller middle-market companies are more likely than their larger counterparts to be unprepared for disruption. The report also highlighted a series of steps, such as strengthening financial relationships, that smaller companies can take to catch up.

"The concept of 'disruption' and its dramatic impact on markets and industries is often seen as a contest between startups and very large, established companies, but middle market companies are also a key part of this dynamic," said David Kucera, Senior Managing Director of Capital One's Financial Institutions Group. "Some have the flexibility to be disruptors themselves, while others are likely targets of disruption.  Their ability to survive and even flourish in the face of disruption depends critically on their access to financial resources."

Disruption in the Middle Market provides a detailed picture of the views of middle-market executives about disruption and the steps they are taking to address it. Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported that their companies have already experienced disruption or expect to experience it during the next three years.  However, only one-sixth of those surveyed believe they are prepared to deal with a disruptive event. Despite this lack of preparation, four-fifths of middle-market executives view disruption as an opportunity, not a threat.  Many of these executives believe that disruption threatens their industry—but not their own company.  Forty-three percent said that their industry is vulnerable to disruption, while just 18 percent reported that their own company is vulnerable.

Size proved the key determinant in a company's preparedness and attitude toward disruption. Companies with revenue between $2 billion and $3 billion are much more likely to see a disruptive event as an opportunity than companies in the $100 million to $499 million range. In addition, larger companies are more likely to have insulated themselves from the effects of a disruptive event and to be pursuing a disruptive strategy of their own that could lead to a competitive advantage.

Financial Preparation Is Critical

The study revealed that a strong relationship with a stable financial institution could play a critical role in helping a middle-market company respond to disruptive forces. Sixty-eight percent of those with an ongoing banking relationship expect to need additional funding in the face of a disruption. These companies will find it easier to arrange than the 32 percent without a strong banking relationship.  Here again, smaller companies are at a disadvantage.  Many lack the holistic banking relationship needed to confront disruption, and instead are willing to consider alternative sources of capital like peer-to-peer lending and even crowdfunding.

"Companies at risk of disruption should look for established financial partners that offer a broad and evolving selection of services, combined with a deep understanding of the industry as the marketplace changes," said Bob McCarrick, Head of the Commercial & Industrial Banking group at Capital One. "Those without solid, long-term financial support are particularly vulnerable."

"Disruptive innovation is affecting companies of all sizes—reframing opportunities and risk," said Anat Lechner, Clinical Professor of Management and Organizations at New York University Stern School of Business. "Disruptors take bold steps to shift their value in ways that simultaneously create a strategic edge for themselves, and create a disadvantage for others who are holding to old business models and offerings"

Additional Findings:

Almost one-third of middle market companies are passive in the face of disruption
Success in the face of disruption requires both preparation and the will to act. Companies that have actively prepared for disruption and are pursuing a disruptive strategy, we dubbed disruptors. They constituted 16 percent of the respondents. By contrast, delayers are not prepared for a disruptive event and are not pursuing a disruptive strategy. They accounted for 30 percent of the respondents.

  • Virtually every disruptor—92 percent—has an in-house person or team tasked with identifying threats, and 85 percent have created a contingency plan. By contrast, only 41 percent of delayers have a person or team dedicated to disruption and 24 percent have created a contingency plan.
  • Disruptors are four to five times as likely to have purchased interruption insurance and to have implemented regular firewall testing than delayers. 
  • Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of disruptors have increased their overall R&D budget by 11 percent to 25 percent over the last year. Thirty-three percent of delayers, on the other hand, did not grow their R&D budget at all. 
  • Disruptors are almost three times more likely to have sufficient banking relationships to provide financial advice and support during a disruptive event than delayers, and are less likely to require additional capital to remain competitive.

Small companies are much more likely to take a passive approach to disruption
There is a clear correlation between company size and whether a company is a disruptor or delayer.

  • Just three percent of companies with revenues between $100 million and $499 million are disruptors, while 44 percent are delayers.
  • By contrast, 27 percent of companies with revenues between $2 billion and $3 billion annually are disruptors, while only 13 percent are delayers.

Attitude toward disruption varies considerably by industry
Middle market executives in some industries have adopted a much more proactive approach to disruption than those in others.

  • Financial services and insurance companies are archetypical disruptors. Forty-seven percent are quite or extremely prepared for disruption, and 83 percent are pursuing a disruptive strategy. The overall middle-market averages for the survey are 16 percent and 60 percent, respectively.
  • Energy, resources, and chemicals companies tend to be classic delayers. Eighty-three percent are slightly or not at all prepared for a disruptive event (compared to 53 percent for the full survey), and only 37 percent are pursuing a disruptive strategy (compared to 60 percent overall).

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