What Hannibal teaches us about FinTech Strategy
Military precedent and strategy can provide some useful pointers in today’s hyper competitive FinTech market. Hannibal's victory over the Romans at Cannae in 216 BC is maybe the best and most relevant example.
Many FinTechs often lack the resources enjoyed by incumbent competitors and this was equally true for Hannibal at Cannae. He was faced with odds of greater than two to one and had no territorial advantage. Despite this, he positioned his forces in an outward facing arc with his seemingly weaker Spaniards and Gauls at the centre and his Carthaginian heavy infantry on the flanks.
As the Romans advanced this “soft” centre deliberately fell back encouraging the Romans to press home their advantage. He knew that the Roman commanders were impetuous and under orders to eradicate the threat from Carthage once and for all.
Sensing victory, the Romans continued forwards but found themselves in a narrower and more unwieldy column. Their better weaponry became unusable as the Carthaginian heavy infantry pressed into them from the sides while Hannibal’s superior cavalry attacked the Romans in the rear.
The result was nothing short of a massacre as more than 50,000 Romans were killed, greater than on any single day of battle before or since.
Key to his victory was mastery of three themes - positioning his resources correctly, anticipating the dynamics of his environment and coordinating his own forces effectively. These three themes all interlocked and supported each other.
For FinTechs this means starting with a plan that is more than just about having better technology. Such a plan needs to focus on where your superiority can be most disruptive. Understanding the subtleties of your environment and how this superiority can be played to to your advantage is equally important. In Hannibal’s case, he had launched skirmishing attacks on the enemy's HQ the night before to embarrass their leaders into even greater haste.
Finally, share this plan and what is required with all your troops so that smaller size is transformed into business agility.
This way focussed, coordinated action will always overcome sheer mass.