Partnerships in Review 2020: Themes Across Industries

by Jessica Wadd, Abby Fagan, and Sam Stewart

At the end of last year, my team and I took a few moments to reflect on an interesting 2019 in the world of partnerships, and to consider what the year to come might look like. 2020 brought us plenty of surprises – and readers might be surprised to find that we didn’t anticipate them all.

A year ago, we anticipated three big trends to continue into 2020.

First, we expected an acceleration of the growth and importance of marketplace / platform partnerships. We could not have anticipated how very true this would be for consumer-facing e-commerce categories, with COVID-19 restrictions driving retailers large and small to double-down on relationships with platforms like Amazon, Wayfair, and Shopify.

Notwithstanding pandemic-related disruption, we continue to see signs that the platform marketplace model is becoming pervasive across a diverse set of industries. See, for example, the promise for more transparent and efficient cross-border trade brought by the likes of IBM Blockchain and we.trade and the recently-announced revamp of the Google Pay app, complete with 11 new bank partners.

Second, we anticipated entrenched players across various industries would be on the lookout for new and innovative partnership plays to keep up with the rapid rate of technological change. In healthcare, the height of the pandemic saw some 50% to 80% of all medical visits conducted virtually, driving a rapid acceleration in the importance and scale of partnerships with telehealth providers.

A bit further removed from the pandemic’s impact is the ever-increasing collaboration between banks and tech/fintech providers. Digital banking has been on the rise for years, and the obvious benefits of contactless payments and the limited access to brick-and-mortar banks and retailers in the COVID-era have only served to bolster that trend.

Further still, the growth of digital banking drives a growing opportunity for AI, machine learning, and other emerging technologies to improve the consumer experience, reduce fraud, and generate value in banking. Innovation in these areas consistently comes from technology companies, and not financial institutions, and thus FIs will continue to partner for innovation for the foreseeable future.

Third, we expected executives to increasingly embrace strategic coopetition. In 2020, a wartime-like call to action in the pharma space drove a collaboration between rivals to accelerate vaccine and therapy R&D, and to scale up manufacturing. Necessity has likewise driven collaboration in industries as disparate as food service, with supermarkets sharing depots and logistics capabilities to keep shelves stocked, and cybersecurity, with leading cybersecurity experts from Amazon, Microsoft, and other leading technology firms working together to combat rising cybersecurity threats amid the pandemic.

Beyond crisis response, cooperation between rivals is increasingly viewed strategically across industries. Note, for example, the recent collaboration between German automakers and tech firms to build a cloud-based data exchange platform that does not rely on US or Chinese technology.

Taken collectively, the acceleration of these three trends in 2020 tell a bigger story – one for which we at Vantage Partners have long advocated in both the commercial and humanitarian space – about the strength of aligning diverse interests and objectives to drive our collective successes. Reflecting on a challenging year, 2020 was full of examples of innovation and collaboration in spite of, and even because of, unprecedented challenges.

Here’s to a more predictable 2021.

Align and Advance

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