What’s the Greatest Opportunity in Banking?

January 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM

It's the time of the year when I have the opportunity to talk with many CEOs about strategy, business objectives, and the challenge of transformation in the digital age.  All too often, I sense these leaders struggling with the daunting job of change - as opposed to embracing it.  One reason often becomes clear: they lack focus in their go-forward strategy, and, as a result, feel like major change has to happen everywhere.  

This is understandable because nothing is really business as usual anymore.  But there is real opportunity in realizing that  you can't be all things to all people.  Companies need to make substantial investments to be and stay relevant, and that means CEOs have to choose where to make their bets - which segments of the business and consumer markets will be your winners.  

Banks have historically sought to serve the communities in which they reside - serving the entire business and consumer household bases in these communities.  And for many banks, the profiles of the communities they serve are incredibly varied.  This is not a recipe for success in today's marketplace where one size doesn't fit anybody and investment is sorely needed to build better, more targeted value propositions and delivery solutions.  

Focus is the most important element of strategic excellence. Companies that have a strong strategic focus don't dilute their financial and management resources, spend brand equity and/or increase significantly their risk profiles by chasing whatever happens to be “hot” at the moment regardless of their core competencies.  They have clarity in what will drive success and a vision that informs how they make decisions, invest their limited resources, and align their actions.  

How focused is your vision for your company?  How clear are you about the specific segments of the market where you can and will win? How well aligned are your resources around this focused vision?  Any hesitation in answering these questions with “very” should signal a need for greater strategic discipline. When we look back at this time in banking history, I think focus may well prove to have been the greatest driver of success.

Let me know what you think!

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