Well we have got through the first half of the year and a lot of things have already happened. This is my 2012 mid-year report for banking and the changes that need to be made over the rest of the year.
1. Remove all sentiment from the decision making process
Sentiment is a strange thing. It is a natural trait that all human beings share to varying degrees. We keep things for longer than we need because we are worried that no matter how unlikely, we might want to use them again one day. Sentiment can cost us time, money and most importantly halt us from moving forward. Banks have been sentimental about processes, culture and channels for far too long. Banks need to get on with it, remove sentiment from the decision making process and make choices based purely on the facts and trends at hand. This will not only lead to better decisions, but decisions made faster and more efficiently than ever before.
2. Don’t compromise on quality and customer satisfaction
Working in a bank can sometimes make you feel like you are constantly juggling one compromise for the other. These compromises generally result in making things harder than they need to be for customers. When things get too hard the banks have a habit of taking the easy route. It is time to shake up this culture and focus on what counts. Look at your quality and customer satisfaction benchmarks, throw them in the rubbish and start again. Lift you benchmarks to new heights. Put them so high that you will struggle to reach them. With most banks likely to continue offering similar services, those that deliver and maintain the most compelling customer experience will win out in the long run.
3. Never cut corners on talent
It never ceases to amaze me, that in this day and age, and amidst all the competition for resource, how little banks invest in attracting and retaining talent. You could sometimes be confused for thinking that talent grows on trees (next to the money plot). Getting the right talent and retaining it has never been so important for banks, so they need to stop cutting corners and start getting scientific. Have a well defined and standardised process that utilises the latest technology and psychometric profiling to assist in talent selection. Implement a culture that encourages career planning and open, honest dialogue between management and staff. Quickly remove or reassign resources that don’t perform as these people are the first to frustrate your high performers.
4. Begin to dream
Bankers by profession have historically been number crunchers, risk adverse pragmatists and glass half empty types. This could be considered harsh, but it’s true. The modern day reality of big business has evolved significantly beyond these dexterities. The progressive move forward while the cautious become yesterday’s heroes. The rapid progression of new technology means that with every passing day, yesterdays unrealistic ideas become today’s realistic ambitions. We are nearly on the verge of public space travel and self driving cars! Along the way banks have lost the ability to dream. It’s time for banks to start believing again, and bringing the enthusiasm and passion for shared visions together. All dreams are possible in combination with items 1, 2 and 3.
5. Eliminate five-year business cases
Whilst this might not seem as grand as the first four, don’t underestimate the significance of this resolution. The five-year business case is the symptom of a much larger underlying banking problem. The five-year business case was set that long because it reflected the slow pace of development in the industry. Until recently banks thought they could realistically forecast out for five years of benefits with relative accuracy. Nowadays, you will be lucky to be able to forecast five months out. Changing this to something more realistic like two years is not just a case of removing a few columns from a spreadsheet. It is most importantly an attitude shift. This is the first step on the path to resetting your internal expectations about the pace of change and innovation around you.
Let me know what you would focus on over the next two quarters if you were in charge of a bank.