One thing that banks and other financial institutions may be hard-pressed to admit is their apprehension about the future. With rapid digitalization, stiff competition from other organizations, and rising customer standards, the future may seem bleak, difficult to navigate, and even downright worrisome.
However, any company that wants to continue the good work it’s already doing should be willing to face the challenge of future-proofing its business—even if this entails more than simply onboarding new processes or spending large amounts of money on new technologies.
Admittedly, the difficulty may lie not only in implementing large-scale structural changes, but also in acclimatizing the people in the institution towards imminent modernization. The organization’s leaders shouldn’t forget their people and their company culture, and they must be deliberate in upholding certain values amidst these changes.
What are the characteristics that a forward-looking and future-ready financial institution should embody? Here are five that you should pay attention to if you’re overseeing a finance transformation or other significant overhaul of your business’s systems, processes, and technological tools.
Resilience to change
The first characteristic that a financial institution should embody if it wants to succeed in the coming years is resilience. Stakeholders may know that tougher times lie ahead for the banking industry, especially in light of the financial crisis that followed the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is up to the organization’s leaders to prepare for the reconfiguration of the business’s financial policies and processes in order to accommodate imminent change, as well as to mitigate the initial shock that the rest of the organization will feel. The sooner that bankers can work toward inculcating a resiliency mindset within their organization, the better their chances will be for future success.
Willingness to embrace innovation
Another key characteristic of a future-ready and forward-thinking financial organization is its willingness to explore innovative strategies and solutions. A smart company knows that digitalization is nothing to be afraid of, and that the functionalities that come with a digital transformation—like the use of automation technologies, real-time analytics and forecasting tools, and artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions—can be highly advantageous not only now, but in the next decade.
Forward-thinking leaders in a financial institution will also know that digitalization will not necessarily replace the capabilities of their human resources; rather, the best new technological solutions and tech-driven strategies will actually strengthen human performance at critical junctures, like when stakeholders have to engage in high-level financial decision-making.
Flexibility in working with new systems
One characteristic that should be upheld and steadily nurtured throughout the organization is flexibility in working with new systems. Many financial institutions still possess outdated legacy systems that induce rigid, inflexible, and siloed-off workflows.
A company that wants a fighting chance at a successful future needs to address both the limits of its current system and the ability of its staff to adapt to a new one.
Like the other characteristics that should be developed within an organization working actively to future-proof itself, building flexibility will not be easy. It may be particularly difficult for the company’s leadership to bridge the generational gaps that exist between staff members, as well as address the learning curve that comes with adopting a new system.
But given the breakneck rate at which the banking industry will need to adjust to its clientele, added flexibility will be extremely valuable to any financial institution.
Commitment to better quality of performance
A financial institution that wants to survive in the future should do more than simply replicate the same achievements of the previous years. It must nurture a commitment to raise the standard of performance and impress retail and corporate customers. Visible improvements to processes like customer enrollment will result in more than a mere good impression—they could also inspire greater loyalty, which is the edge that a bank needs over its competitors.
Settling for the same financial achievements as before could be a death knell for an organization. The best way to guarantee survival is to avoid mediocrity and stagnancy, and to instead uphold the values of excellence and customer-centeredness within the company culture.
Belief in realism, not perfectionism
This is not to say that financial institutions should approach their modernization from an overly idealistic or perfectionistic place. Doing so is sure to cause great strain on the organization, ultimately doing it more harm than good. The organization’s leaders must be able to strike the balance between the level of transformation they want to achieve and the level of transformation that is realistically possible from a month-to-month or year-to-year basis.
One way to temper the desire for perfectionism is to determine a roadmap for the business. The roadmap can detail the exact modernization milestones that the company wants to hit for a certain time period and—just as importantly—identify a reasonable pace for the company’s tech infrastructure and human resources to catch up.
These five characteristics should contribute to a strong foundation for a bank’s financial future. If you are a leader or stakeholder in the task of future-proofing your organization, remember that these characteristics aren’t inborn—they can be taught and practiced. Nurture them within your organization as you set your sights towards change, and be sure to align your vision for the future with the timeless values that have always distinguished your company.