The question has morphed. A month ago, financial services firms were asking, “Will the banking crisis impact my organization?” Today, now that there’s some distance from the initial series of bank failures and markets are beginning to stabilize, it’s time for organizations to start asking, “How can we continue to move forward during an uncertain time?”
Continuous improvement plans are vital for any organization to keep and win business. Though these projects are tempting to put on hold during periods of industry or economic uncertainty, failure to restart them can become a costly mistake. Now that your organization has had time to assess the immediate fallout from the banking crisis, it’s time to decide which projects you want to resume, and when.
Here are the five key assessment points I recommend for small, mid-sized, and regional banks that are ready to move forward during an uncertain time:
1. Understand your firm’s real and perceived risks.
You’ve assessed the immediate fallout from the SVB failure, Signature Bank collapse, First Republic Bank share trading halt, and UBS’s government-brokered acquisition of Credit Suisse, among the other events of March 2023. Even if your bank was well-positioned to weather that moment, you may have a new, more accurate understanding of the strength of your bank. More importantly, you may also have a more accurate understanding of any weaknesses in your current positioning.
Let your firm’s real and perceived risks form the foundation of the criteria you evaluate your continuous improvement projects against. Say you found that you have favorable liquidity ratios, but your customer loyalty is lacking. Use that information to help you prioritize a customer experience initiative when it’s time to resume a new project.
2. Know how each project fits into your organization’s larger strategic plan.
The goal of a continuous improvement project is to support a long-term strategic vision. Because none of these projects exist in a vacuum, it’s important to understand the downstream impacts of any prolonged delays or cancellations.
Say customer retention is a primary goal in your strategic plan. When evaluating each of your projects, it may be more valuable to your business to resume a mobile app development project instead of an internal technology hardware refresh. Even though the hardware refresh project has a shorter runway and might be a quick-win, delaying the mobile app development will further delay the time it takes to get that technology into your customer’s hands. Knowing how any given project directly supports your strategic plan can help guide your prioritization efforts.
3. Take a realistic look at your current organizational capacity.
If your firm lost money or laid off employees during the crisis, it’s even more important to resume projects strategically. In this instance, prioritizing initiatives to closely align with firm goals is critical. Once you determine which initiatives to move forward with, it’s time to revisit the details of the project plan. Are there resources that need to be moved in order to support continuing the project? Should the project phases be modified to support a new timeline?
Restarting these initiatives isn’t as simple as hitting “un-pause.” Recalibrating the expectations of the project to suit your current organizational capacity is necessary to empower your teams to continue working toward realistic goals.
4. Understand what your employees are saying.
In the best of times, change management is an important factor in any project’s or company’s success. In uncertain times, success cannot occur without OCM. Your employees should be aware of your company’s overall goals and have visibility into the ways their projects or initiatives support them.
When resuming projects, communicating the “why” behind decisions will help build buy-in and engagement. That engagement will beget adoption and, when executed correctly, can also create trust in company leadership.
5. Understand what your customers are saying.
Even though the “bank failure” and “financial collapse” headlines have waned, there’s residual consumer uncertainty around the financial services industry. Your customers need to feel confident that, first and foremost, your company exists to protect and manage their assets. At the same time, many of your customers are also back to business-as-usual expectations.
If you are implementing projects that will impact customer-facing technology or processes, ensure that you’re thoughtful in the positioning of these new offerings. Taking the time to reiterate your bank’s stability while continuing to promise an exceptional, competitive customer experience can go a long way when it comes to building long-term loyalty.
If your bank is in the midst of project reprioritization, or if you aren’t sure where to start, fill out the form below to connect with one of our consultants.