The current market presents unique challenges for financial institutions.
As we navigate a complex environment during a time of significant industry change, recessionary pressure and geopolitical uncertainty, it’s crucial that banks focus on a realistic number of strategic priorities. Entering the first quarter of 2023, I see four key trends impacting the financial services industry that boards and executives need to focus on to survive and thrive amid economic uncertainty.
Having the best bankers, treasury management officers, middle office talent and banking center managers is always critical. But it’s also vitally important to have those unique individuals who can take an innovative idea and turn it into reality.
Your bank needs people who can work well with your partners and vendors to make sure you’re delivering the right kinds of capabilities to customers, and leaders who can see around the corner and anticipate the capabilities you’ll need in the future. That talent can be hard to come by; the turbulent labor market presents some challenges, but also opportunities.
There have already been some significant layoffs at large tech companies, but they aren’t the only ones. Smaller tech companies have also had to cut back — and that could be a chance to hire talent that has historically been out of reach or acquire a superstar that left for an early-stage company and is ready to come back. Lastly, banks should look for high-performing people at lower-performing companies and see if they might be ready for a change. Successful talent strategies will have an outsized impact on future performance.
Reaching strategic clarity with all of your stakeholders will be crucial. Scarce resources and changing investment environments means financial institutions must make clear and deliberate decisions when it comes to their strategies.
Not only is it important to know your customers, your market and how you will differentiate and win, but it’s imperative to guard against strategic drift or succumbing to the temptation to be all things to all customers.
Pressure to Innovate, Simplify
The marketplace has been noisy. The substantial amount of funds invested in new financial technology firms over the past five years has made it feel like there are endless opportunities to innovate. Stakeholders in all directions may be making suggestions and recommendations. This has helped move the banking industry forward in important ways and helped power some of the digital leaps we experienced during the pandemic.
However, bankers seem to gravitate toward complexity. Now is the right time to take a step back, take stock of your organization’s investments and determine whether they have helped you simplify your business and operations.
Could you rethink entire lines of business based on the digital capabilities that you now have? Where can your institution make incremental, but important, moves toward simplification? What are the bank’s most important innovation priorities that need to move forward regardless, or because of, the turbulent macroeconomic environment? These are critical questions that every management team should be addressing.
Not too long ago, it seemed every bank was flush with deposits. Today, even financial institutions with favorable loan-to-deposit ratios are figuring out how their deposit base is changing, what effect higher and rising rates are having, where they’re experiencing attrition and churn within their customer base, and what parts of their funding strategy need to be reworked.
It will be critical to develop a long-term sustainable deposit strategy and identify advantages specific to your institution. For example, in which industries does your bank have lending expertise? Use that experience to develop working capital solutions for those same customers. If your bank has developed your digital banking capabilities, explore where you have untapped potential in the existing customer base with targeted campaigns and marketing messages. Haven’t revisited your compensation strategy? Now is the right time to be addressing incentives for developing a commercial deposits business. Actions that a bank takes today will have a lasting positive impact.
It’s easy for directors and executives to become overwhelmed in such a fluctuating environment but the financial institutions focused on strengthening talent, clarifying critical priorities, accelerating innovation and maximizing their deposit strategies will be ready to take advantage of growth opportunities in this new year.