Enterprise agility has the potential to deliver so much strategic and financial value for banks and insurers, yet as our research shows that it remains so elusive for many. Why is this?

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common barriers to agility for financial services (FS) firms and how to rewire for speed and stability.

Our 2017 FS Change Survey asked executives to rate the challenges their organisations face when trying to change and identified about a dozen barriers experienced by more than two thirds of the respondents.

Among the most common factors for incumbent banks and insurers is legacy complexity, including processes, technology and data. When an enterprise is complex to change, it inhibits its ability to move quickly and at acceptable risk. Similarly, the mind-sets, skills and behaviours of leadership and the overall workforce are a challenge for FS firms when it comes to true agility. Finally, there is normally too much going on, too many agendas and not enough focus on priorities.

The change leaders in FS, those who are showing good progress on enterprise agility, are facing the same challenge. Yet they have adopted a mind-set of being able to isolate, overcome or remove these constraints over time–in many cases turning these around to be strengths.

The other reason why agility is difficult is that many of the factors behind being fast and stable impact the whole business. Using agile techniques and methods effectively brings some benefit, but does not lead to true agility. As these efforts are scaled up and as the business seeks greater enterprise agility, wider changes to how the business operates are required.

Enterprise agility requires a vastly different approach, one that is both unfamiliar and uncomfortable for many FS organisations. While there is no silver bullet to immediately transform FS firms into both fast and stable enterprises, here are the key elements of enterprise agility, as identified in our latest report:

  1. Leadership and vision at all levels;
  2. Culture and agile ways of working;
  3. Embracing agile change;
  4. Effective risk management and governance;
  5. Prioritized funding and investment;
  6. Focus on organisation as a living business;
  7. Building an adaptive workforce with human-machine collaboration;
  8. Dynamic channels and operations;
  9. Fast and intelligent technology and data.

For most FS firms, action will be required across the majority of these factors to increase speed and stability, achieving true enterprise agility. Just as cyclists train for races, FS firms will have to combine multiple methods of training to pass their competitors.

In the coming weeks, I will take a deeper dive into these elements that will help FS firms build agility. My next post will focus on leadership, governance and funding.

To find out more about enterprise agility in FS or to join our FS Change Director Forum, please contact me here, or on Twitter @AndyYoungACN.

To learn more, register to download: Enterprise Agility in Financial Services: The New Strategic Imperative and listen and subscribe to our podcast, Talking Agility.

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