How a non-binary approach helped a Financial Services organisation (FinCo) adapt to a new business model.

Short Case Study: How a non-binary approach helped a Financial Services organisation (FinCo) adapt to a new business model.

Triggered by spiralling costs and a forthcoming legislative and regulatory change that would open the market to fierce competition, FinCo’s CEO set a bold, purposeful strategy to transform the organisation. To be successful she needed to navigate the conflicting demand for rapid service innovation, whilst simultaneously maintaining a focus on quality customer service.

Underpinning the tension between the need for innovation-driven growth, disciplined cost management and customer-focused stability of quality service offerings were a number of interlinked tensions.

First was a tension between maintaining business as usual by continuing to provide tailored services to existing customers, while at same time undergoing a process of strategic repositioning to attract a new profile of customers with completely different needs. The focus on providing stability and reassurance to FinCo’s existing customers was also in conflict with the need to aggressively seek drive innovation of product and services.

Furthermore, FinCo’s legacy of delivering high quality customer service with little eye on the bottom line was confronted with the commercial reality that this model was unsustainable; FinCo needed to do both.

A range of strategic decisions, underpinned by the both-and (non-binary) approach mindset, were made to ensure that both elements of the tensions were met.

FinCo’s visionary CEO helped foster a both/and mindset. Refusing to compromise on either element of the tension, she created an environment where both could be possible. She role modelled a both/and approach and encouraged the Board, executive leadership team and the employees from all levels of the organisation to adopt both/and thinking.

An organisational narrative was developed to reflect a new culture that embraced the seemingly competing values of innovation, disciplined commerciality and tailored customer service. A regular schedule of cadence calls was among steps taken to familiarise staff with the competing tensions and potential trade-offs. This included reframing the strategic plan around an ideal customer that incorporated elements of both existing and new customers. Teams were encouraged to focus discussions on opportunities and benefits, as well as exploring risks and challenges. KPIs were established to drive the desired behaviours.

The trade-off between managing costs and growing the business was approached with a paradoxical mindset that could incorporate both of the seemingly contradictory elements. This was reflected in tough decisions involving significant redundancies and outsourcing, which helped reduce operational costs.  At the same time new business units were created to focus on innovation. This included an OmniChannel Team, tasked with ensuring customers could access new products and support services across all channels, platforms, and devices.

To manage the tension between business as usual and the need to innovate, FinCo adjusted the organisational structure. New, dedicated interdisciplinary project teams were established to focus on growth and innovation. The teams focused on both: the new member acquisition as well as on product and service innovations. At the same time cross functional teams were also put in place to reduce organisational silos and encourage communication and collaboration across the organisation. These cross functional teams with fewer management layers allowed decision making to be sped up, yet at the same time input was sought after from research, manufacturing, finance and legal experts. This has ensured that the most informed decisions were made.  The approach allowed fast moving agile teams to coexist with staff who had deep member relationships and extensive industry knowledge.

FinCo’s both/and approach helped the organisation transition to a new business model and embrace a new culture of working together to achieve seemingly competing goals. They found creative ways to manage tensions and to realise both/and solutions. After 3 years the organisation had maintained its legacy customer base and has also grown a new member cohort attracted by innovative products and services, all while offering personalised service and consistent returns. This was achieved through embracing rather than avoiding the contradictory tensions between member preferences, commercial considerations, and competitive pressure and adopting a fresh mindset where seeming either-or choices were re-framed as both-and solutions.