IS STRATEGY THE NEXT PHASE OF BANKING?

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Yes, it is, argues Tony Monye

It is about the changing marketplace, stupid! In this ‘war-zone’, value reigns in full. It determines depth, breadth and other market-based phenomena. Players in this space are thoroughly focused on the exchange of value. It is the definitive anchor for business to consumer and business to business interactions. Without value, no one has any player’s back. Be it idea, novel product, people and, practice, it must succinctly reward in value for the marketplace to relate. The marketplace elevates, sanctions and kills corporate organisations, as it entrenches/ enforces alignment to its ideals. For continued subsistence, corporations must listen to its prevailing voices, for they are not hooplas. Business organisations must suffer belief in the capacity of the marketplace to determine their providences. Anything short, they will suffer much. These days, marketplace calmness is rather short, somewhat uncharacteristic, driven by the rapidity of change. Turbulence, flux and disquiet, as longer lasting occurrences, more clearly define it. Corporations dare not buck the trend for many of yesterday’s champion-corporations are today’s laggard businesses.

The cliché is quite banal and ubiquitous. Change does not suffer non-constant. Its doggedness kills winning formulas with time, exposes its enigmatic and worrisome posturing. Change acts as the femur-bone of the marketplace. Without it, the market takes a more stodgy shape. It is a marker between the enduring and nonentity organisations. As the marketplace morphs, so do great corporations. Non-discerning organisations regard change with disdain, most times, paying the dire fee. The Nigerian financial services environment travels mildly in the space of change benchmarked against its developed clime counterparts. Unnoticeably, its next evolutionary phase is about the door, rapping. Sadly, it is being ignored by many.

Recall the era of the armchair bankers: laid-back, non-aggressive, poorly-suited professionals, who conducted the business of banking in old air-conditioned and dingy offices. Like ministry workers, they were insular to the changing needs of the marketplace. Clients called to engage in business dealings with them, appealed for their attention. Ask the very old banks! For three decades (this write-up assumes 1960 as base year), they ran the rules, poorly managed the stable. Given slipshod attitude, they sat back, waited for customers. Transactions were held up; their dynamics and speed were sloth-like. Fussing customers were at their mercy. Look up, at the sky. The once big, strong reliable bank has since been shaded behind a thick cloud. With the passage of time, most failed, except a negligible few, maybe, three. Any appearance of business enthusiasm was photoshopped. Data was discounted, pictured as time-wasting. The changing competitive landscape bore no signals. A transforming customer mindset alerted not. The need for a better understanding of the marketing concept went unheeded.

And, when the tornado of change blew, tormented the marketplace, they were caught snoozing. Rather than take a step back to gird their loins, put up a serious fight, they jeered and mocked the new kid-bankers on the block with a marketing-driven template. For the arm-chair bankers, it was the massive erroneous assumptions of too big to fail; too little and too inexperienced to impact. All attempts to get them to embrace the echoes of change as whistles for corporate rebirth and rethinking always ended abortively.

The subsisting marketing-based banking began its entry into the financial services scene in 1990. The marketing-based bankers are highly genteel in appearance, confidence-oozing, sharp-suited, fearless foot soldiers, trying the untried. With a new template which promised greater focus on customer satisfaction, it was truly banking unusual. With customers growing savvier and a better understanding of competition, the new-breed bankers offered new service culture that delighted. Unlike arm-chair bankers, the marketing-driven apostles took business to clients. Their movements were generally tactical but short ranged, hinged on the immediacy of gains. Chiefly driven by market demand, product quality went up a notch. On the flipside, marketing-based banking, along the line, suffered shortness of breath. A largely reactionary approach, which hinted at undifferentiated plumage, it promoted the practice of strategic hiring, which led to poaching.

The market evolves. At every stage of its evolutionary process, changing phenomena serve its need for renewal in terms of growth for particular organisations and the demise of others. Players’ actions in the eco-system motivate change. Yesterday’s predominating platform varies with today’s because change is sheathed in permanence. Ideas have lifespan; practices, like investments, have tenors. Armchair banking once predominated. For another three decades, marketing-driven banking preponderated. Signs have begun emerging that too is about going down for the count. Premised on the hiccups and inadequacies of marketing-driven banking, the new mode is strategy-based banking.

Suffused in critical market-based analysis and opportunity-seeking, strategy-based banking so easily presents the massive unseen marketplace breaks. While an enormous step-up on professionalism, customer satisfaction and outcome measures, its research-driven and foresighted bent can help outpace competition. It is the clear connector in the organisation, linking the hard and soft structures. Strategy-based banking supports proactive (rather than reactive), or orchestrated manoeuvres by practitioners for market edge. Given its deeper understanding that our ambition can be exposed by our concerns, it centres on the whole rather than the piecemeal approach of the marketing-driven bankers. In embracing analysis, it deftly evinces that when figures (data as the new crude oil) are whipped, the cries of opportunities are heard. It promotes the heart and mind capture for brand-building and optimality in outcomes. It is about the system rather the individual, aiding subterranean manoeuvres. It is strategy-based banking, stupid!

Monye is

Convener, The Lunar Leadership Society