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It’s undeniable that businesses today operate in a VUCA world, with extreme levels of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.
But we also know disruption is nothing new. Look back over recent years and you can see a number of high-profile failures among successful organizations which failed to adapt to changing circumstances.
Consider the now defunct Borders bookstores and also what has happened at Kodak. These two, and others like them, are examples of digital disruption (or maybe even digital destruction), in which technology has fundamentally changed customers’ preferences and buying behaviors.
But interestingly, most commentators on the Borders and Kodak stories point to their failures as a failure of leadership and, perhaps more importantly, culture. Both companies failed to adapt to changing circumstances, despite both recognizing the changes that were taking place. That's an important point companies need to hear and heed—it’s not just a case of understanding what's going on externally but understanding how you respond and adapt the way the organization operates.
My favorite Peter Drucker quote is highly relevant in this context—“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday's logic.” For me, this is the most important lesson for all organizations to consider when operating in today’s VUCA world. How do we avoid relying on the same old ways of doing things when the changing circumstances and an increasingly digital economy require us to think and act very differently?
"To be successful in the future we know we have to be responsive to our customers’ rapidlychanging needs"
Customers’ expectations are changing rapidly, with increasing demand for more ‘frictionless’ digital experiences across all industries. This is being driven by the types of experiences that companies like Uber, Amazon and Google offer customers. The experiences being delivered through these companies have raised the bar of expectations for other industries, especially financial services. As a result we’re now operating in a customer experience economy, rather than a product economy.
Another important factor for us to consider in financial services is the changing nature of ‘trust’. Rachel Botsman is a global expert on trust and explains how it’s shifting away from large organizations, towards more distributed communities, and in some cases, complete strangers. The idea of jumping into a car with a stranger or letting someone you don’t know stay in your house, or lending a stranger a thousand dollars seem ridiculous and yet they form the basis of the business models for Uber, Airbnb and Lending Club respectively, which have a combined market capital of more than $100 billion dollars.
We also have to consider how new fintech competitors such as Tyro have successfully entered the market with business models orientated around delivering high quality customer experiences at a rapid pace and low cost through the utilization of modern technology and working practices—certainly not “acting with yesterday’s logic”. In 2016, Tyro processed $9 billion dollars through their payments systems and operated with a little over 200 colleagues.
These are some of the factors behind Bankwest’s decision to invest significantly in the adoption of new ways of working and the very latest cloud technologies. To be successful in the future we know we have to be responsive to our customers’ rapidly-changing needs. Unlike many organizations on a transformational journey, for us this change is happening across our entire business, not just in technology. In fact it would be fair to say we see technology as the second stage of the transformation. What really starts and underpins it is the culture that’s in place—getting the right capabilities into the organization through coaching and recruitment, operating in the right way with a diverse and inclusive environment and empowering our people to drive the highest possible levels of innovation and creativity.
An example of our desire to respond to the changing needs of our customers coupled with our realization of the importance of the right culture is the recent release of the Bankwest Halo, Australia’s first touch and go payment ring.
The successful delivery of this product was made possible through Bankwest’s new customer-obsessed, agile approach to working. Colleagues with skills in design thinking, software engineering, product development and marketing worked collaboratively in a multi-disciplinary team to bring this experience to market.
But what was crucial to the project’s successful delivery was our cultural attitude. Last year Bankwest recruited a team of highly experienced agile and customer outcome orientated software engineers from a local technology company. As Engineering Manager and team member Michael Roberts said at the time of joining, it was an easy decision for the team to transition due to Bankwest’s clear commitment to becoming customer-obsessed, working in new, agile ways and a strong cultural fit.
What differentiate today’s successful, digitally orientated organizations is their culture and the manner in which they do things. We’ve learnt from these organizations and we are embarking on an organization-wide transformation, moving to a new operating model where we’re creating multi-disciplinary tribes within the organization, and thereby dissolving that age-old distinction between technology people and business people.
This will enable us to move to a future with different teams working together permanently, deeply understanding customers through a greater use of analytics, using design-thinking capabilities and then rapidly designing features based on the insights those analytics give us to deliver what really matters for our customers.
That's a very different mindset and operating model to the way financial services organizations have historically worked. Going back to Drucker’s quote, it will ensure we're not stuck using “yesterday's logic” to deal with today’s turbulent, yet undoubtedly exciting, times.
While we’re still early on this journey, the level of passion, energy and creativity we are already experiencing gives us massive confidence in our strategy and outcomes for our customers and Bankwest.