For most of us in the financial services (FS) industry, it was not a surprise to find out that commitment to transformation is increasing among organisations worldwide. Disruption is a defining feature of the new digital economy and pretty much everyone in FS is attempting to combat it with further investments. However, to learn that a small group of firms are reaping better rewards than everybody else is striking, indeed.

Those are the key findings of our latest FS Change Survey 2017, for which we talked with hundreds of insurers, bankers, and wealth and asset managers about their change management efforts and the outcomes of such programmes.

How are these change leaders thriving in the new and achieving such better outcomes? They generally demonstrate stronger leadership skills, a well-defined digital strategy and a clearer vision of the changes needed to execute their strategy. They also have a sharp focus on the human factor, and a greater cross-enterprise change capability. But they share some other key attributes worth noting:

Change leaders create space for investments in the new

They are transforming their core business to release costs and drive growth. They use the funds released in this way to invest in new business models and services built around the customer experience. A whopping majority (82 percent) of change leaders believe they are strong at governance and prioritisation of their change investments (compared to 65 percent of peers). They have a very clear vision of their change for the next three years, their change portfolio for the next 12 months, and the benefits they are aiming to get from change.

Change leaders have understood digital faster

One of the stark findings from our survey results is the disparity between leaders and followers when it comes to approaching digital strategically. Eighty-seven percent of change leaders have longer-term strategies, balancing both internal digitisation and external digital channels. They continue to create space for digital and meeting customers’ changing expectations.

Change leaders are more open and collaborative

Change leaders are more focused on the ecosystem and are not just working alone on their change agenda. In our survey, 75 percent of them reported placing a high importance on the digital ecosystem for the delivery of their change programs, compared to less than half (49 percent) for their peers. They are defining new ecosystems and their place within these ecosystems. Eighty-four percent of change leaders are more likely to partner with fintechs, technology vendors and digital innovators to accelerate their digital transformation, compared to just 52 percent of their peers. They transform through collaboration and are more innovative – both in exploring and experimenting with new ideas and technologies – but are also more ready to scale innovation to drive commercial value.

These attributes collectively assist the change leaders to develop an organisation-wide change capability necessary to thrive in the new. Nevertheless, there is still a greater ability which helps set the change leaders apart from the rest of the pack: Agile change. Up next, I will look into how FS firms use agile to differentiate themselves in an age of digital disruption.

To find out more about the Financial Services Change Survey or to join our FS Change Directors Forum, please contact me. You can also connect with me on Twitter.

You can read more survey results here.

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