Change is non-negotiable for retail banks to thrive in the digital banking era. But meaningful change cannot happen without leaders who are willing to change too.
This is especially true for the agile bank—a disruptive retail bank that is customer focused, market driven and proactive. A 180-degree departure from the traditional full-service bank, the agile bank trades an inside-out focus for an outside-in obsession. And not surprisingly, the most effective leader for this dramatic evolution is the agile leader.
New Ways to Lead
Accenture research defines three pillars of leadership. These include vision and strategy, relationships and execution. As my Accenture colleagues have discussed, the agile leader has distinct—and even surprising—traits and behaviors across each of these areas:
1. Vision and Strategy
Becoming an agile bank is an evolution for most retail banks. The evolution is most successful when it is a journey in response to a guiding vision set by an agile leader. What’s unique about the agile leader’s vision is that it acknowledges—even embraces—uncertainty. Agile leaders see uncertainty as a threat and a challenge. They understand that they cannot know everything today about what tomorrow holds. What they do know is that change is a given—maybe a dead end, or maybe a door. Either way, agile leaders factor in change to the vision without fear.
The agile leader builds relationships within the organization and with partners and stakeholders. The agile leader is never a despot, and is masterful at delegation. By giving “deputies” the authority to act with real decision power and without going through the typical multi-layered approval processes, the agile leader nurtures a faster speed-to-market. This fast-twitch speed is critical for the bank to seize on market opportunity and consumer desires. Empowerment and fostering leadership at all levels are hallmarks of effective agile bank leaders.
The agile leader champions a very different way of working. Rather than spend months perfecting a new market offering, the agile bank uses iterative development methods and customer feedback loops to refine ideas in real time with real customers. The agile leader does not chase perfection before greenlighting new ideas. He or she recognizes that perfect is the enemy of the good. As such, the agile leader develops a culture and way of working where informed but fast decision making is the new normal. Delivering with scale, buy-in and accountability while developing internal staff are priorities for the agile leader.
Change starts with an agile leader
These characteristics clearly suggest that the agile leader is a unique breed. And what’s more, the agile leader will play a make-it-or-break-it role in the future of the agile bank.
If you are thinking about your bank’s digital banking future, I encourage you to read more about the agile bank and get more insights into leadership imperatives for the agile business.