Steering change is an artform for financial services executives, but the accelerated evolution of modern business has made this a challenge unlike any other managerial task. The twin pincers of regulatory pressure and competition are squeezing everyone in the market, and so in order to deliver during a tough trading environment, leaders must adapt.
The era of ‘High Frequency Change’ requires agility in leadership to navigate the storm and build value; indeed, it is arguably the most important attribute in a managerial skill-set today.
Although this new way of working is slowly permeating financial services, aspirations and execution are still falling short, and there are still many opportunities for improvement.
The natural progression is a shift in boardroom attitudes where the concept of funding programmes is replaced with creating value. The agile manager in this domain ensures the organisation moves as one team toward the same goals, influencing those above him or her, along with those below.
In responding to a failure, agile thinkers may embrace the team or individuals involved and encourage them to share what went wrong, rather than seeking to admonish or criticise.
Overseeing an environment of fear as a way to hit targets is not uncommon in finance, but it can also lead to employees hiding concerns if they are worried about the repercussions, meaning management is also in the dark about what it should be aiming to fix.
Cultivating a corporate space where individuals are supported in their right to speak out and test outcomes is a much more powerful driver of value.
Collaborations with external partners can also benefit from this way of thinking. True agility extends to coaching outside partners, as the success of both camps replies on it. The failure of outside partners hired to build out a solution is often down to the lack of input or guidance from the managers they were brought in to help.
Creating and moulding more agile leaders should be viewed as an exciting investment opportunity for financial services firms to deliver the kind of top-down change regulators are increasingly expecting. It can revitalise individuals, teams and organisations.
Baringa has observed a refreshing convergence of teams in organisations where agile leadership has been supported. It has led previously disparate units to collaborate and solve problems faster and more effectively than before. Giving talent within firms more freedom to develop has also cut down on expensive hiring mistakes and fostered greater levels of trust within teams.
The age of High Frequency Change is here, and businesses have little choice but to adapt in order to survive. Faced with such unprecedented tests of their leadership, those who embrace agility are the best placed to guide their organisations through this turbulence and help them emerge stronger, healthier and more profitable.