‘Cataclysmic change’: Banking in an era of disruption

The global banking industry stands on the precipice of cataclysmic change – so says Piyush Gupta, CEO of Singapore’s DBS bank.

Commoditisation of wealth management services, online banking, digital currencies, and social media are just some of the forces driving this change. But not all bankers are equally aware of or preparing for a different future.

dglogoSince the global financial crisis in 2008, many bankers have been distracted by regulations and changes to the regulatory world.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Piyush at his offices in Singapore’s Marina Bay. When I first interviewed him in 2013, he was clearly focused on driving growth and transforming South-East Asia’s largest bank by assets, leveraging practices from the East and West. (Watch the first interview here: part one and part two).

Now his sights are even higher as he leads his bank to navigate a far bigger transformation underway in the industry.

If you are responsible for driving growth in the financial services industry, consider the following ideas inspired by our interview:

Challenge the relevance of your vision.

Creating a shared vision and building commitment to this is always important. But as an industry transforms, the definition of who competitors are and what business you are in will blur and change.

The vision that served a bricks and mortar business may no longer apply.

Growth leaders in financial services will have the courage to challenge deeply held views of the business, the humility to question their relevance, and the ability to build a shared vision for a future that is evolving.

Create comfort with discomfort.

Executives in highly regulated businesses can blame regulation on their inability to lead growth. This is a comfortable narrative.

To drive growth through disruption, you must make discomfort the norm.  Engage your leaders to visualise radically different futures. Stretch them to the point of discomfort. Allow them to feel afraid of their ability to succeed. Leverage this to make your leaders look outside and then internalise the need for radical transformation within.

Reframe risk.

Banks pride themselves on their ability to manage risks to liquidity, credit, interest rates, trading balances, foreign exchange fluctuations, government stability, and operational breakdowns.

The greatest risk disruptive transformation brings is the risk that the business won’t adapt quickly enough to win – or even survive. Growth leaders in financial services create focus on understanding and managing this risk above all.

Build capabilities now for a disrupted future.

Building new capabilities in an organisation takes time. Banks, in particular, tend to believe they can buy the right talent at the right price.

But translating individual skills into new organization capabilities is not just a staffing issue. It’s about bringing in people from outside the industry and melding them into teams that create and deliver radically different products and services. Growth leaders must start now to bring in people with perspective and capabilities needed in the future. The winners will focus more on collaborating for results and less on standing out as a star performer.

Never has driving growth relied so much on the ability to lead effective change in individuals, teams and entire businesses.

Nurturing more leaders who, like Piyush, have deep industry experience and yet realise the need to transform as the industry itself transforms is critical.

Please share you’re your own ideas and lessons of experience for driving growth through disruption.

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