Strategy and Execution in Financial Services Post-pandemic:- By Rajiv Gupta (Book Review)

BOOK REVIEW

Strategy and Execution in Financial Services Post-pandemic: Survive, Get Ahead of the Pack, and Turbocharge Your Career!

Author- Rajiv Gupta

Abstract:

The book is primarily addressed towards managers working in Financial Services (FS) sector like life/non-life insurers, banks NBFCs etc. The FS industry faces numerous challenges, including Digital and the pandemic; and comes across as a herd offering commoditised products and services. Besides endangering peoples’ jobs and careers, these trends are also adversely affecting the performance of FS firms. Book strives to address these challenges through the prism of strategy, business model and execution and shares many insights on the manner in which managers can resolve these challenges, improve the quality of their day to day work and firms can enhance their performance.

Background:

The book is meant for managers in Financial Services (FS) industries like insurers, banks, mutual funds or Non- Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) etc. It reviews major trends in the FS marketplace.

Book reviews major trends like globalization, digital, commoditisation of FS products, empowered customers, COVID 19, customers, regulations, new rules of competition etc. This has created radical uncertainty. It is referred to as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambigouus (VUCA) environment. FS organizations are finding it difficult to adapt to this environment.

In addition, most Financial Service (FS) organisations offer commoditised products, experience low customer trust, deliver poor service etc which affects their financial performance. Further, Financial Service (FS) organizations are facing two core existential challenges:

  • Digital: The first wave of digital revolution showed the possibility of exponential growth based on technology and empowered employees continuously and proactively solving customer problems. Amazon, Alibaba, FB, Google etc were the pioneers. Now as Amazon and Google are tentatively entering FS, we are now on the eve of Digital 2.0 which seeks to move organizations to an ‘anywhere, anytime, any platform’ mindset.
  • Pandemic: The global pandemic has created unprecedented challenge for financial institutions and insurers, stirring up painful memories of the global financial crisis of 2008. Just as the Black Death and Spanish Flu, in 14th century and in 1918 respectively, caused deep societal and economic changes, this pandemic too is triggering deep social, economic, geopolitical, customer and employee behavioural changes which have already adversely affected the fortunes of many industries.

The pandemic has caused huge revenue losses, job losses, salaries cut and budgets tightened. Work from home (WfH) has become a normal part people’s work. The distinction between personal and work life has blurred.  Senior/middle managers have also experienced that a large amount of time they spent in developing 2020 strategy has largely gone waste.

Traditional FS organizations including insurers are generally unable to fully adapt to the new marketplace. These are symptoms of poor strategy, business models and patchy implementation. The foremost question that people should be asking themselves now is-how do they remain relevant to the organization in these difficult and chaotic circumstances?

Solution:

The reasons why managers are unable to raise their capacity in these four aspects. In my view the four key challenges are:

  • Managers are not trained or encouraged to accurately assess the reality within their organisation and outside. Managers also experience behavioural biases like overconfidence/over optimism confirmation bias etc that can act to prevent an organization from confronting and dealing with reality, developing a good strategy and executing it.
  • Managers carry many old and outdated mental models. One major culprit is management and leadership model built on Taylor’ ideas. This has influenced how managers see the organisation and traditional processes of planning, command, control and utilisation of ‘human resources’. Another mental model is the familiar linear, reductionist and binary thinking.
  • Managers blindly follow the notion of ‘best practices’, ‘flavour of the month’ interventions and other consultant speak, which only tend to make most FS organisations resemble each other. Customers now want distinctiveness not clones.
  • Traditionally managers have focussed more on management which involves maintaining the status-quo or making incremental improvements whereas the current situation requires more of leadership.

The book advocates drastically upgrading strategy development and execution processes in FS organizations so as to cope with these trends/developments. 

The book advocates an evolutionary perspective towards strategy and execution, particularly because it better explains the manner in which managers and organisations can respond to major change.   This has major implications for the way managers

  • see the business environment, its evolution and develop a shared and collective understanding about it within the organisation
  • see themselves and how the market sees them
  • operate in this environment by taking various actions.
  • learn to adapt to extreme events.

This book comprehensively answers these four issues, through many practical insights, to improve strategy and execution.  

In the new business environment, managers have to clearly understand that strategy is no longer a headquarter function. Strategy needs to be everybody’s concern and advantage arises from:

  • Ability to collectively sense changes in the business environment and its second and third order consequences.
  • Differences between organisations, not similarities.
  • Developing dynamic approaches to strategy that have ability to respond to opportunities, rather than rigidly stick to a pre-formed strategy.
  • Control is achieved by wide sharing of performance information and making people at all levels responsible for taking corrective action or initiative rather than waiting for somebody above to give instructions.
  • Keeping the strategy and business model relevant for customers at all times.

Strategy development and execution need to become more dynamic, interactive, integrated and faster.

Book advocates practical application of Scenario Planning, Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, Complex Adaptive System (CAS) Science, Behavioural Economics, Neuroscience etc to improve quality of managerial competence, strategy and execution in organisations.

Book Contents:

The book is divided in two parts.

Part I – Business Environment

The major trends/developments in the business environment and its impact on FS organisations. This includes new rules of competition, Digital, COVID 19, customers, regulations, commoditisation etc. and the radically uncertainty created

5 Chapters

Part II – Organisational and Managerial response

The nature of managerial response to minimise uncertainty in terms of business strategy and execution, practical explanation of challenges and solutions.

6 Chapters

Epilogue

Author Profile

Rajiv has worked in two FS organizations and in a MNC consulting firm. His experience ranges as a frontline executive dealing with customers, heading large departments, heading training function, being Executive Assistant to a Chairman cum Managing Director, P&L responsibility, consultant to prominent corporates etc. His final assignment was the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) of a large FS organisation. He currently trains and consults people and organisations on strategy and execution.

The challenges he has helped his clients successfully deal with are in the fields of brand management, innovation, strategy formulation, strategic planning, strategy execution, goal setting, risk management, data & analytics for decision making, etc.  This has given him an expansive cross-functional perspective on organisational challenges and an insightful and compassionate insight into people and organisations. He is PGDM, Associate in Reinsurance (Are), Associate in Risk Management (ARM), Licensed Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (LPNLP), Certified in Data Analytics (CDA) & Certfied Scrum Master (CSM). He can be contacted at rgrajiv243@gmail.com

Keywords 1 Financial Services 2 Insurance 3 Strategy 4 Execution 5 Pandemic 6 Digital

The book is priced at Rs 599/.

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