Effective Strategic Planning for Financial Institutions

business man playing chess

Being absent-minded is okay if your job is washing dishes.

But if you’re an executive in a financial institution, a single blunder can devastate the entire firm. Especially if you work at the Building & Loan in Bedford Falls.

It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie. I watch it every year. But recently, I started wondering—why did they keep Uncle Billy on staff? In a typical “Billy moment,” he loses an $8,000 deposit. You may recall that Billy is counting the cash when he tucks it into a newspaper that his nemesis Mr. Potter was reading… then hands it back to him!

Worse yet, he totally forgets where he put the money.

Here’s my problem: Billy’s a guy who cannot remember anything important and ties strings on his fingers as reminders. Yet, he’s put in charge of making an absolutely critical deposit that will be part of an audit by a waiting bank examiner. Why the other Baileys trusted the likable but unreliable peer is a perfect example of poor strategic planning.

How much money did Uncle Billy “misplace?” In 1945, $8,000 was a big deal. Using an inflation calculator, it works out to be $136,742 today.

Perhaps if George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) had sought the advice of a strategic planning consultant, he might’ve avoided the “wrong person-wrong seat” misstep that caused a run on his B&L. Today, successful entities in the financial field often rely on objective outside consultants to provide vision and direction for their leaders and teams. I’m proud to say I have a strong background in working with independent financial planners, insurance carriers, credit unions, and local community banks.

What Makes Strategic Planning for Credit Unions, Financial Advisors & Banks Different?

Financial institutions are a different breed of business.

Unlike a retailer or a manufacturer, they don’t sell or produce a tangible product. Instead, credit unions, insurance services, and financial planners are responsible for providing their customers with beneficial data and informative suggestions that safeguard and grow their wealth. To do this responsibly, they should strive to have thorough and actionable plans for future goals that will benefit their clients—despite fluctuations (or even upheavals) in the ever-changing economic climate.

Only by creating a comprehensive strategic plan can financial institutions be prepared to meet the inevitable challenges and changing conditions in their unique industry. As your consultant, I will help identify the current (and future) goals that are most relevant to your unique operation, and outline the action steps your group needs to achieve them.

How to Develop Your Financial Institution’s Strategic Plan

With my help, we can break down each of your current strategies with the powerful analytic tools I provide to evaluate their effectiveness. Then we’ll collaborate to decide whether to keep, alter, or drop them. Having a trusted, qualified outsider with “fresh eyes” to facilitate this process is invaluable to anyone in the financial industry.

Having me as your strategic planning consultant means you reduce the chance of implicit biases, hidden restraints, or unspoken prejudices that could hinder your progress. For example, you might incorrectly assume the best way forward is to “not rock the boat,” when in reality, what’s needed is fresh initiatives and innovative solutions.

It’s been said that a goal without a plan is just a wish. While crafting your strategic plan, we’ll develop a system that allows you to track quantifiable progress toward your goals. Instead of relying on wishful thinking, we will set clear benchmarks for achievables and crucial stages along the way, with measurable criteria for each. We will then delegate and divide these markers by departments, teams, and individuals

How to Develop Your Financial Institution’s Strategic Plan

6 Components of Strategic Planning for Financial Institutions

I’ve had a long career in coaching and consulting financial organizations of all sizes. Now, I’d like to help your organization reach the next level by guiding you across six vital phases:

  • Phase 1: Perspective – Where Are We Now? We begin by defining current realities. “Perspective before planning” is how successful financial institutions, insurance brokers, and bankers make informed decisions.
  • Phase 2: Core Plan – Where Are We Headed? Equipped with proper context, a financial institution can develop a strategic plan for short-term goals and long-term objectives, based on shared fundamental beliefs.
  • Phase 3: Action – What’s Important Now? Next, it’s time to move on to key issues as one cross-functional group. The team-developed core plan is the basis for creating a unified action plan aligned with the master plan.
  • Phase 4: Structure – What Form Best Facilitates the Plan? With the action plan in place, I help ensure that your organizational structure, culture, systems, processes, and staffing all support the plan.
  • Phase 5: Management – How Are We Doing? As your strategy consultant, I help implement a systematic feedback loop to manage plan implementation. Regular monthly and quarterly reviews are instituted.
  • Phase 6: Renewal – What Needs to Change? Team leadership meets annually to review and renew the core strategic plan. Action items, opportunities, trends, objectives, and goals are all reset for the coming year.

To ensure success and sustainability, my involvement is ongoing.

An Example of a Strategic Plan for a Financial Institution That Works

There are 4,942 federally insured credit unions in all 50 states. Since 1970, not one member has ever lost a penny.

Why? Because the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) insured their deposits. This federal agency insures credit unions with a piggy bank of more than $2 trillion in assets. How does this huge financial agency stay relevant and effective? The answer is strategic planning.

This highly successful financial institution is intentional about effective strategic planning for its unique role and responsibility.

Every four years, the NCUA crafts a new strategic plan to guide the agency’s actions and work. In developing their 2022–2026 Strategic Plan, they addressed a financial services sector transformed by new technology, changes in consumer behavior, and client expectations. Over the last four years, credit unions have grown in both size and complexity—offering new products and services, while facilitating financial transactions in a fast-growing digital universe and mobile space.

How to deal with this new reality? The NCUA prepared to stay ahead of change by crafting a comprehensive strategic plan.

Todd Harper is the NCUA chairman. He says, “For any organization, strategic planning is essential for outlining where it is going, how it will get there, and what investments are needed to achieve its organizational goals. For a consumer financial protection supervisor like the NCUA, a strategic plan is also a vital part of good governance.”

Harper swears by the benefits of strategic planning: “While the future is always filled with uncertainty, this strategic plan will guide the agency and the system in responding to any unexpected developments. This strategic plan will also guide us in addressing the challenges and opportunities the credit union system may experience.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

In fact, that’s exactly the reason why every financial institution—large or small—needs a strategic plan. What Harper says about the need to plan applies to every bank, financial planner, or insurance carrier: “So that the system may continue to evolve, innovate and grow.”

Community and Regional Bank Strategic Planning img

Community and Regional Bank Strategic Planning

America was built on hometown community banks, credit unions, and saving institutions. In a financial landscape that’s constantly changing with new regulations, world events, and increasing competition, it’s critical for these neighborhood cornerstones to have strategic plans that can maximize—and stabilize—their effectiveness.

When it comes to localized financial institutions, one size does not fit all.

Different communities and demographics require (and reward) different business models. That’s especially true for smaller-scale financial institutions. If they wish to build a broad base of loyal customers, they’ll have to embrace a new strategy that combines personalization with high technology. What worked in the “old days” or what works for their larger counterparts won’t cut it for a regional provider.

As your strategic planning consultant, I’ll help you understand how different generations and segments approach life and finances so you can deliver the products, services, and messages that will appeal to them most. We’ll tailor your performance goals to capitalize on market shifts and new opportunities—right in your backyard.

5 Tips for Strategic Planning for Financial Institutions of All Sizes

Your strategic plan is not just “a budget” or a “mission statement—but a roadmap for reaching measurable growth in ways that conform to your core values. It should answer three questions—What’s your destination? Where are you now? How will you reach your goal?

    1. Get rid of “silos.” When it comes to implementing your strategic plan, every stakeholder in every department should be on board.
    2. Solicit feedback. Continually survey (even informally) team members, key influencers, and end-users to determine strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your financial institution.
    3. Prioritize. Before you focus on details, inventory your goals and rank them in order of importance to determine a laser focus for your plan.
    4. Invest in support. Determine what resources your actionable plan will require, like additional staff or technology to accomplish your goals.
    5. Don’t hog the info. Lavishly relay timelines and milestone dates to all staff members with a role in your strategic plan.

Bottom line? A qualified consultant like myself can help identify your current status, your intended destination, and the best route to getting there. That will keep your financial institution on the right track

Working with a Financial Industry Strategic Planning Consultant

When we connect in person, I’ll explain how every financial organization needs a strategic plan to stay on track—with goals that move them toward the most successful future. I’ll show how collaborating on a comprehensive strategy will unify your executive team and entire workforce around a shared vision. Working together, we’ll fine-tune existing techniques and explore new ones.

With almost 30 years of experience, I’ve enjoyed serving clients in the financial industry—credit unions, insurance providers, banks, and financial planners. Utilizing my personal approach to consulting, I’ve had solid success in helping financial organizations with team building, goal setting, and performance monitoring. Over the years, I’ve worked with enterprising groups like USA Financial, Founders Trust, and Rogan & Associates. In addition, I’ve consulted with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Working with a Financial Industry Strategic Planning Consultant

Let’s Get Started

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, everything works out well in the end. Of course, it takes some heavenly help and a miracle or two. 

In today’s tough financial industry, there’s not much margin for errors due to lack of planning. Unless you’ve got Clarence the Angel on your exec team, the best way to avoid costly mistakes, stagnation, or even failure is to partner with a qualified planning consultant. If you select me, I’ll provide a fresh perspective and help your group develop a winning strategic plan.

If you’d care to see what I can offer, please check my website. To discuss services like goal-setting or team building for your financial business, feel free to contact me. I’ll be happy to set up a time to chat with you.