Unpredictable and uncertain are terms often used to describe the future. Maybe that explains why so many in the banking industry opt to focus on what worked in the past as they strive to craft a growth strategy. The tide is shifting. We recently shared highlights from Daniel Burrus’s book Flash Foresight, which explains how focusing on the future is more effective than focusing on the past when working toward competitive advantage.
Over the seven-part blog series, Flash Foresight, HORNE will dig deeper into seven key growth principles. In this first post, we explain how to start with certainty by distinguishing between hard and soft trends, and understanding the way each can impact the future.
“A hard trend is something that will happen: a future fact.
Changes and developments in technology, demographics, globalization, regulations, and interest rates are creating seismic shifts in the business of banking. Knowing which of these trends can be predicted accurately and which are uncertain is key to preparing for and thriving in this complex environment.
Regulations and interest rates are cyclical. They increase and decrease over time. The certainty that they will change over time is a hard trend. The uncertainty around when and how they will change is a soft trend. (Any bank would agree that life would be a lot easier if we could predict when interest rates will rise and regulations will relax, but as we know, that’s not going to happen.)
Technology, demographics and globalization are different. These trends are one-directional and thus more predictable. We know, for instance, that the world of banking is rapidly and increasingly becoming more digital; fueled by the expansion and declining cost of capacity and speed. Bank Technology News recently named their 2015 Digital Bankers of the Year, highlighting some of the most notable innovations in digital banking. In the article, Heather Cox, Citigroup’s chief client-experience, digital and marketing officer, states, “I understand that it might be tempting for some to point to regulation as a barrier to innovation, but frankly that’s a losing mindset for banks. We have an obligation to adhere to regulations and innovate at the same time, and we can do it.”
In particular, banks striving to tap into the enormous earning power of millennial customers have to “get on board” with innovation if they’re going to satisfy that key audience’s most important needs and desires. The article How Technology is Changing the Banking Industry for Gen-Y outlines some of the new apps that are raising the game for digital banking and changing the industry landscape by offering new alternatives to the traditional bank experience.
The shift in demographics is another hard trend that banks cannot afford to ignore. Large numbers of Baby Boomers will retire over the next five to ten years, creating significant leadership gaps. Gen-X is too small to meet growing demand. This means that Gen-Y will have the opportunity to step into management roles sooner than previous generations, and “organizations that recognize the significance of the leadership drought and build intentional, insightful strategies to grow their future leaders and better recognize high-performing candidates will stand the greatest chance of building championship performance.”
Globalization (of everything) compounds the hard trends of technology and demographics, meaning that your growth strategies must be bigger and wider than ever before. There is no doubt that the future is incredibly uncertain in many ways. But hard trends tell us a lot – and right now, they are telling us to shift our focus from what we know worked in the past to what we are certain will happen in the future.
Join us next week as we explore ways to use hard trends to anticipate challenges the industry and its customers will face in the process of adapting to the changing landscape.
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 Daniel Burrus, Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible, HarperBusiness, 2011