Business Agility in Retail Banking

Build up your agility


How is increasing agility helping banks better manage disruption and customer expectations?

The challenges retail banks face are well known. Yet the rate with which these changes are happening means adapting quickly and successfully is now vital to the future success of banks.

'Agile’ methodologies have been used in retail banking IT teams for some time, however widespread adoption across other parts of the banking business, full business agility, has been limited prior to now.

Jon Smart

Partner and Business Agility leader, Deloitte UK

Jon has over 25 years’ experience helping teams develop agility in contexts of change, work and scaling-up. He previously led Ways of Working globally across Barclays Group and is the founder of the Enterprise Agility Leaders Network, Business Agility Institute Advisory Council and Programming Committee for the DevOps Enterprise Summit.

The current state of business agility

To understand how and why retail banks are using agile, we conducted interviews with banking and start-up executives across the globe to learn what business agility means for their organisations and to get their views on the“why”, “who” and “how” of business agility.

Improving efficiency was the top driver for embracing business agility

Most banks also cite non-financial goals (e.g.for collaboration) among the most important reasons for embracing business agility, suggesting there are a broad range of intended benefits.

“ The objective for us is to first define a framework around Agile, DevOps, Design thinking, Lean start-up and a number of methodologies that we believe can bring a significant benefit to us in order to deliver products and services to the market in a more efficient way and, more importantly, with a better time to market. And also deliver solutions that are better suited to our customers’ needs.” 

Head of Enterprise Agility

The mandate for business agility came primarily from the CEO, followed by the CIO

Individual technology teams, employees and the COO are each less than half as likely to drive business agility.

“I think the mandate needs to come from really high on top. If the CEO of the company doesn’t believe in the setting you shouldn’t do it, because you will have so many internal hurdles. If at some point in time you end up in a situation where the CEO doesn’t support the operation in talks, presentations, public announcements, or internal discussions, then you end up with a problem.”

Director of New Business

Business agility is implemented across the whole organisation

The scope of transformation was almost twice as likely to be organisation-wide than narrower. We also note a “long tail” of narrower spans including functions such as finance and marketing, which have very different characteristics. This reinforces one of our high-level findings: agile is being used broadly.  

“We started the approach across the whole firm. Nothing’s out of scope. However, we’re not tackling everyone at the same time.”

Head of Ways of Working

Employee mindset and behaviours are more critical than capabilities

Employee mindset and behaviours are critical when undertaking an agile transformation. In addition, having employees with a deep understanding and mastery of one area, coupled with a shallower but broader knowledge and awareness of different areas is important.

How to implement business agility successfully

The results of our survey illustrate that retail banks are adopting a variety of approaches to achieving business agility. Taking those findings, and our own experience in helping organisations implement business agility, we have set out three key ingredients, embedded in organisational behaviour, for implementing business agility.

1. Start with the "why" and focus on outcomes

There should be a clear and well-communicated ‘why’ regarding the need for the organisation to change ways of working and for constant improvement. A ‘why’ that motivates employees should have a higher level of purpose.

Research shows that employees are most motivated when their work creates an impact on: society, customers, their company, and team as well as themselves. Therefore, rather than profitability, shareholder returns or stock price, the ‘why’ should be based on these five areas: better, value, sooner, safer, happier.

2. Achieve big through small

Organisations trying to achieve business agility through a big capital “T” transformation, in contrast to a small "t" transformation can be faced with behavioural challenges.

We believe it’s easier to focus on small slices of value. This form of iterative, continuous transformation aligned to desired outcomes, implies a series of smaller change curves. To achieve “big through small”, incumbent retail banks need two elements:

  1. Scale agility, not “Agile”, vertically and then sideways.

  2. Orientate by value stream.

3. Invite don’t Inflict

There is no one-size-fits-all for achieving business agility, no ‘One Way™’ that optimises outcomes in all  contexts.

This  is  due  to  the  fact  that  each  organisation  and  its  stakeholder  ecosystem  is  unique. Apply an agile mind-set to business agility and give people a VOICE:

  • Values and principles

  • Outcomes

  • Intent-based leadership

  • Coaching

  • Experimentation

Our thoughts on business agility

Access the latest thoughts from our business agility team.                                           

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View the survey findings and key principles to achieve business agility.                     

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