Many financial services firms have struggled to adapt to disruption and change in today’s rapidly evolving digitally-driven business environment. While there are several forces holding them back, including shifting regulatory requirements, difficulties in integrating new technologies, or simply changing customer demands, at the heart of the issue is agility―the ability to rapidly and effectively respond to opportunities and disruption.

As I shared in my recent blog post on the common challenges for the financial services workforce, being agile extends well beyond project delivery approaches. Agility has become a necessary core business competency. Accenture research indicates firms that fully adopt agile principles are twice as likely to achieve top-quartile results over the industry average. However, financial services firms tend to lag behind other industries on speed and stability―the underpinnings of agility.

Striving for agility with stability

Thus, enterprise “agility with stability” has become a strategic imperative for financial services firms. Their continued profitability depends on it. Unfortunately, while most firms are “talking” agile, many are not fully benefiting from it.

Developing enterprise agility requires embedding the characteristics of agility―flexibility, responsiveness and accountability―into every aspect of the business. Accenture has identified the following nine key areas that must be optimized for a firm to achieve true agility:

  1. Leadership
  2. Culture
  3. Agile change
  4. Risk and governance
  5. Funding and investment
  6. Organization structure
  7. Adaptive workforce
  8. Channels, operations and functions
  9. Technology and data

Accountability plays a particularly key role in driving agility in three of these nine areas:

  1. Leadership―in agile firms, everyone is a leader.
  2. Culture―an agile culture is a culture of empowerment and responsible decision making.
  3. Organisation structure―agile organisations are non-hierarchical and achieve objectives through group efforts based on individual responsibility.

How accountability drives agility

In this blog series, I’m going to explore the role accountability plays in creating a leadership style that empowers employees across the organisation to take responsibility for its success. This type of leadership style thrives in a culture and structure that facilitates teamwork, collaboration, innovation, and action.

There are steps firms can take in each of these areas―leadership, culture, and structure―to fuel accountability and accelerate their journey to agility. In my next blog post, I’ll talk about accountable leadership.

For more information about agility in financial services, please see Accenture’s reports:

Enterprise Agility in Financial Services: The New Strategic Imperative

Three Waves of Change: The Financial Services Journey to Enterprise Agility

Talking Agility

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