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Increase your organization’s adaptability with agile planning

Apr 28, 2023

Thoughtful planning has been one of the cornerstones of management for successful firms, but it can seem rigid and ill-suited to today’s unpredictable economic environment, increased competition and changing client demographics.

However, wealth and asset management firms still need some way to prepare for the future. The answer is agile planning, a process that can coordinate and align with today’s business environment. It gives your firm the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people and technology toward creating stability and resiliency

As rapid industry change persists, leadership and staff need to focus on working in agile ways. Your firm should evaluate transforming activities in several parts of the organization — from innovation and client experience to operations and strategy — to become more agile.

The importance of agile planning

The volatility of the current environment has put agility top of mind, and more wealth and asset management firms are contemplating or beginning agile planning initiatives.

Agility improves your organization by helping it create resilience and stability. Resiliency then helps you respond nimbly to new challenges and opportunities. And stable practices cultivate reliability and efficiency by establishing an operating backbone that doesn’t need frequent changes.

Stable and resilient firms also establish a shared vision and purpose. By aligning with a consistent message, staff feel personally energized and engaged. They proactively identify and pursue opportunities to develop in their daily work.

Characteristics of agility

Agile firms most often follow four stable practices related to process and people:

  • Entrepreneurial drive
  • Shared and servant leadership
  • Standardized ways of working
  • Cohesive community

Agile firms excel in leveraging tech and standardization. Their processes are enabled by shared digital platforms and standardized, including the use of a common language and common tools.

Additionally, agile firms can make rapid and educated decisions while quickly gathering data for insights. They also continually refine their decision-making and strategy approaches.

Transforming your planning process

As your wealth and asset management firm begins the agile planning process, start by focusing on the client experience followed by productivity and employee engagement as key objectives.

You should also focus on internal end-to-end processes. Look for agile ways of working in processes related to operations, strategy, talent management and technology since all these areas are intrinsically connected.

But agility is not a one-size-fits-all undertaking. Here are three principles your firm should act on, no matter where you are in your agile transformation:

1. Embrace the magnitude of the change

The biggest challenges during agile planning are cultural — in particular, the misalignment between agile ways of working and the daily requirements of staff, a lack of collaboration across levels and a culture which is resistant to change. Agile planning is more likely to succeed when supported by comprehensive change management actions that create an agile-friendly culture and mindsets.

2. Be clear on the vision

Agile firms excel at creating a shared vision and aligning on it through transformative leadership and actionable strategic guidance. In contrast, one of the most common limitations for firms looking to improve agility is the inability to develop a meaningful or clearly communicated vision.

An important early step in implementing agile planning is to clearly articulate what benefits are expected and how you will measure the planning impact. This vision must be collectively held and supported by the top leadership.

3. Decide where and how to start

Firms that have not started pursuing an agile planning mindset most often say it’s because they lack a clear implementation plan.

While the right plan will vary by firm depending on its vision, your firm can start by identifying the parts of the organization you want to address and how.

From there, assess which areas of the firm need to be strengthened to achieve agility, so that the actions taken across strategy, structure, process, people and technology are mutually reinforcing. Lastly, determine the resources and time frame so that the effort maintains its momentum, but the scope remains manageable.

How Wipfli can help

Our team of dedicated consultants is ready to help your wealth and asset management firm navigate challenging shifts in your circumstances. We offer holistic solutions for firms at any stage of development, including guidance on how to optimize operations and better manage talent. Contact us today for more on how we can help support your firm’s success.

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Paul T. Lally
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