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How a strategic framework builds business resiliency

Mar 01, 2023

At a time of pronounced market and economic uncertainty, it’s hardly surprising that many companies make dramatic, seemingly reflexive moves such as mass layoffs almost overnight.

While big cost-cutting decisions may assuage board members and other shareholders eager for course correction through bold action and be the fiscally prudent step to make, when they are undertaken as knee-jerk reactions, these efforts may belie more systemic issues and fail to reflect the actual factors that should be driving decisions instead.

To foster resilience at your organization, this is the perfect time to lean into the strategic plans your organization may have in place and give them an unflinching look.

Revisit your value proposition

Many firms overlook the potential damage to their brand. They forgo established strategies tied to that promise when they take actions largely based on optics or emotions. Because wealth and asset management, like all financial services, is a commodity business, it’s necessary to revisit the value proposition you offer to your clients and prospects.

Have you developed client personas that clearly incorporate the traits and goals of the people you work with? You must deeply understand the needs and the types of clients and customers you serve to develop a meaningful strategy for your business.

Whether your firm focuses on ultra-high-net-worth individuals and families, the mass affluent or consumers, you need a sound strategy that will work for you regardless of market volatility or an economic downturn. If a firm with the highest-net-worth client base launches into staff reductions that prevent them from offering the level of service its clients expect, they’re falling short of their brand promise and will likely lose business. Those clients will not be satisfied with some new digital, self-service offerings in place of the human relationships they count on from your organization.

The very essence of resilience is the ability to honor and abide by your core strategy that was developed to guide you through any conditions, including inevitable turbulence.

Following these four steps can help your wealth and asset management firm use its strategic plan wisely:

  1. If you have a written plan, pull it out and give it a close read. Examine where your firm is in terms of following its principles. If you have never created one, don’t postpone any longer because a roadmap outlining your brand value and objectives is foundational to your ability to weather uncertain times.
  2. Compare your strategic plan to your actual results. Do your client demographics align with your brand? Where is your income coming from and does it match with your intended client base? Or is revenue coming from sources or clients that are not expected as part of your strategy?
  3. Revamp or readjust the plan where needed. Determine where the plan sits in accordance with changing expectations. Look at what you thought you were doing next to what happened.
  4. Determine the best way to implement those adjustments to the framework. New decisions may be needed during uncertain times, but these changes should work within the existing strategic plan. As an example, it may be the time to rebuild or adjust your client journey maps.

When cuts align with your strategic plan

Here’s an example of a successful pivot for when your outcomes don’t match expectations: If you were aiming to grow your firm into one that serves ultra-high-net-worth individuals, but you were unable to attract much new business in that category, your strategic plan would justify implementing changes that match the demographic you do have. If you primarily serve a mass affluent segment, investing in more digital self-service options makes sense. This is a situation when staff reductions would be appropriate and would meet the need to lower delivery costs in line with a more mass affluent service model.

It's important to lean into your people plan when considering adjustments. If you invested in an initiative or department that hasn’t brought in expected results, it may be time to part ways with people in that area or, in a tight talent market, redeploy individuals to other areas. But giving a financial haircut to the whole firm is unlikely to pay off when resources are cut in places that truly need them.

Making new investments during certain times in efforts with a strong bottom line help differentiate your company from the competition. Redeploying and retraining people you already have from underperforming areas is a smart path to take.

Never too late for a strategic plan

If the notion of a brand or a brand promise are foreign to your organization, no need to fear. It’s never too late to take that strategic plan and craft one that works for you. Adapting a brand strategy is a sure way to feel confident in your decisions rather than just letting things happen to you, which puts you in a defensive position during volatile times.

Conscious curation is the way the build resilience. It takes thoughtful, patient planning in line with your overall strategy. And it’s not enough to just craft a plan and put it away. You must communicate what you stand for to the people who work for you — and work with you — so they understand how the decisions are based on that strategy.

When you’re communicating your actions clearly to the team and making people decisions based on that framework, these actions create resiliency. It always requires an agile approach tied to a strategy.

Download the recorded webinar to learn more about how strategic planning builds business resilience.

How Wipfli can help

A proactive, strategic approach is the only way to make sure your wealth and asset management business can thrive though uncertainty. Wipfli specialists can help you assess your current strategic framework and assess how well it’s working for you. We can recommend and help you implement changes to ensure you’re honoring your brand promise and charting a path for resiliency.

Contact us to learn more.

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Robert H. Zondag, CTP
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How strategic plans build business resilience
Learn how your firm can thrive through any market or economic conditions with the right strategic plan.
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