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How transformational strategic planning can help financial institutions during COVID

Nov 04, 2020
By: Robert H. Zondag
Financial Institutions

No one will argue these are uncertain times, but that doesn’t mean financial institutions should push aside strategic planning.

Many top-performing financial institutions recognize that maintaining a strategic planning cadence is key to identifying the North Star and the roadmap for team members, even when everything in our daily lives and the economy seem out of control.

But following the same process likely won’t be as effective during times of rapid change, like the pandemic.

New strategic planning methods — called transformational planning — help streamline the planning process, guide implementation and, more importantly, monitor ongoing success.

Transformational planning is a framework designed to help financial service organizations understand their business model, better meet their customer needs and guide successful, rapid redesigns to meet new challenges ahead.

The transformational methodology changes the “traditional thinking” that strategic planning is an event-driven process. In a traditional model, the financial institution invites the board and management into a room on a Saturday, they write down the plan and then it goes into a file until the next strategic planning event (the definition of a less than successful process!).

Moving into transformation planning means setting the direction at a 50,000-foot level and then figuring out how to embed that strategy into actionable items as part of day-to-day culture. For example, if the strategy includes ensuring growth of quality loans, what obstacles exist or impede this growth.  Does the financial institution have the necessary digital tools, such as e-sign in place to support the growth?  Does the plan include a recognition of any capital investment needed for such infrastructure? Additionally, what are the actions needed to train employees on business development in a virtual environment? 

Transformational planning requires mining into actionable items that will foster strategy and recognizing where strategy intersects some of the tactical issues needed to achieve the goals set.

To assist in moving into actionable items, many financial service organizations engaging in transformational planning are using agile planning as a tool. Agile planning is a project planning method that estimates work into smaller, more manageable increments. These units are called iterations or sprints. Agile planning defines which items are done in each sprint and creates a repeatable process to help teams learn how much they can achieve.

Another approach is to move away from key performance indicators (KPI) toward simple health metrics that are easy to understand and very simple to monitor. KPIs can often become overwhelming and time consuming. Health metrics are designed to be simple tools that all members of management can easily put together and use. Health metrics are used in conjunction with weekly check-ins to ensure the team is moving forward in achieving goals. 

For example, deposit or liability tracking.  In a pre-COVID world, the financial institution may have tracked total cost of funds an on aggregate level.  During times of chaos, like now, it may want to establish a health metric that identifies net deposit account growth by branch, market or channel, such as online account opening.  What is the health metric to meet the strategic plan, is it volume or does it also include a forward-looking metric that identifies customer preference?  Where is the growth coming from? If you’re not meeting that number, then it’s time to dig deeper to see what solutions you might need. 

How Wipfli can help

We all want to make our strategic planning process a success.  When thinking about your current or future plan, consider new options and methods. There are methodologies and tools available to make more impact for your team post-planning. Learn more about our strategic services on our web page or contact your relationship executive to learn more.


Robert H. Zondag, CTP
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