Transformational leadership: it starts at the top
As financial institutions seek to transform themselves, the most important element isn’t a digital tool, but the mindset of their leaders.
Even prior to the Covid pandemic, there was a lot of talk in the financial services sector about necessary transformations. The word transformation is employed most often in citing the consumer shift to digital. Everything – account management, payments, loans, micro mobility insurance – needs to be digital, and it needs to be fast. For this, companies are developing the most advanced, data-driven tools, or partnering with fintechs, to put incredible digital capabilities in the hands of their customers.
In these discussions around transformation, however, we often neglect a more important element: mindset. This topic – cultivating a transformational mindset - was the topic of a recent Efma webinar with speakers representing some of the most innovative institutions in the industry.
ING is one such institution. They made the shift to Agile years ago, so when the pandemic struck, they were well-positioned to transition to remote working and the autonomy that comes with it. Hans Van der Horst, Head Global Tribe Customer Data Management at the bank, spoke about how Agile has driven their transformation in recent years. “Our Agile way of working is fundamentally a shift in leadership and mindset. So, there were some leadership changes at ING. You can’t start transforming before you have a change in mindset at the highest levels,” he said.
The importance of leadership was also echoed by Armand Wahyudi Hartono, Deputy President Director at BCA Bank Central Asia. The transformation in mindset starts at the top and then filters down. “Employees look to leaders to see how they are using this organizational model to be adaptable,” said Mr. Hartono. And the pandemic brought a moment when good leadership was so critical. “Problem and opportunity are essentially one word; you can’t separate them. This pandemic has represented a great opportunity for leaders to show the way in a crisis.”
From Belgium, Antonio Cano, COO of the insurer Ageas Group, spoke about the challenges inherent to leading remotely. “Managing from a distance means being more attentive to various situations. The challenge is to be in more contact and engage with people, utilizing much more people-oriented management than task-based management.” Leaders and managers are being counted on to engage with their employees and guide their organizations to success.
Finally, Paul Berry, noted leadership coach and performance psychologist, spoke on the three main ways leaders can transform their organizations:
1. Be very clear on the outcome you are looking to achieve from your leadership, what type of culture are you attempting to achieve with your team, what types of relationships are you trying to cultivate, competition or collaboration.
2. What are your fundamental beliefs about human nature? A big part of leadership is helping others optimize performance, or developing the person. You need to consider your beliefs around how you do that.
3. Be able to critique your philosophy – adapt your approach to the situation.
Rapid and significant changes were forced upon us a year ago. As we chart our way forward, banks and institutions would do well to keep those leadership principles in mind. Change is never easy. But it’s the key to transformational success in the financial services world of 2021.
Be sure to check out the entire webinar: