While the economy improves and business opportunities abound, it’s easy to forget what we all went through starting in 2008 with the economic meltdown. As we help clients hammer out business, operations, and technology strategies, we are finding many are almost hyper-focused on growth. Why not? On several dimensions, the economy appears to have turned around with a stronger job market, higher spending, continued low borrowing rates, strong pricing, and record earnings for many. There also appears to be an acute pressure from Boards of Directors and company leaders for their management teams to capture their fair share of the growth pie.

The focus on growth and growth strategies is energizing, positive, and a welcome change from a few years ago. New projects around products, channels, technologies, markets, mergers, and acquisitions are all a buzz. That said, as we plan for 2015 and beyond, let’s keep in mind that our businesses (especially in financial services) are inherently cyclical. Many are riding a wave right now and enjoying the ride. Amidst this welcome environment, a sobering question we ask during client meetings is, “What are we doing to become more resilient?”

Some pause or stumble over the answer. Others have deliberate strategies and priorities which focus on improving resilience. These observations and questions tend to draw those out or identify gaps:

  • People: Are our human resource plans aligned with where the market will be (not where we are today)? Are our teams and behaviors focused and aligned on the importance of our people?
  • Technology:  Whether you’re small or large, technology infrastructure, core administration systems, and customer-facing systems are essential to your future. Are we investing in technologies that will help us compete well into the future? Are we capitalizing on new technologies that will serve our needs for the next three, five, seven years?
  • Data:  Data is the most important raw material we have in financial services. Information is even more valuable, and it is derived from data. Do we have a clear plan for how we will acquire, manage, and consume data into the future? Are we investing sufficiently, and creating business impact, to compete in our markets?
  • Process:  Are we rethinking and improving business processes? Are we investing adequate resources into operations renewal to accommodate change and support the business for the long-term?
  • Metrics:  Is our measurement system aligned with the results we want to achieve? Do we reinforce and reward the behaviors we want in the short, mid, and longer-term?

While not exhaustive, these are always illuminating discussion points with our clients’ leadership teams. As we enjoy the fruits of our labor in this improving market, we owe it to ourselves to stay vigilant about those things that will not only help us grow, but thrive for decades to come.