Article

Execution is the key

When the agenda changes from survival to growth, the role of the manager must change

Authors

The global economy has now recovered much of its strength since the global financial crash of 2008. The financial sector was particularly hard hit during the crisis, but in recent years financial managers have gradually been able to switch focus from simple survival and fire-fighting to development and growth. This change in focus will only become more relevant, because the good times are set to continue according to the IMF, and even though the global financial forecasts are turbulent, they remain positive for the foreseeable future1.

Denmark still experiencing a moderate financial boom

According to the Danish National Bank, the Danish economy has long been in what is officially a “boom phase”, distinguished as ever by high consumer confidence, great optimism within the business community and positive forecasts for both domestic growth and exports2.

Moderate boom expected over the coming years.

The financial sector has entered a new reality, as the economic momentum can be clearly felt in all countries, across sectors and the economy – and this is changing the agenda in the financial sector3.

While the emphasis for many years was on survival, securing and “padding”, this cautious approach has now given way to a systematic search for growth. And whereas previously, employees, customers and authorities could all see the burning platform, the underlying logic is not always clearly evident today. As a consequence, it now takes a lot more effort and a lot more energy than just a few years ago to explain why company transformations are necessary.

We cannot change reality, however, and the reality is an increasingly rapid pace of change and the associated demands for transformation that everyone involved is obliged to relate to. We can see this in practice when, for example, technology barrels ahead and the compliance requirements take up more resources than ever before. In addition, we have witnessed relatively major structural changes in the financial sector where, for instance, international players with a strong capital base have become more visible in the Danish Market. This indicates that Danish financial institutions may be taken over completely or in part by foreign investors. The old mottos of “eat or be eaten” and “cash is king” have therefore become more than tired clichés in Hollywood films, and something we should take seriously in today’s Denmark.

Execution is the key

There is no shortage of good, creative proposals for solutions to the numerous challenges that exist, and concepts such as fintech, digitalisation, Big Data and disruption pepper the debate, literature and the seemingly endless stream of PowerPoint presentations at conferences around the globe.

For our part, we believe – with all due respect – that the capacity to execute efficiently is a concept that is often overlooked in the debate. There may be several reasons for this. First and foremost, it is neither hot nor breaking news. Perhaps more importantly, however, the topic has never held a prominent position on the strategic agenda, where the focus has typically been on analysis, the decision-making basis and the associated strategy plan. We believe that when it comes to how we actually apply the plan in practice and what it means – right down to changing behaviour among individual managers and employees – there is a tendency to think “it’ll sort itself out, as long as the plan is good enough”.

In our opinion, it is the execution capacity (or the leadership power) that defines a company’s actual preparedness to change, which naturally sets the framework for a realistic approach to the company’s ambition for change – and thus determines its competitiveness on the market.

How do we create execution-oriented organisations and employees?

We at Implement Consulting Group have always been focused on execution as a core skill – both in the context of an individual project and in the organisation as a whole. Our business is built on belief in deep professional skills combined with broader implementation competence. It is certainly important to be visionary, to sketch out an image of the future and come up with a strategy and plans for how we create it. Just as important, however, is our capacity to act on our intentions, and in this context the conclusion from 25 years of work with strategic transformations could not be clearer: people are at the heart of all successful execution.

We are keen to highlight several exciting aspects of the topic of “execution in the financial sector” and have therefore taken the initiative to produce a series of articles. In these articles, we give good friends of our organisation the opportunity to enrich the discussion with their individual takes on development in their businesses and in the financial sector in general. We call this channel “FSImpact”, and the idea was to interview a series of high profile personalities from the financial sector, centring on a topic of current interest and relevance. The overarching theme is “execution power”, where the new “good times” are making new and different demands on the financial sector.

The people we have interviewed include:
  • Torsten Hagen Jørgensen, Group COO of Nordea
  • Thomas Erichsen, CTO of Topdanmark
  • Carsten Tirsbæk Madsen, Director at Jyske Bank
  • Camilla Holm, CEO of Totalkredit
  • Gitte Aggerholm, CFO of Velliv

References:

1 International Monetary fund, 2018: World Economic Outlook, April 2018, https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2018/03/20/world-economic-outlook-april-2018

2 Danish National Bank, 2018: Outlook for the Danish Economy – March 2018 & September 2018

3 Financial Times, 2018: Bank earnings offer early test of 2018 rally