Harness Leadership and Collaboration to Drive Transformation
Business strategy is only one part of moving a company forward. Leadership often needs to overcome a legacy mindset that’s holding back growth.
Financial services companies are finding the need to reinvent themselves more critical than ever before to keep pace with competitors and the changing marketplace. To continue growing, or simply remaining relevant, requires commitment, investment, and more often than not, guidance from third-party experts on how to approach the competitive landscape with a viable and implementable strategy.
When a leading financial services firm engaged Oculus to expand its growth opportunities for new sales in its defined contribution business line, our team focused on delivering not only a highly focused strategy to help segment and address the defined contribution opportunities that come to market each year, but also a clear implementation plan for how to move the ultimate recommendation into execution. We’ve found that organizations lacking alignment are challenged in growing their business—and our strategies are designed to provide a clear, attainable path forward.
Our team prepared a framework to approach the goals and objectives. We began with a discovery phase focused on broad interviews conducted within the business unit as well as with enterprise partners on which the delivery of their value proposition was dependent. We then moved to the analysis phase, where we leveraged our expertise and insights into the defined contribution market and the competitive landscape to establish the context for our strategy. From there, we formulated a segmentation approach, and identified and assessed tangential market opportunities on which we could prioritize our efforts across product offerings, key capabilities, and a revitalized sales focus.
Our internal discovery began with understanding how the organization’s leaders had been thinking about the objective to grow and where the business could win its fair share; service plans and participants in a scalable, cost-effective way; and optimize the value it can bring to participants in terms of a holistic value proposition.
We focused on where the business was winning—or not—today, where opportunities came from, what products and services were offered and how they were packaged, and how they stood up against competitors over time. We engaged external advisors to get a “real world” view of how the market viewed our client and their offerings.
Additionally, we sought to develop perspectives on segments or tangential markets where the firm could win, along with how to approach them.
We heard four key themes in this phase that we felt could be easily conquered without material investment:
- There was a focus on “internal speak” and historical trending of internal statistics, versus “industry speak” and competitive comparisons with a tendency to focus on communicating individual capabilities instead of communicating high-value positioning and structured offers.
- Quantifiable goals for growth of the business needed to be articulated and clarified while sales and retention approaches and practices diverged from those of competitors.
- There were some key product gaps such as an “umbrella” financial wellness offer inclusive of education, tools, resources, and solutions, which limited the reach of the firm’s base offering.
- There were opportunities to better articulate the holistic value of the firm, which in name recognition alone held much potential.
Additionally, our team observed many ways in which a more robust cross-enterprise alignment could drive strong business growth.
We then moved to the analysis phase that looked at client segments, intermediary business models, and market expectations. The analysis showed:
There was significant risk in the current multi-year growth plan.
- Trends in win rates, where deals were coming from, and the declines-to-bid were trending in a negative direction.
- The number of clients identified as “at-risk” was appropriate but when measured by the percentage of participants and assets was problematic.
- An inconsistent willingness to provide consultative services to plan sponsors was impacting in-book organic growth.
To double the participants in the book in a reasonable number of years would take a transformational level of change.
- The required change would be both cultural in terms of change, and financial in terms of investment.
- Raising their overall market voice with advisors and employers would be as critical as overhauling sales processes, sales messaging, and pricing policies.
- Developing key differentiation in financial wellness and segmenting their approach to the market would also be necessary.
- We also identified areas of focus that required significant technology and platform investments to close key capability gaps.
Opportunities for greater growth were available beyond the firm’s traditional approach.
- TPA partnerships would allow access to DC market segments that were untapped.
- Strong wealth management relationships with key advisory firms enabled partnerships that other competitors may not have otherwise found attractive.
- Greater integration from both a product development perspective and go-to-market strategy with other business lines were yet to be tapped.
Our in-depth analysis led us to recommendations in several areas:
A Revised Segmentation Approach
We created a segmentation approach leveraging current participant characteristics that sized the segments, tiered their attractiveness by participant propensity to adopt the broader firm’s offerings and overlaid each segment’s alignment with current and near term offering and capabilities.
The segmentation assessed the annual opportunity for new sales, what changes to the offering and pricing would be required to be competitive, changes in sales approach, and where, beyond current segments, might the business consider expanding its offerings.
We then recommended a six-segment approach based on the number of participants, the type of consultant/advisor affiliated with the opportunity and the median income and age of the participants.
To fully implement the segmentation strategy to drive growth, we recommended implementing additional workstreams focused on managing the existing book of business, prioritizing technology spends and reshaping the client-facing teams to maximize the efforts already underway.
Formalizing the segments based on three factors: participant counts; the strategic value of the consultants/advisors partners; and the amount of participant income/age required changes in pricing and underwriting as well as client facing team capabilities.
Here, we recommended designing product packages based on the new segment definitions which would enable more successful targeting of the right customers. Additionally, reengineering their SalesForce implementation to better support all workstreams’ needs would be critical to having access to the right data for goal setting and decision-making.
Finally, our experience has shown us that leading successful transformations requires significantly more cross-organization collaboration against an increasingly more complex set of decisions. Leadership teams need to set clear direction aligned with purpose and deliver it in such a way that inspires energy and motivation to change. We recommended focusing on four critical success factors for the leadership teams in driving transformation.
By working closely with the firm to understand the current mindset and then enable change and growth, we were able to move them toward the enterprise-wide transformational change and investment necessary to win. Our efforts resulted in the creation of a multi-year transformation program with significant funding and cross-enterprise focus.
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