Origin Bank, a regional bank with branches in Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana, is not afraid to adapt. Whether expanding their presence, updating their brand to differentiate themselves, or implementing paid volunteer hours to make a difference in the communities they serve, the organization excels at improvement.
“We were not being strategic with our plan.”
For a long time though, Origin Bank’s strategic plan was not keeping pace with this drive for innovation. They had a plan in place, but as Regina McNeill, Senior Vice President of Market Analytics and Strategic Planning, puts it, “we were not being strategic with our plan.” Consistent accountability and expectations were lacking. The plan was backward looking and did not incorporate the future direction of the organization. In 2017, Origin Bank realized it was time to take their culture for re-imagining and evolving and apply it to their organizational strategy.
Origin Bank scrapped their current plan entirely to develop one that would effectively align their vision and strategy to achieve success. The plan needed to have a concise, logical structure that could grow with the organization. It would need to emphasize metrics tied directly to the desired strategic outcomes, as financial institutions are very data-driven. Where the current plan had solely analyzed past performance, the new plan would also need forward-looking elements. This improvement was especially important, as financial regulators are eager to see where an institution is headed in the next 2-3 years.
On top of these structural changes, leadership buy-in was paramount. McNeill knew the plan’s momentum would not be sustainainable without the backing of the executive team. Luckily, a supportive CEO and vocal executives were driving the push for a new and better plan. And they knew that, as their new strategic plan took shape, they would need a partner to help them deliver the results they were looking for. The software solution they had in place wasn’t working for them, so they spoke with numerous providers about their needs. ClearPoint Strategy’s customization capabilities, report generation, and stellar support team fit the bill. Origin Bank switched software platforms with two years left on their previous contract and haven’t looked back since.
Developing the New Plan
With their end goals now clearly in mind, and leadership in support of these changes, the team began to get their hands dirty. The bank needed an answer to the question, “where do we start in creating a living, idea-mapped document that drives high-level strategy?” So, they started where any good brainstorming session does – at a whiteboard. They mapped out common themes, as well as what they needed to accomplish to be successful. The high-level goals identified what would become the pillars in their plan.
These pillars were further broken down into objectives and initiatives to determine the business activities that would lead them to their goals. They also developed measures to track their progress along the way. McNeill admits that Origin Bank came very close to incorporating too many metrics – when so much is measurable, it’s easy to do! They made sure to backtrack, though, and include only those measures that really made a difference and played into their strategic plan.
A Robust Review Process
Now it was time to determine how these strategic elements would be managed. First, they went about entering their plan into ClearPoint, leveraging premium support to chat real-time with ClearPoint’s experts about the best way to configure their account. Then, they created four distinct reports in ClearPoint to drive the right conversations and encourage accountability. A Strategic Plan Overview would be provided to the board quarterly, summarizing the plan pillars that align with the organizational goals. This report would be high-level for the most part, but would allow for further detail when something went off track. Another report showcased the plan objectives alongside quarterly analysis. A “heat map” measure report provided an easy look at the status of Corporate and Market measures. Lastly, a Red Arrow Report was created using report filters in ClearPoint to automatically identify any measures that were off-track.
The next piece of the puzzle was to achieve the level of communication and accountability that Origin Bank knew they needed to reach success. How would the plan be reviewed? What would determine whether elements were on track? Who would be responsible for ensuring follow-through on action items brought up in meetings? Using ClearPoint’s Management Reporting Guide as a template, McNeill worked with the Executive Management team to answer some of these process questions and more.
The team knew that setting a robust process and set of expectations was key. So, Origin Bank implemented detailed agendas for three distinct monthly meetings held each quarter. During the first month of the quarter, the Strategic Plan Overview report is used as the basis for a high-level review. What is going right, and what is going wrong? Where are the risks, and where are the opportunities? This meeting is a chance to discuss possible solutions and plan ahead accordingly.
The second monthly meeting focuses on accountability using the Red Arrow Report from the previous quarter’s data (there are too many fluctuations in the financial sector to evaluate monthly). Each measure is assigned an owner, who is held accountable for entering analysis and recommendations into ClearPoint, before the Red Arrow Report is sent out as pre-reading. In the third month of the quarter, there is an overall focus on the plan itself and its continued ability to carry the organization forward. Are there any updates or changes that need to be made? One week after this third meeting, proposed changes are taken to the board for approval to continue Origin Bank’s evolution.
Facilitating a Culture of Evolution
As fintech and technology companies become more involved in the banking space, Origin Bank recognizes the importance of differentiating themselves from competitors and creating a culture that facilitates growth.
The first step in this process was to recognize the bank’s core competencies, critical resources, and key success factors – all crucial elements for developing a unique experience for the customer and forming an internal sense of ingenuity. The process also included re-evaluating communication with the Board of Directors and employees, and having meaningful conversations about challenges.
In addition to maintaining 3-year strategic plans, Origin Bank recently rolled out the ‘2019 Corporate Big 5’. Ironically, the Corporate Big 5 is made up of 7 goals – Origin Bank assures us they know how to count; the apparent discrepancy is simply due to movement and shifting of goal priorities throughout the year. Any good plan should be dynamic!
From the Corporate Big 5, the goals can be broken down into ‘Strategic Plan Blueprints’, which define the nuts and bolts of what it will take to be successful. The blueprints allow the Board and Executive Management to view the strategic plan in terms of strategic positioning. Sometimes the most challenging part of strategy in a competitive industry is determining what not to do, making trade-offs so the selected projects can be done incredibly well.
ClearPoint has allowed Origin Bank to look at the Corporate Big 5 at multiple levels with a high-level summary report linking the Big 5 goals to the individual strategic blueprints. From there, ClearPoint’s child scorecard feature allows Origin Bank to establish ‘Executive Big 5s’ for each executive so they know which strategic blueprint projects they are responsible for. The approach has established a sense of accountability and provided visual alignment up to the corporate level strategy.
Outcomes and Insights
After revamping their plan and process, accountability and collaboration at Origin Bank are better than ever. And the progress continues. Now, any major project or strategy change in the organization goes through a “Decision Tree” form to ensure consideration of the impact to customers, culture, the business, as well as financial implications. This vetting process creates a space for focused discussion and approval of strategies to implement changes. Not only that, but corporate project management is now centralized, so that there is a party responsible for seeing each project through. McNeill meets with these project managers monthly to ensure that any necessary changes to the strategic plan are made and effectively communicated.
Origin Bank has several insights from the strategic planning process that they carry forward as the organization continues to evolve. When tackling a substantial change, they’ve learned that leadership buy-in is crucial, coupled with dedicated staff to administer implementation. It is also important to prevent your plan from “sprouting weeds” – that is, becoming more of a to-do list than a high-level look at your strategy. Measures must be examined for their direct contribution to strategy and should not necessarily be tracked simply because the data is available. Lastly, in the true spirit of continuous improvement, McNeill recommends, “don’t be afraid to break up with your current plan if it’s not working for you.” In other words, “strategic planning is not one size fits all!” It is worth the effort to have a strategic plan that drives the organization towards success and highlights its unique strengths.