Strategic planning during COVID-19

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed member and employee expectations and will likely prompt transformation in the financial services industry for many years to come. By preparing to adapt to future challenges with strategic planning, your institution can avoid reactionary decision making and work toward solutions-based growth and positive outcomes.

Revisiting your strategic plan with lessons from COVID-19 will help strengthen the resilience and agility of your business, as this crisis could be a catalyst for positive long-term improvements, including general business and IT strategies. Taking advantage of this opportunity to hone a resilient, flexible and scalable plan empowers you to adapt to the changing landscape but may also pay dividends when the virus is behind us.

Key Strategies to Employ

  1. Do Good: With many people struggling, businesses and individuals have an opportunity and even duty to give back to their communities when possible. While the goal is to help those in need, doing good also promotes positive brand reputation during this event. This is especially critical now, as your institution’s handling of the crisis may be under heightened scrutiny.
  2. Protect Your Employees: Stress under these circumstances is as common as it is understandable. Be sure to check in with and provide resources and updates to your employees, members and vendors. In some instances, difficult but compassionate decisions may be appropriate.
  3. Look for Leaders: Leadership often emerges in times of tribulation, so look for people who step up to the challenge. Start by engaging everyone to seize opportunities to strengthen relationships. Whether they have not yet been given the opportunity, or didn’t know they had it in them, leaders who emerge now can likely take on greater responsibilities in the future.
  4. Provide a Rapid Response: In a constantly changing environment, urgency and rapid response to member and prospect needs is essential. By being strategic yet decisive when opportunities to strengthen member relationships or foster new ones emerge, you may win over prospects that have been vacillating up to this point. Creative approaches to finding growth opportunities within existing relationships will also help you balance your response and protect brand reputation.
  5. Communicate Strategically: Communication has become more critical than ever, due to constant change and uncertainty. But communication must be done from a strategic approach, as situations may be fluid and can develop rapidly. For this reason, refer to the authorized spokesperson designated in your business continuity plan (BCP) to communicate to media and members.
  6. Compose a Critical Issues List: Over the course of the pandemic, your institution may identify an existing process or policy in need of adjustment. An updated critical issues list can guide you in your next BCP revision. It might even facilitate solutions if you have an opening for a new security control, application process or service offering.
  7. Revise Business Continuity Plans: Since life adjusted to COVID-19 will change again in time, a clear plan for emerging from the pandemic can help you confidently plan for tomorrow. There will likely be lasting changes to financial institutions’ operational approaches, such as dramatic expansion of the work from home model which will in turn open multi-location operations and account for local talent shortages. Additionally, there may be multiple waves of the pandemic to account for, and an updated BCP will empower you to handle any eventuality and take on future challenges.

Remaining Agile During the Crisis

While it may be easier said than done, being agile and adaptable empowers you to make incremental strategic improvements. You may need to overcome roadblocks and embedded behaviors to instill effective planning. But in strengthening your agility and resilience by updating your strategic plan, you can be better prepared if a crisis such as this happens again.