Leading the Bird: What Bankers Can Learn from Duck Hunting

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26 April 2012
Bob Meara
Every duck hunter knows that in order to avoid coming home empty-handed, one must aim ahead of the bird – lead the bird as it is commonly referred. The idea is that if one aims directly at the bird, every shot will be a miss no matter how precise the aim. That’s because by the time the bird shot gets in the vicinity of the duck, it will have flown out of the shot pattern. How Much to Lead is the Tricky PartHow Much to Lead is the Tricky PartWhat does this have to do with financial services? Tons! Today’s financial services landscape is challenged with astonishing array of changes, and the rate of change is faster than most have seen in our lifetimes. It’s my observation that most financial institutions aren’t leading the bird. One example lies with retail banking delivery channel priorities. With astonishing consistency, banks and credit unions respond to surveys indicating that channel priority is simply a function of channel usage. The more the usage, the higher the priority. Simple enough, except for the fact that doing so doesn’t lead the bird. Instead, doing so guarantees that financial institutions that behave this way will forever lag the market. The faster the bird, the greater the miss. Other examples in banking: • Overreliance on the branch channel for sales even though all indications point to continued declines in foot traffic. • Slowness in deploying mobile RDC even though most major retail brokerage now offer. • Waiting for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates to invest in deposit automation ATMs even though ATM usage skyrockets among FIs that deploy them. An example of leading the bird is PayPal. EBay Inc.’s top brass made it clear in a recent earnings call that mobile technology is dominating strategic thinking at PayPal Inc., even though it does not yet account for a significant share of transaction volume for the eBay unit. As reported by Digital Transaction News: Addressing stock analysts during eBay’s quarterly earnings call, eBay chief executive John Donahoe lauded the expansion of PayPal’s point-of-sale payments service to some 2,000 U.S. Home Depot Inc. stores earlier this year. “This is just the beginning,” he said. “We have signed contracts with several additional retailers.” Leading the bird doesn’t mean having to be on the “bleeding edge” of technology. Even fast followers can lead the bird. And, leading the bird isn’t the same as being proactive. It’s not a matter of attitude. Instead, leading the bird is a way of aiming. It means taking action based on where things are going, not where they have been – or even where they are. It’s analogous to the difference between predictive analytics and business intelligence. Both are useful, but they serve two very different purposes. Leading the bird doesn’t mean you come home with all the spoils, but it does invite doing so. At the very least, it ensures you come home with… something.


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Asia-Pacific, EMEA, LATAM, North America