Exercises help future planning

By Meridith Levinson, CIO |  Software

  • National City improves its customer focus and develops a relationship-based
    strategy. This means that the Bank tailors its services (financial planning, mortgages,
    mutual funds) to individual customer needs. Though this was the major industry trend,
    the business model was complex and costly to pursue.
  • National City specializes solely in products. The Bank would concentrate on
    streamlining the development and delivery of financial services, whether they be
    mortgages or credit cards. This would significantly reduce costs but would do so at the
    risk of losing customers who were looking for a ccompany to serve all their financial
    needs.
  • National City launches a separate online Bank under a different brand (similar to
    what Bank One has done with WingspanBank.com). This cyberBank would offer its customers
    another delivery channel but would also compete with National City's own brick-and-
    mortar Bank.

After narrowing the Bank's possible future to those three, the team compiled a list
of 150 internal and external events that might influence any of the outcomes. The
events could be regulatory issues such as a bill permitting alliances between Banks,
securities firms and insurance companies (which actually happened in 1997 with the
Financial Services Competition Act) or technology trends such as the widespread use of
the Internet for conducting financial transactions. Written as news headlines with
accompanying descriptions, such as 'Demand for Real-Time Information Skyrockets: People
Visit Banks for Advice, Not Cash,' these events were later used to create the scenarios
that would lead to each outcome.

Debate the Visions

Once the core team had completed its research, conducted all interviews and drawn up
potential futures, it was time to bring in the participants. On the first day of the
three-day workshop, 24 executives from National City's Banks, the IT department and the
chairman's office -- some excited, some skeptical -- gathered in a conference room.
They were divided into four groups and told to rank all 150 events based on how likely
they thought they were to occur. Among the events deemed highly probable were companies
investing in comprehensive security infrastructures and customers using online
financial services to get customized information and advice. They regarded as highly
unlikely a scenario predicting that by 1999 one-third of U.S. households would be using
electronic financial services.

According to NCRI, the purpose of this part of the workshop is to sensitize
participants to the assumptions and biases they have about various issues. These
assumptions can be about the way a company or industry operates and can lead executives
to make critical decisions in a vacuum, without considering, for example, the
ramifications of cultural trends or economic shifts.

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