Business Day

Clear Strategic Choices Help Banks Control Destiny

Clear Strategic Choices Help Banks Control Destiny

The times demand that banks relearn strategy.

  • min read


Clear Strategic Choices Help Banks Control Destiny

This article originally appeared on Business Day.

For many years, corporate strategy languished in banking circles. During the go-go 1990s and most of the 2000s, too many bankers pursued growth indiscriminately, had an appetite for risk, and diversified their portfolios without paying enough attention to controlling costs or staking out clear positions in the eyes of customers.

Then the financial crisis caused an abrupt about-turn from growth to survival. Many bankers wielded blunt restructuring tools to take out costs and deleverage their balance sheets to meet regulators’ capital adequacy requirements. While most of these measures were necessary, they certainly did not set the stage for future growth.

The times demand that banks relearn strategy. Banks’ sources of revenue have come under pressure, as credit growth has slowed and net interest margins have been squeezed.

Digitally based entrants with disruptive business models, such as eToro and Kabbage, have been attacking lazy profit pools and taking share from incumbent banks. And repeated waves of regulations have introduced ever stricter and higher capital requirements.

Consider that the gap in total shareholder return between the best and worst of the 20 largest banks worldwide has widened from a 5% standard deviation from the average return between 1993 and 2003 to 9% over the 2003-13 period, Bain & Company analysis shows. Clearly, different business choices — an integral part of strategy — led to different financial outcomes.

Read more at Business Day.

Dutiro is head of Bain’s Financial Services practice in SA and Peder Nielsen co-leads Bain’s Nordic Financial Services practice.


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