When thinking about digital transformation, so many are stuck in a kind of hyperfocus on technology. 

This buzz word is getting so much attention, some are failing to balance it with other key points of transformation needed for a strong financial brand. In fact, James Robert Lay notes that digital transformation is getting in the way of a more important focus—individual transformation.

In a recent episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast, James Robert Lay talks about the importance of transformation for financial institutions during the current post-COVID climate.

In order to compete and thrive during these times, banks and credit unions have to adapt.

This requires change on a personal level, not a hyper-focus on technology.

Technology may be a great tool, but it won’t be the solution to adapting to the changing economic climate. In order to start the digital growth journey, you need to start with the person making the trip.

Technology Shouldn’t be the Focus for Transforming Your Financial Brand

Transforming the Individual

Change is hard. Can we just say that?

As James Robert points out, we want to simply stay in our caves of complacency. We’d rather not go out and face the beasts and terrors facing us in the wild. We want to stay where we are comfortable. This mindset of self-preservation is ingrained deep within.

And, while some fear can keep us safe, most fear serves more as a roadblock.

Most FEAR is: False Evidence Appearing Real.

We are more afraid of the possible issues than any reality. We hold back because we are afraid to fail or make a mistake. But, this FEAR keeps us from achieving greatness.

The Change in Thinking

Of course, the thinking of the individual has to shift in order to overcome the roadblocks from FEAR. 

James Robert points out how the change in thinking is crucial.

Those that fail to change their thinking will fail. They will be the ones that fail to transform in ways that they can continue to grow. No one likes change—it’s hard, scary and painful. Change from the top is going to take at least three things.

Focus on Training and Education (Not Technology)

The tools continue to change, so it can be easy to get caught into trying to stay on top of getting the newest tools. But, James Robert points out, that isn’t enough. The people are going to be more crucial in the process than the tools. 

We are entering the Age of AI, James Robert warns. Changes in technology will continue to happen rapidly. That’s why changing the individual is far more important than solely changing the tool.

Awareness of Barriers to Growth

Understanding your challenges is a huge part of growing and adapting. Financial institutions need to be very aware of what policies, employees, leaders, stakeholders or legacy processes are holding them back.

Metanoia, a Greek word that could be broken down into two parts, with "meta" meaning beyond and "nous" meaning mind. In classical Greek, metanoia meant changing one's mind about someone or something.

It is metanoia we need to have across the boards.

As financial institutions and legacy brands, we can go slowly into the night, kicking and screaming with every change. Or, we can be at the forefront of the change and part of leading the charge.

Considering the changes forced by COVID towards digital transformation, we should see the benefits of individual transformation and better customer services.

Time to Find the Right Path

This isn’t going to be an overnight change.

You can’t see the light today and reach the end of the tunnel tomorrow. This is a gradual journey of digital growth. You are going to make quick moves and shift your direction, but you are not going to nail it all down right away.

More than likely, you are going to make some missteps along the way.

You might lose your way and have to take a detour to get back on the right path. You might find that certain approaches don’t pan out like you thought they might with the customer. It’s going to take work to build up your digital assets. But, these FEARs are only speedbumps in your journey.

You have to make the change or your financial brand will not survive.

And, if you don’t make the change—at least on an individual level—you won’t be valuable to the companies that do survive. You might find yourself in a personal Circle of Chaos that pushes you out of a leadership position because of your failure to thrive.

Survival of the Fittest

This trending struggle is what James Robert calls Digital Darwinism. Only the strong, capable and agile will survive. 

Digital Darwinism is a phenomenon that we're seeing when technology, consumer expectations, and the competition simply evolve faster than a financial brand can adapt and evolve themselves. Now, when this occurs, banks and credit unions get stuck in the circle of chaos.

Technology Shouldn’t be the Focus for Transforming Your Financial Brand copy

Most brands that find themselves in a hole, according to James Robert, feel themselves start to spiral into the Circle of Chaos. This spiral typically starts with a recognition of a growing technology gap:

  • Frustration instead of excitement
  • Overwhelm rather than vision
  • Conflict rather than conforming

These brands are stuck in the present moment, weighed down by the past. They are in digital denial, holding onto what worked in the past. Leadership can’t keep up with the changes and suddenly they find themselves in a losing position. James Robert notes:

“This confusion leads to frustration when they try new approaches to achieve growth, digitally speaking, whether that be on the marketing side or on the sales side, and when they don't get the results they had hoped for, this leads to a feeling of overwhelm, because they begin to feel defeated... They start to falsely believe they can't keep up and compete digitally.”

And, when you can’t meet the consumer's needs you are immediately in the place of death.

Brands are Made of People

It takes the whole team to change the momentum of the brand.

Change typically needs to start at the top, but change the individual and you will change the entire brand. Brands are filled with teams of people. When you change the individual mindset, you will have a powerful force that is ready to use the tools for digital transformation.

James Robert says a favorite personal mantra of his is: Memento mori.

Memento mori is Latin for “remember your death.”

This isn’t a morbid reminder or something to spark FEAR, it is a reminder of the need for change. Memento mori moments are when you come to terms with the reality of your direction. You can change and adapt or face death by Digital Darwinism.

“Remember your death,” James  Robert says. “Remember your death, so that you may carpe diem. Because the future is bright.”