Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - April 27 , 2011

This Ain't No Reality Show

Survival in difficult environments and beating your rivals in your marketplace are daily concerns for most banks.

Sounds kind of like a "reality show," doesn't it?

After all, in these popular TV shows a number of competitors struggle to complete challenging tasks in difficult environments. One would think that winning a reality show would prepare you to be successful in any of a number of walks of life.

One would be wrong. Some of the winners become minor celebrities for a while, but most of them fade from view quickly, and they rarely repeat their success in more substantial ways.

The problem: the "reality" they faced had little transfer to the real world, oddly enough. The tasks and situations did not fit the challenges they would face in normal life and work. So the skills they learned, and applied, in the TV show were of little use to them elsewhere.

How real are the challenges, opportunities, and strategies you have identified for your bank for the coming years? Are they the product of careful thought, patient analysis, deep research, and reliable data?

Or are they conjured up based on a more appealing "reality" than the one that actually lies ahead of you? Are they merely a revival of "the good old days" of a few years ago?

Everyone is a little tired of the heightened regulatory scrutiny and changing requirements our industry faces. Are you planning for the time when things will "get back to normal?" Or are you focused on how you can thrive today, in the face of greater attention from regulators, knowing that those coping strategies will give you an advantage over your rivals for the foreseeable future?

Are restrictions on fee income becoming burdensome? If you wait long enough, perhaps lobbying efforts will bear fruit and some of those changes will be rolled back. Or you could stop waiting and figure out how to work within the current framework and still generate profits.

Is running lean, holding down operating costs, something you have to put up with until the good times return? Or is it a fundamental element of a highly competitive business model, another way to enhance profits even as other banks loosen the reigns and slide into mediocre performance?

Reality TV stars probably do have some qualities that transfer to other situations. These qualities are not the specific skills (making fire, making things out of vines, etc.), but their toughness and resourcefulness. They adapt to working with what they are given, and they do not waste too much energy on how they wish things worked, or what they wish they had.

Expect business conditions to change slowly. Cultivate the toughness and resourcefulness, in your bank, to thrive in today's environment, and you open the door to strategies and practices that will serve you well in the coming years.