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Global CEOs Renew Growth Focus But Question Ability to Execute

Banks must create architectures that enable responsiveness, according to IBM BCS study.

After several years of scaling back, "growth is back on the agenda," according to IBM Business Consulting Services' (BCS) managing partner Ginni Rometty, summing up the key finding of BCS' Global CEO Study 2004. At the same time, the study says, CEOs in all industries have serious concerns about the abilities of their organizations to drive and manage that growth.

Eighty percent of the more than 450 CEOs surveyed by IBM (15.9 percent of which were from financial services) reported their perspective has shifted from cost cutting to revenue growth. Accordingly, notes Eric Pelander, who heads IBM's strategy and change practice, "customer-driven, real-time responsiveness is a new key competence."

More than 60 percent of the CEOs indicated the primary source of growth will be "new and differentiated products and services," as well as "improved product and service quality as a competitive differentiator," Pelander says.

But this may be easier said than done, since the executives surveyed by IBM "generally don't believe their companies are very responsive," he adds. Pelander suggests that actions companies can take to improve their growth potential include investment in technologies "that capture and utilize customer information for swift decisions; capture customer needs and preferences; and create adaptable processes that allow a real-time response."

In financial services, banking and insurance CEOs "are rethinking what the right channels for growth are, making sure they're growing in the right areas that will be profitable businesses for them," notes Sandip Patel, a Boston-based insurance partner with BCS. "It's the whole notion of thoughtful and profitable growth versus growing for the heck of it."

This new perspective is driving the new round of M&As, Patel suggests, as well as "the ability to put out products which are more tied to what customers are really looking for. You have to have a more agile and flexible technology infrastructure to put out products quicker than in the past."

These varying factors are driving financial services CEOs to "address skills deficiencies and growth strategies with more program management discipline, as they are trying to be more agile and make sure technology investments are moving in the right direction," Patel says. "We're seeing stronger discipline in terms of how things get done."

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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