3 minute read 24 Oct 2018
how your firm can uncover its agents of change

How to use agents of change to transform your firm

By

Mike Lee

EY Global Wealth & Asset Management Leader

Spirited leader for wealth and asset management. Champion for change. Driven to produce better outcomes and simplify the complex. Passionate about family, friends and sports.

3 minute read 24 Oct 2018

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Firms who identify the right agents of change to carry out their critical transformation strategies can increase their bottom line and strengthen their competitive positioning.

For long-term success in an industry driven by rapid innovation and accelerating change, investment firms must transform their DNA to adapt. To do so, their employees must understand both the evolutionary and revolutionary changes taking place in the industry, and be reskilled to compete in a constantly shifting landscape. Firms must also emphasize the need for employees to adapt intelligently – for both the firm’s survival and for their own employability within the industry.

One crucial step organizations need to take is to embed real “agents of change” (ACs) into critical layers and functions of their organization. These individuals are integral to implementing successful change strategies and helping foster an organizational culture in which each employee is capable of pivoting to change.

In an increasingly global and fast-paced world, ACs need to: 

  • Be comfortable being uncomfortable 
  • Strive to move beyond the status quo 
  • Be strong influencers and excellent communicators, who can motivate others to change and become ACs themselves
  • Embrace a mindset of diversity, inclusiveness and an openness to new ideas and skills

When identifying ACs, firms should consider a less conventional approach. For example, firms should look beyond the usual individuals who currently hold leadership roles, and look to those who may be ready and willing to take on more challenging, less traditional tasks relevant to their role.

There’s an old saying, “don’t let that which got you to where you are, prevent you from going to where you want to be.” In other words, many times organizations look to those who have been leaders in getting to where they’re at now, but they may not have the same ability to transform the organization to where it wants to go, at least without support from other diverse views. Many times it’s these same people who are tasked with executing change, but change is now different – it’s accelerating and influenced by more factors today than ever before.

For the best results, firms need to engage ACs with diverse perspectives. This will help ensure ACs reach each constituent they are looking to get onboard, from millennials to baby boomers. ACs are responsible for influencing a range of personality types as well, including those willing to embrace change and those who resist it.

When identifying agents of change, firms should consider a less conventional approach. For example, firms should look beyond the usual individuals who currently hold leadership roles, and look to those who may be ready and willing to take on more challenging, less traditional tasks relevant to their role.

The key responsibilities of ACs

Simplify the complex
Change is complex and can lack clarity, and therefore often faces resistance from employees and stakeholders. As ACs will be tasked with securing employee buy-in, it is vitally important that they are able to make their firm’s transformation strategies, goals and methods transparent and simple to understand.

For example, the investment industry has been undertaking significant efforts to re-platform their operating systems. To ensure success, ACs must clearly communicate the complex details and long-term benefits of these projects. They must empathize with employees to better understand perceived impact of the change – the best strategy will be challenged if those most impacted don’t understand how it will benefit them. This may sound obvious but experience shows that the need to understand “what it means to me” is critical to embracing change.

Heed the 20-60-20 rule
In my experience, generally 20% of a firm’s employees are willing early adopters who embrace and act on change. An additional 20% are more comfortable with the status quo and tend to resist change efforts. The remaining 60% may be open to change but require clarity around the impact of the change – especially what it means for their role.

For example, firms who are looking to optimize their operating model may seek to automate some of their work with robots. In this scenario, it is critical for ACs to be transparent with employees about how this will affect their role, as job stability or an understanding of new responsibilities may be a concern.

Leverage tools for internal use
ACs can leverage the firm’s tools that are typically used for client services to gain useful insights about their staff. Firms could use advanced technologies to analyze employee data in the same way they do customer data when determining segmentation strategies.

For example, our EY team worked with a client to use tools to better predict investors’ behavior based on their personality traits, values and lifestyle. Organizations could potentially use those same tools to create profiles for their employees, which could help them:

  • Create segmented groups to target with particular change strategies
  • Better understand their employee workloads and forecast optimal times to implement change
  • Inform how to execute change (e.g., communication approaches; metrics for success)
  • Identify diverse AC prospects to lead change

Of course, all of this would need to be done in accordance with the client’s internal policies and with respect to their employees’ information.

The bottom line

Transforming an organization can be a complex and arduous process, but it ultimately leads to better outcomes. Firms who identify the right ACs to carry out their critical change strategies can increase their bottom line, gain market share and strengthen their competitive positioning.

See how our EY Wealth & Asset Management team works with clients’ ACs to help implement successful technology transformation and business transformation projects.

Summary

To effectively transform in an increasingly global and fast-paced world, firms must identify the right agents of change.

About this article

By

Mike Lee

EY Global Wealth & Asset Management Leader

Spirited leader for wealth and asset management. Champion for change. Driven to produce better outcomes and simplify the complex. Passionate about family, friends and sports.