Strategic planning ideas are a second thought for many this year.

For example, a financial institution executive was recently discussing with me the severe impacts from the pandemic: earnings are tanking, investment income is negligible, fee income is dropping significantly, and loan volume/income is slowing. As a result, the board decided to postpone their strategic planning session so they could focus on a more tactical plan for the coming months.

 

While I certainly understand the sentiment, the reality is this: now is the time to focus on strategy and not just tactics. Even while the pandemic storm is swirling you must think beyond the immediate crisis.

 

One of the worst things your credit union or community bank could do now is to delay or postpone your strategic planning process. While you may have to adjust how you plan, you absolutely still need to plan.

 

But how? Here are a few strategic planning ideas adjusted for this unique year:

 

Idea #1: Conduct a senior team only session

While the board is certainly involved in strategic planning to some degree at every credit union or bank, this may be the year they are less so. It’s entirely possible board members are worried about their own health and their own businesses. It could be very hard for them to truly focus on your institution and the long-term. However, more than likely the senior executive team is living and breathing the pandemic’s effect on your institution every day. One planning solution is to have the senior team prepare the strategic plan and then review it with the board.

 

Idea #2: Conduct a remote session

Many credit unions and community banks are opting to conduct virtual strategic planning sessions this year. You can actually develop a fantastic plan when everyone is participating remotely. As Stefanie Rupert, CEO for Collins Community Credit Union said, “At first doing a strategic planning session virtually seemed daunting: would we be able to accomplish what we needed to? Heck yes. Where we ended up at the end of the session was where we would have ended up if we had done it in person so I felt it was just as effective as the traditional way.”

 

Idea #3: Conduct a hybrid session

The pandemic has certainly created some divisions. Masks or no masks? Dine in or takeout? Let’s be honest: some people are comfortable meeting in person while others are not. If that is the case rather than hold a traditional planning session that requires everyone be present or conduct one only virtually then you could have a session where some people are “live” and others are “dialed/Zoomed” in. We have done this approach with several of our clients and no one has missed a beat. One advantage is that it allows for full participation with all key players.

 

Idea #4: Focus on the post pandemic world

The pandemic will come to an end. And what consumer banking looks like after the pandemic is critical. Will consumers make the complete switch to digital and never come to your branches again? Or will they long for human interaction and return to the “traditional” banking models of the past? Will there be pent-up demand for loans or will consumers be slow to return to big ticket purchase items? These are questions you cannot wait to answer. You need to begin now to put together your real PPP: post pandemic plan.

 

Idea #5: Move to 90-day planning cycles

Traditional strategic plans are somewhere between 18 and 36 months (those five year plans in banking are long gone). While there certainly is still a need to think beyond the immediate (see point about the post pandemic world above) you may need to create “mini” or “sprint” plans that align with your long-term plans. These are 90-day planning cycles that are hyper focused and allow you flexibility to change quickly.

 

The pandemic is still with us—even during the Fall. Rather than putting your strategic planning session on hold, now is the time to focus on 2021 and beyond. Pausing planning only leads to pausing growth. Now is the perfect time to adjust.

 

 

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