Savings banks—Empower people and organization

"Managers no longer explain how things need to be done. They provide a strategy and allow the team to solve the problems as they see fit."
Carlos Torres Vila, Group Executive Chairman, BBVA


Agile and profitable: How savings banks can successfully manage the required (digital) change

Speed and complexity are high in the digitalized economy, and time is short. (Re)acting quickly and flexibly is essential to keep up with changing customer requirements and profit from them. To avoid being left behind by competitors, established business and operating models need to be challenged. Employees and executives are facing major challenges.

Customer demands are changing rapidly. Consumers are long accustomed to having access to a growing range of services from anywhere and at any time. Tech giants, fintech companies and other new competitors have entered the market, significantly increasing competitive pressure. In addition, the pressure on earnings remains high due to the persisting low interest rate environment, cost increases and regulatory requirements.

These developments lead to the biggest challenge for savings banks with regard to digital transformation: ensuring that they are indispensable and continually adaptable. 

For this reason, each savings bank needs to reconsider its strategy and room for maneuver in terms of costs and income in order to secure its future. It needs to increase efficiencies, leverage income opportunities and potentials and coordinate necessary measures to align them with the target image. All institutions need to invest in their staff and in restructuring to ensure the organization’s sustainability. As especially requirements for executives and employees are growing strongly, savings banks need to (incrementally) evolve into agile organizations.

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Adapted target image 

The target image of a bank must be systematically developed from the customer perspective. The business and operating models as well as their methods and forms of collaboration need to be aligned. This becomes the basis for greater efficiency and offers chances for growth and profits.

Agility as a success factor

Agility is the ability of people or organizations to adapt flexibly and autonomously to new conditions—for banks, this means in particular adapting to customers’ needs. Once this approach becomes the norm, success will be measurable. Agile organizations are 2.7 times more successful than traditionally structured institutions.

Changed leadership roles

Executives must become agility role models to kick off cultural change. They need to be ready to share authority. Only then can teams become stronger and more powerful. Traditional executives will increasingly support employees by acting more as a coach and mentor.

Structured cultural change

Successful transformation demands a structured process which needs to actively involve management and employees and address cultural aspects.


Business and operating model optimization

For over 25 years, zeb has worked closely with German savings banks and partners of S-Finanzgruppe and their ecosystem and is thus the right partner for optimizing business models—across all market and customer segments. We follow the holistic approach of “business and operating model optimization”, which considers established sales and operating models just as much as the new challenges of digitalization and the cultural aspects of institutions. In collaboration with the client, we challenge established business models and develop them further. For this purpose, we also use new methods (e.g. Eigenland or Design Thinking) in order to support the strategic discourse. 

We sit down with our clients to determine the suitable level of ambition of the savings bank, developing its vision and strategy as well as the business and operating model. Afterwards, we support the institution in fleshing out ideas, closely involving employees in the process, and in introducing them into operations, for example by means of pilot teams. 

Being an expert on savings banks, we systematically utilize the opportunities of digitalization in S-Finanzgruppe and its ecosystem, using the current model concepts of DSGV as a starting point. We have successfully supported numerous savings banks and advise others on an ongoing basis. Our clients thus always benefit from the state-of-the-art expertise of zeb consultants.


Our script for business optimization of savings banks


Aside from that, it is important to develop an organization that learns and adapts on its own and finds the right responses to challenges thanks to its high degree of autonomy. Our work is based on a view of people characterized by trust, team work and a desire for further development. This encourages a new understanding of leadership in which managers share responsibilities with their employees thus establishing leadership methods that are oriented to teams and customers as well as a flexible organizational structure with agile teams and collaboration among equals.The necessary adaptability also results in new challenges: managers and employees need to face and meet continually changing conditions.