How do companies need to change in order to be successful in digital transformation?

At a glance: 

  • Digital transformation is revolutionizing the world—and the market for financial services providers.
  • Banks need new strategies today to be successful tomorrow.
  • The board of directors and management must be on the same page.

Mr. Kulik, financial service providers and insurers today operate in a completely different market to just a few years ago. Asking provocatively: is digital transformation the problem or the solution for companies?

MARTIN KULIK: It was Chancellor Merkel who said there is no alternative to digital transformation. Ignoring digital transformation is a desire for self-destruction. Digital transformation can hurt because it requires change. And for the financial sector, there are also exacerbating factors such as low interest rates and changes in customer behavior to deal with. It is a huge challenge.
Agility appears to be the best way out of the dilemma. What makes a company into an agile organization?
It is about a new mindset, about overcoming the industrial age thinking that still characterizes many organizations today. The logic of maximum specialization and breaking down processes, the traditional top-down structures... Modern organizations are more flexible and everyone takes responsibility. Results are achieved across department borders and through collaboration. The world is too complex for one person alone.
You have said that a change in strategy must be preceded by a change in culture. Can you explain that in more detail?Employees are not robots who have to be given a new punch card to insert into their heads. They learn and reproduce certain values and behaviors in the company and adhere to them, the more successful they were with them in the old organization. This means that without a preceding cultural change, the old corporate culture simply eats away at the new strategy.

And how can cultural change succeed?
For everything to work, the board of directors and the management must agree. Together, we, i.e. zeb and the company, then develop a vision and guidelines for a strategy. We have found that in companies there are usually 20 percent of employees who are willing to change and 20 percent who are difficult or impossible to convince. In between there is a silent majority, and these employees need to be won over.

But does this mean, conversely, that some people will not succeed in the transition?
It is clear that not everyone is willing to change. Dealing with change requires training. If you look at the “Fridays for Future” movement, the values and ideas of the youth have nothing in common with those of a sixty-year-old CEO. But their young values will become common and more important in the future. Some companies will succeed in the change and some will not. And one day, they’ll be gone.


“For everything to work, the board of directors and management must agree”

Martin Kulik, Senior Manager, zeb