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A step-by-step guide to financial institution strategic planning

Kate Randazzo
December 14, 2023
Read Time: 0 min

Practical tips for conducting effective strategic planning meetings

Financial institutions' strategic plans should be cohesive, focused, and have buy-in from stakeholders. These steps can help get you there.

You might also like this on-demand webinar, "Strategic plan: How to develop and monitor at your financial institution."


Have your board meetings and strategic planning sessions become predictable? In a banking landscape that is constantly changing with new regulations, increasing competition, and other new challenges, it is critical to maximize your strategic plan's effectiveness.  

In a recent webinar, Abrigo Senior Advisor Paula King provided practical tips to help develop a strategic plan that aligns with your financial institution’s goals, enhances competitive advantage, and drives growth. King outlined the following best practices for developing and refreshing your strategic plan and encouraged banks and credit unions to make them an integral part of board meetings.

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What is your destination?

Identify the goal of your strategic plan

A financial institution’s strategic plan is not a budget or a core values statement—but it should inform your budget and lead to measurable growth in areas that fulfill your core values. King recommends thinking of a strategic plan as a roadmap. “Your strategic plan should answer three questions,” she said. “What is your destination? Where are you? How will you get to the destination?”

Examining those three questions from all angles can help pinpoint the “destination” for your financial institution. The following steps can help narrow it down and focus your goals:

  • Send out a simple, future-oriented survey to the board and executive management (read on for sample questions) to determine strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your financial institution.
  • Inventory your goals and rank them in order of importance to determine a focus for your plan.
  • Identify your questions about the institution and what data and dashboards you need to answer them.
  • Consider the institution-wide impact of your strategy and ensure all pillars can weigh in on its effects.
  • Define actionable plans, such as what additional staff or technology you need to accomplish your goals.
  • Define a timeline with checkpoints to measure progress.

It’s essential to involve your board and executive management in pre-planning steps to ensure everyone’s input is collected and heard. A survey is a good place to start to gauge how stakeholders feel about the direction of your organization, but make sure you don’t ask questions that your board can’t answer. For example, don’t ask the board to answer questions about the future of the regulatory landscape. Keep questions simple in this initial planning stage. Here are some sample questions:

  • What specific insights do you have for the next year in our market? Draw from your personal, industry, or business experience.
  • What specific technologies would you like to see us pursue for a better customer experience?
  • What specific lines of business are we not offering that would make us more competitive with our peers?
  • What is a measurable feature of our financial institution that you think sets us apart or makes us unique?
  • What do you identify as our biggest specific competitive weakness? (Repeat this question for strengths, opportunities, and threats.)
  • What recommendations do you have for attracting younger customers and next-generation board members?
  • What is the market’s perception of our financial institution and our competition?

Where are you now?

Use data to pinpoint your baseline

After a survey is completed and a destination is identified, your financial institution can turn to examining metrics to evaluate its starting point. This includes asking data-driven questions to guide you as you fine-tune your new goals. Here are some sample questions a financial institution looking to grow its CRE loan portfolio might ask:

  • What has been your historical CRE growth? Is past performance indicative of future performance, and if not, what needs to change?
  • Where are you today? How much of a leap is it to reach your goal?
  • What are your current CRE concentrations?
  • What insights have you gained from an in-market commercial real estate analysis?
  • What are your loan pricing metrics?
  • What has been the historical performance of your CRE portfolio risk metrics?
  • What impact does peer comparison have on your loan pricing?

While taking stock of the starting point for your financial institution’s strategic plan, take a moment to examine what other areas of your financial institution will be impacted by your plan. In the CRE example, this might mean considering the plan’s effect on capital or overall interest rate. Make sure you have considered the plan from all angles before moving on to planning its implementation.

How will you get there?

Tips for implementing a strategic plan at your financial institution

With your destination and starting point identified, it is time to prepare to carry out your plans. In the example CRE growth scenario, an excellent first step would be to consolidate CRE ownership organizationally. Responsibilities that are spread out across branches or siloes should be centralized to make communication and implementation easier. This can also improve onboarding and training if your plan involves new staff or technology.

Before you begin making changes to your process, King recommends identifying and engaging “centers of influence” or staff members who will lead the charge when implementing your goals. Introduce your plans to them first. Then, relay timelines and milestone dates to all staff members with a role in CRE. Every staff member should hear and understand the plan before your financial institution begins implementation. Clear and early communication is a change management strategy that can help prevent confusion and negative attitudes surrounding the change.

Remember that sharing your plans with all staff members involved should include staff responsible for providing the data you will need to measure your success. If your goal is CRE growth, you’ll need to see past, present, and future metrics with an organized pipeline system that can show what loans you expect to close in 30, 60, or 90 days. A banking intelligence system can provide dashboards that are based on roles within the financial institution, paving the way for better decision-making.

Finally, King warns against siloing your goals. For example, if one of your goals is to grow the number of deposit accounts opened to a certain amount in the next two years, you should also consider your retention. Retention is cheaper than procurement, so include retention and cross-sale goals in the growth plan.

If you successfully identify the destination, starting point, and route to getting from one to the other, your financial institution will be on the right track. Now, you can treat your board meetings as updates on the journey from point A to point B.


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About the Author

Kate Randazzo

Content Marketing Manager
Kate Randazzo is a Content Marketing Manager at Abrigo, where she works with industry thought leaders to create digital content that helps financial institutions better serve their customers. Before joining Abrigo, Kate managed social media and produced articles for Campbell University’s quarterly magazine and other university content initiatives. She earned

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About Abrigo

Abrigo enables U.S. financial institutions to support their communities through technology that fights financial crime, grows loans and deposits, and optimizes risk. Abrigo's platform centralizes the institution's data, creates a digital user experience, ensures compliance, and delivers efficiency for scale and profitable growth.

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