The values of German regional banks offer an enormous breeding ground for the responsibility and sustainability in business strategies desired by customers. They only mean an immensely high level of change competence for the entire bank or savings bank. This requires a seriously intended cultural change, which all management levels can exemplify at the TOP-Down stage.

#Change leadership

Is the survival of regionally operating universal banks, despite all the pressure on costs, interest rates and regulations, really only achievable through specialization, as Klarna founder Siemiatkowski explained to the Swedish newspaper “Svenska Dagbladet”? As head of Europe’s most valuable non-listed Fintech, he oracles about the exit for universal banks in about five years. In the course of our work over the past few years, we are more likely to ask ourselves whether regional banks have perhaps just not yet played out their greatest advantage.

Are “megatrends”, as published by the Zukunftsinstitut, not exactly representable by regional banks and thus the big chance?

To implement sustainable values such as health, neo-ecology, new work, individualization and connectivity, to name just a few, regionally into the business strategy and thus match the zeitgeist of the heir clientele is a feasible way and could be on the “to do” lists.

Leaving the use of profits in the region to the customer, creating corporate customer networks, real relationship management in holistic consulting, etc. are not new ideas, but fulfill values of our time and have hardly been implemented consistently so far.

Is it due to…

  • … missing capacities?
  • … too few entrepreneurially thinking employees?
  • … managers trained and controlled for short-term profit?
  • … lack of change competence?

Agility and change culture are key words for the future

Agility is the new trend and is trained in seminars over and over. That way we become faster and more innovative. Certainly it needs agile action. Only can agility really be trained, or is it the result of an inner attitude?

In our work with regional banks, especially through our close cooperation with one of the most successful savings banks in Germany, we have clearly seen that the key to sustainable success lies in the culture of change and that agile action can be experienced live there again and again.

Change culture is not change management in the classic sense. Normally there are change management measures to accompany individual goals or projects. The brain should understand the meaning of the project in order to be motivated to change. If you now regularly give your employees new projects or process changes, the brain adds up the necessary change requirements and is overtaxed. Sick days increase and changes become a red rag. Not so in the change culture.

We see the way to a sustainable change culture in a different approach. The goal is not to see change as a means to an end, but to define change competence itself as an end. Change competence consists of the willingness and ability to change under conditions that not only allow mistakes to be made, but that are desired and communicated as part of the change process. Everybody should learn from this in order to find new ways again. The attitude towards change is changed. Fear of change becomes curiosity. This cultural strategy process takes time but leads to success at an early stage (see figure). Efficiency gains do not have to be instructed or require process management, but they arise in the positions of every specialist in his or her field of work. All these effects could be described as company-wide agility and arise automatically from the culture of change.


Agile companies have not trained agility, they let it emerge. Executives need support in order to consciously accompany the process. However, the three decisive factors are,

  • the consistent decision of the board of directors for such a culture,
  • the willingness to act as a figurehead for change together with the management
  • and to give the company a vision for the process, which is presented with an emotion is defined.

This way, every stakeholder knows from the 360-degree view whether the company is on the right track.

Sustainability has many faces. The regional banks have good ideas for a wide range of strategies and are already addressing the megatrends. A culture of change as a foundation for regional solutions could make this noticeably easier if it is taken seriously.

As a communication psychologist and business economist I always work for meaningful results. I was able to understand early on that there is a conflict of change between the strategic and conceptual objectives of companies and the people concerned who are allowed to “handle” them. It concerns the change work, which goes along with it and does not receive sufficient attention at any place. The results are immense monetary and temporal costs. I work consistently on the analysis, whether it lies in the cause in lacking readiness to change (WANT), ability to change (CAN) or the change-creating basic conditions (guidance, error culture, motivational framework, etc…) and train advisory in particular high-level personnel after a change map, which obtain change authority by emotional intelligent guidance, clarity and consequence. My credo is that a basic strategic change culture in the company reduces resistance for any change projects in the present and future. This investment makes sense in any case!
MARKUS RUßWURM, Consultant & Trainer at Beratungsinstitut für Veränderungskultur