Managing an enterprise wide strategic change programme for one of the ‘big four’ Irish banks
Case Study

Managing an enterprise wide strategic change programme for one of the ‘big four’ Irish banks


In an environment of unprecedented change, companies must optimise how they run the business in order to meet the demands of the external environment. In order to achieve this, they must also optimise how they change the business - principally through the development and implementation of strategic initiatives and programmes.


Axis Corporate were engaged by one of the ‘big four’ Irish banks in order to successfully deliver one such programme.



The bank was faced with shifting customer preference towards online and mobile banking, interest margins being squeezed and cost-per-transaction in branches rising quickly as transaction volumes declined. Furthermore, they had multiple internal challenges such as changes in reporting tools and the introduction of new project management policies and procedures.


The bank undertook a strategic review and decided to introduce a “reshaping and investment programme designed to ensure a sustainable future for the bank and its customers, addressing the considerable shift in customer behaviour and their changing needs”. This programme was made up of 5 individual projects, each with respective project managers and business leads reporting into the senior executive team. It ultimately sought to reduce the retail branch network, rationalise the Operations function across the UK, lower the bank’s cost base and support this with relevant and timely activity across HR and communications.




The first imperative was to implement an enhanced method for helping the bank to define, track and communicate programme objectives and outcomes.


To this end we created a programme Blueprint, breaking the programme into manageable pieces and providing the Executive team with forward looking indicators which set the cadence for the programme. Clarity at the Blueprint level helped the Executive team identify where they would have maximum impact in moving the programme and associated benefits forward.


To achieve this, we constantly iterated and checked against the following:


  • Is the Blueprint clearly defined and logically structured?
  • Are customer outcomes and their timings clearly identified?
  • Are risks, issues and interdependencies addressed?
  • What is the impact of any change to agreed delivery dates?
  • Are the agreed priorities still relevant?


To support the identification of clear, actionable insights into how delivery efforts would align to the Blueprint, activities and initiatives at the individual project level were created with the project managers.

Adding the additional layer of initiatives and activities could have created a risk of generating too much information, complicating what was really happening (we refrained from adding an additional level of tactical detail at the programme level for this very reason).

An associated risk of gathering too much information, is the placing of an undue burden on the project managers and staff executing the component parts of the programme. Given the inherent uncertainty in major change programmes, it can be tempting to log everything - reducing the chance that the bank would miss something critical. However, we implemented a PMO primarily focused on supporting the actual implementation of the programme, rather than policing and setting up policy.


A critical component of this support was the establishment of the Design Authority to which the PMO was aligned. The Design Authority facilitated the PMO to provide the business managers with the information that allowed them to make any course corrections and ensure that their initiatives were delivered in terms of both impact and timing. Further weekly sessions with Project Managers provided a ‘hotline’ where issues and critical decision points could be escalated quickly to the relevant decision makers.


The ‘wrapper’ we provided to these reporting lines was once of ‘minimum sufficiency’ - implementing the right level of processes and control to ensure forward programme momentum was maintained. For example, exception based-reporting on a fortnightly basis to the senior leadership team was a far more effective way to monitor progress than multiple weekly meetings to talk through results that are in line with expectations. It meant that they were exposed to the overall status of the programme, and any emerging issues significant enough that would require their intervention - i.e. to remove roadblocks, fast-track decisions and reallocate resources.



The approach was a success. The PMO created the right fundamental processes and communication channels to ensure the forward momentum of the programme, which achieved the targeted results:


  • The desired cost savings through the reduced branch network and the reduced FTE requirement in the new target operating model were achieved.
  • Regulatory compliance with the Access to Banking Standard and Treating Customers Fairly obligations was maintained.
  • The Operations function was rationalised and processes enhanced.
  • Customers were contacted and updated throughout and guided to the new and enhanced service offering which saw an increase in transaction volumes
  • The programme was delivered on time, within budget, and received a successful Operational Risk rating.

If you would like to know more about Axis Corporate expertise in delivering strategic change programmes, please contact us.

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