In an environment of unprecedented change, companies must optimize how they run the business in order to meet the demands of the external environment. In order to achieve this, they must also improve how they change the business – initially through the development and implementation of strategic initiatives and programs.

Axis Corporate were engaged by a leading Irish bank  in order to successfully deliver such a program.

Related Case Study: Transforming European Bank’s Retail and Business Banking

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

The Challenge

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 program designed to ensure a sustainable future for the bank and its customers, addressing the considerable shift in customer behavior and their changing needs”. This program 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, rationalize the Operations function across the UK, lower the bank’s cost base and support this with relevant and timely activity across HR and communications.

How we helped

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

To this end we created a program Blueprint, breaking the program into manageable pieces and providing the Executive team with forward looking indicators which set the cadence for the program. Clarity at the Blueprint level helped the Executive team identify where they would have maximum impact in moving the program 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 program 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 program. Given the inherent uncertainty in major change program, 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 program, 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 program 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 program, 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 program, 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 program was delivered on time, within budget, and received a successful Operational Risk rating.