Scaling the Wall of Scalability

September 7, 2016 Jim Young


Scaling Wall

In Chapter 5 of our book, Earn It: Building Your Bank’s Brand One Relationship at a Time, we introduced the story of Dan Martin.

Dan (not his real name) has worked at a Midwestern bank his entire career, rising all the way from teller to a position in which he essentially functions as the Chief Pricing Officer.

It’s a success story in which numerous people and moments played supporting roles. And, like any good tale, there were obstacles that had to be overcome along the way.

Like the Wall of Scalability.

Dan had made a big initial splash in his region with an impressive excel spreadsheet he put together to handle commercial loan pricing there. Dan’s good work got him promoted up to the main headquarters, where he was tasked with rolling out his pricing model across the entire bank.

That’s when he came to the uncomfortable realization – as much as Dan liked his Excel spreadsheet, and as effective as it had been for him in the past, there was no way it could handle the increased demands that came with trying to roll it out to many more lenders in numerous offices across multiple states.

Dan had hit the Wall of Scalability.

Fortunately, he knew how to scale it. He put together a list of the things he felt the bank needed in a pricing solution. Dan quickly ascertained it wasn’t something he could build in-house. So he went shopping, found the right vendor, rolled out the solution at the bank and the bottom line has been thanking him ever since.

If you think you’ve hit the scalability wall and you’re hoping to write a story similar to Dan’s, here are three key things to consider:

Be Honest With Yourself

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. That’s not always easy. In the case of Dan, he had to let go of an in-house pricing tool he’d built himself. It was his baby and he knew all its ins and outs and all the ways to tweak it. Fortunately, Dan also knew that his tool had reached its limits. So he put his ego aside, swallowed hard, and let go of what was familiar to go looking for something better.

And here’s the thing, he didn’t lose face by dropping the pricing tool he’d created. Instead, he became a hero for choosing a solution that benefited the bank immensely. Dan was promoted shortly thereafter.

Emphasize Implementation

Implementation, specifically ease of implementation, is a critical factor in determining a tool’s scalability. You’re probably hitting the scalability wall because you’re working at a growing bank. And if your bank is growing, then implementation probably won’t be a one-time deal. You’ll have to get the pricing tool rolled out at your bank, and then at all future banks that your institution acquires in its race to keep growing. The bank’s executives might be willing to grit their teeth through one bumpy software implementation, but they’ll be none too thrilled at the prospect of repeating it each time a new bank is welcome into the fold.

No Buy-in = No Scale

Dan took great care through the buying and implementation processes to loop in his lenders. He knew that some of them were attached to his old model and that others simply feared change in general. So Dan opted for transparency, explaining the need for the change, why the new tool was the right one for the job, and all the steps that had been taken to get the lending department to a better place. Even after implementation, he stayed hands on, making sure that the new software “stuck” with his lenders. It was, to be sure, a lot of work on the front end, but Dan has seen it pay off, as the tool has reached that tipping point where adoption by new lenders is now a given.

It’s not an easy thing to do – pausing and reassessing your pricing capabilities. Like most bankers you’re battling for deals every day in highly competitive markets. The temptation is to keep going, full speed ahead.

But full speed ahead only means the collision is even more painful when you crash into the Wall of Scalability.



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About the Author

Jim Young

Jim Young, Director of Content at PrecisionLender, is an award-winning writer with experience in a range of positions in media and marketing, from reporter to website editor to content marketer. Throughout his career Jim has focused on the story – how to find it, how to understand it, and how best to share it with others. At PrecisionLender, he manages the many ways in which the company shares its philosophy on banking and the power of relationships. Jim graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke University and holds a masters degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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