Alternative Futures to Stress Test Strategic Direction in Financial Services

In a pilot exercise, FSG helped a division of a major life insurance company both critically evaluate its current direction and identify some potential new business ideas in what is now a mature market segment.  FSG adapted its scenario (alternative futures) planning process to fit a tight client-planning schedule. During the discovery phase of the project, FSG and a client core team explored a range of potential trends and issues that could plausibly disrupt the business’s dependable income stream. The project team carefully evaluated these “drivers” and then constructed a set of four distinct and credible future operating environments – scenarios.  The team designed the scenarios, which were set approximately a decade in the future, to challenge assumptions and conventional wisdom held the by business unit’s leadership.  FSG facilitated a modified scenario-planning workshop for senior leadership, in which current and incipient business challenges were explored in different scenario contexts.  The workshop discussions identified a number of specific, potentially impactful actions needed in priority areas such as:

  • Retaining in force customer relationships
  • Targeting non-regulated industry segments for future business development
  • Strengthening broker relationships
  • Reducing expenses via partnerships and alliances
  • Building self-service capabilities
  • Developing socially-conscious investment options

The workshop, plus subsequent discussions with executives from the business unit, helped identify major areas of exposure, including the possibility of disintermediation resulting from fintech (financial technology).  

Sponsors of this pilot scenario-planning exercise deemed it a major success, as it provided an entirely new and fresh perspective on the marketplace and led to concrete actions to take to prepare for an uncertain future.