All In

To paraphrase the old saying, all courses of action are risky, so fortune favors those who calculate risk and act decisively. The same goes for poker players who know when to go all in, and for community financial institutions that want to win and attract all the customers they can.

By Stephanie Kubert

Over the last several years, “all in” has worked its way into our vernacular. As a player who considers herself successful at poker, I’m well aware of how all in it applies to the game.

There are various reasons a poker player will go “all in”
The poker move that often comes to mind is the bluff. A bluff is typically executed when a player senses weakness in her opponent and expects to win the pot simply by having her opponent drop out of the hand. The bluff is an important part of the game but it can’t be executed recklessly. As soon as other players identify a compulsive bluffer, the bluff will be called and she will lose her stake.

The strength of the player’s hand and stage of the betting rounds will also impact the all-in decision. For example, if the player is relatively confident that she has the strongest hand early in the betting rounds and does not want to risk the possibility of having another player out-draw her, she may go “all in” to drive her opponent from the game.

One of most important “all in” moves is commitment from the top; this is accomplished when leaders actively merge the strategy with the financial institution’s culture. They’re enthusiastic about the initial rollout, provide regular updates and kudos and include program elements in goals, priorities and activities. It’s obvious that in addition to making it fun, they also incorporate measuring and reporting and make it rewarding, too. Going “all in” is committing to your hand.

Perhaps the most lucrative “all in” is when, during the last round of betting, a player who knows without a doubt that she has the strongest hand, goes all in and is called by several other players. This can result in a very profitable win.

Why should you go all in on your strategy?
Team members responsible for your financial institution’s acquisition and growth strategy can know without a doubt they have the strongest hand when they follow all – and even most – of Haberfeld’s recommendations. It’s with this confidence that those leading the program can go “all in.”

Three elements that the top performing Haberfeld clients have in common include:
1 Commitment from the top
2 Measuring, reporting and rewarding
3 Making it fun

One of most important “all in” moves is commitment from the top; this is accomplished when leaders actively merge the strategy with the financial institution’s culture. They’re enthusiastic about the initial rollout, provide regular updates and kudos and include program elements in goals, priorities and activities. It’s obvious that in addition to making it fun, they also incorporate measuring and reporting and make it rewarding, too. Going “all in” is committing to your hand.

A common phrase among poker players who play the game intelligently is to “respect every chip.” It means to come prepared with an adequate stake, don’t play recklessly and use your chips to optimize your circumstances and the strength of your hand.
This concept can also be applied to your financial institutions acquisition strategy. Top performing financial institutions prepare and avoid recklessness by having a strong, dedicated team in place to pay attention to the details. Each component of the strategy can be viewed as a chip. By not taking short cuts and by not eliminating certain elements of the strategy, financial institutions maximize their buy-in to the game.

The commitment of going “all in” ensures long term success. Poker players who play too conservatively by only making small bets and by being afraid of calling larger bets, will only win small pots (when they do win). Most of these players will eventually lose all of their chips and be driven out of the game. The same holds true for leaders who fail to invest time and effort to building a culture around the strategy. Small bets yield small rewards.

Finally, going “all in” with commitment from the top eliminates any perception the strategy is simply a “flavor of the month.” Team members rarely rally around a strategy they do not believe will be a permanent part of the organization’s culture. By frequently moving from one initiative to next without committing to a long term vision will be viewed a bluff. Employees don’t trust the latest initiative, having seen other initiatives die on the vine.

Financial institutions who fully embrace a strategic approach to acquisition and growth are dealt a royal flush. They have every reason to go “all in!”

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