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Strategic Planning and Execution: Insights from the Chief Strategy Officer of Israel's Leading Bank

By Anthony Taylor - March 29, 2023


As a business leader, you know that creating and implementing an effective strategic plan can be overwhelming. There are so many things to consider: The field your company operates in, and how quickly it changes, affects the complexity, length, and scope of your strategic plan. Understanding the timelines and interdependencies between different components of your plan is crucial. Identifying the most critical areas to focus on first will help ensure that your plan is achievable and impactful.

But what’s the process you need to go through and how long should your strategic planning and Execution timelines be?

 That's why we have invited Tagil Green, the Chief Strategy Officer at Bank Hapoalim, to share her insights on how to "Right-size your Strategic Planning" in this episode.


It's essential to recognize that your strategic plan cannot fix everything. By keeping it focused and manageable, you'll be more likely to achieve your goals and make meaningful progress. Creating a timely and relevant plan is also crucial. You don't want to spend too much time developing a plan that's already outdated, but rushing through the process can result in an ineffective plan.

Lastly, cultural relevance is critical to the success of your strategic plan. It should align with your organization's values and mission, as well as the broader cultural context in which you operate.

In this podcast, we'll discuss the following topics with Tagil Green:

- The nuances of right-sizing your strategic plan
- The importance of prioritization and time and cultural relevance of your strategic plan
- How to align your strategic plan with your organization's values and mission


Episode Excerpts


What strategic planning timeline should your organization follow?
Right-sizing your strategic planning is understanding the unique challenges and opportunities in your field. Depending on the pace of change, the length, complexity, and scope of your plan will vary. It's crucial to consider timelines, interdependencies, and prioritization to ensure your plan is achievable and impactful. Remember, your strategic plan can't fix everything, but by focusing on critical areas, you'll make meaningful progress.





Strategic Planning and Stakeholder Engagement: Lessons from Israel's Largest Bank



Full Episode Transcript 

Anthony Taylor (0:02 ) Hey there, folks, welcome to today's episode of the strategy and leadership Podcast. Today I am joined by tequila Green, who is the Chief Strategy Officer at the bank. Hapoalim. Tequila, how are you today?

Tagil Green (0:16) I'm good. Thank you. It's a pleasure.

Anthony Taylor (0:19 ) Likewise, I hopefully we won't have too much of a delay, because I know you're in while you're in Israel right now and having a coffee late at night, which I appreciate. Why don't you tell our listeners a little bit about you how you got involved with a bank and what the role of a chief strategy officer is, and then we'll get into our conversation.

Tagil Green (0:38) Perfect. So starting from now going back, I've been with bunker Pauline for about a year, and rather new. And we can talk about that later. I've been doing strategy for almost 15 years. I started as a young consultant when I was 25. And I did the consultancy for like a decade. And then I was headhunted into a direct insurance company, followed by the bank. It's what I've been doing for quite a while. I live in Israel, like close to Tel Aviv. I have three boys rather young. And that's it. I guess, in a nutshell. 

Anthony Taylor (1:17) That's awesome. So you've been with the bank for a year, you've been in strategy for 15 years. What occupies most of your time other than the three young boys or what occupies the most of your working time as a chief strategy officer.

Tagil Green (1:32) So actually, Ivanka Pauline has had a very interesting and intensive year during 2022. Because about a week or two, after I started working for the bank, we started five years strategic plan with McKinsey, which we only finished completely and put the stamp on by the December 2022. So it took us quite a while. So for the year and about a bit I've been working for bank Hapoalim. That's what I've been doing. It's was very intensive. And currently, I guess being practical is the leading way to look at it because what we did was we took a very high level McKinsey plan for five years ahead and started putting it into pieces into initiatives that we can start working on right now for 2023. And then now what we're doing trying to do is figure out how does 2023 gonna work? Wow. Already, I'm starting to think about next year, because things take time. I guess that's mostly my time.

Anthony Taylor (2:42) Absolutely. So I'm curious because, you know, when we do strategic plans, you know, they can take a day or two and an off site, you know, sometimes it can take several months with a McKinsey level plan that is thorough, you know, you've brought billions of Israeli currency. So I apologize, I won't even reference it. You know, what goes into all of that work? To make sure that you have a good strategic plan from your perspective, not necessarily from McKinsey's perspective.

Tagil Green (3:13) Um, I guess, Israelis have I don't know, a very practical and be maybe a bit blunt. But when we do a strategic plan in Israel, and I know because I've worked with global firms previously, is we are, we tend to be very practical, even sometimes a bit too much. So when we do a strategic plan with McKinsey, I think what we took from them that they did extraordinary, is a very, very large scale benchmark. They had a team of I think, 15 people from all over the world, each responsible, yeah, is responsible for their expertise. Depending on the bank's perspective and product, I should say Bank Hapoalim is a global bank is a universal bank that has a very large variety of products, and millions of customers, the largest bank in Israel. And then we needed to create a strategic plan that can address each one of the products for each one of the customers in various channels, because we have branches and we have digital, we have call center and we have not so good a connection between all of them. So it was a complex project. So going back to the question, we did a very thorough benchmark to as much information as McKinsey could give us under decisions that we need to take finished the part with McKinsey with rather a high level strategic ambition, a list of strategic initiatives. And then we said okay, we need to take it to the next level and did McKinsey call it a be up The bottom up planning process, which then we took strategic initiatives and kind of broke them down into a work plan, which is what the bank is doing right now. I hope I answered your question.

Anthony Taylor (5:13) Yeah, you know, absolutely. And I think about it, because obviously, you've seen like many organizations, we talked about SMEs, and obviously like bank, Kapoor, Lehman's, you know, largest bank in Israel, it can be very complex. And if you are very blunt and direct, it can be very simple. And when I talk to some people about, you know, we facilitate a two day off site to create, you know, the formations of a plan minus the bottom up. It's like, okay, two days, it's kind of the minimum, where some people are like, Oh, we have a day, we have half a day to create a strategic plan. Meanwhile, your plan took a year, but it needed it because you needed to do the market research, you needed to set the benchmarks. You've got, you know, so much money on the line, you've got stakeholders, you've got digital transformation, you've got cross cultural impact, you know, all of those things needed to be considered. And so that kind of more than anything, wanted to highlight the complexity that a strategic plan can take. But then also the potential simplicity, depending on how you want to approach your organization's so there's not one size fits all. So I guess my next question is, in your 15 years of experience, what have you seen in the gamut of strategic plan creation strategy documents? If this is more complex? What else have you seen? And maybe what are some of the key ingredients for you have a good strategy?

Tagil Green (6:35) So I guess your question was straight to the point, because it really, really depends on the organization that you work for. So if I take examples from and also I think the time because I'll put out that divided the answer to two. First, in a general perspective, 2022/2023. People don't have patience. The world is changing so fast. You can't plan a strategic plan for like seven years ahead. It's irrelevant. When I was a young consultant, we had a very large Kaylee's, really. It was an ex military company, big one. Never mind. So we did like a five year plan and renewed it every year. But it was also always five years ahead. And when we started this project, our board of directors asked us, How long do you want to plan? Some said, let's think a decade ahead. Some said it's irrelevant. Let's talk about two years ahead. And we kind of negotiated into the like, five years ahead for five years and said, Okay, that's good enough, because some of the complexity and the range depends on the field that you work for. So for banking in Israel, four or five years ahead, is good enough. So if I'm thinking about what is the range of a plan, first thing I think we need to think about is how long ahead are you planning? Because if we start, we started thinking about banking, like a decade ahead, it would have been completely different, what our conclusions would have been, and what we wanted to do. So if we think about, I don't know, like tech organizations, you can't plan for three years ahead, you need to plan like a year ahead. That's a lot. And also, the second part of the question is the complexity of the strategic plan really depends on your organization. So if you have like a tech company, they say to be sure banking is very long term. And it depends on the project, it depends on the needs of the customer. I can tell you that in 15 years of strategic planning, I had maybe the project with bank appalling was but the longest and the most complex. I had assignments, even called not even a strategic plan, thorough strategic plan that we needed to do like a specific question about like an insurance company that wanted to come to get a better service for its customers. We invested like two months in that that's it was a very capable client. He understood what he needed to do. And he did a very good job very fast. And I have to say, I haven't ever saw a strategic project that could have ended in a day or two. That's maybe fit like smaller organizations. But then I think, maybe strategic consultancy as we do, it is also not the best fit for the question. Because then you sit in a room you say, Okay, what we're going to do for the next year, what goes, it should be smaller and simpler than what I have in my head, I think.

Tagil Green (9:48) Yeah. So I guess I'm summing everything up. It's like, how long-range are you talking about? What kind of field is your company working for and how fast does it change? And how many products or customers or lines of businesses or distribution channels.

Tagil Green (10:06) do you have? That's also a good question, then what's the main basic goal that you need to address? Because if it's like a big question, where are we going to be? How do we prosper? How do we achieve growth? That's like a big question. But if it says more specific questions like, how are you going to approve our service for our customers, then you have like a smaller project that you need to answer, usually, smaller time, shorter time.

Anthony Taylor (10:32) Yeah, absolutely. No, that makes a lot of sense. And I think it's, you know, obviously, the one day to day isn't all of the work because it's the meeting the agreement, but then you have all the data analysis, the synthesis, the market research and understanding. But I think that this is so appropriate. And what I was thinking about, as we think of the bank, specifically is the layers. So if we take an onion is that you have the surface layer, but to get to the core of you know, what you're trying to drive, you need to work through all of those layers successfully. So if we take the bank and apply the workers bank, you know, for the workers, that oldest bank in Israel over 100 years old, you know, I can only imagine that the mission of the bank is central to everything. So you have to make sure that the product lines, current and future are meeting the needs of your people and your constituents, you know, without giving away any of your plan, or any of the secret sauce, what was your approach to make sure that your stakeholders were represented that you had the voice of the customer throughout that process. And again, just to highlight that I assert your mission-driven, but just to give you an opportunity to kind of talk yourself up for a little bit.

Tagil Green (11:40) Okay, so first, I do want to say that it's actually yesterday that we have publicly announced our strategic plan, also to stakeholders to our Investor Relations, and to the public. So if we have done this podcast two days ago, I would have to be completely zipped up. But now I can talk about not every ingredient, but basically the plan and what it involves. So this is actually very good timing for this. How do we look, I have to say, again, it's like, everything depends, you know, but I think the banking sector in Israel has a problem of service, or it gives not good service as it should, while other sector doesn't buy other sectors have progressed a lot in service. Also, health care, insurance, telecom, very good service banking is kind of lacking behind. So if we think about our customers, I think the first thing we had to think about was service. It was so out there so obvious, that we didn't need like very complex customer surveys to understand where the problems are. Sometimes that the answer is simple. And all you need to do is say, Okay, I understand the answer is simple of what I need. The question now is how, oh, how do I improve the service? So I think that was like the easy part, the more important and more complex question was, who have the customers, and we want to give better service to, and how, because if you think about it's like a complex metrics, like we call it, we call it to the cube, it's a cube of three dimensions. The customers make different types of segments, the product and the distribution channel. And then if you try, like, think of like a Rubik's Cube, if you try to, like sort out the cube, like my colors in, okay, who's the segment I want to invest in? Right? You started doing that? Who's the segment I want to invest in? And by investing in them? What does that mean in distribution channel and for which products? So let's take a specific example. Easiest would be affluent customers, which are our better customers, they have more money, they have more products, they have more potential for income. And then you say, Okay, what are we what do we do with them? What do they want? Do they want to go to the branch? Or maybe they want to talk to me on the phone? Or maybe digital is all they need? And then you start saying, okay, but for which products, investment products globally, not just in Israel, or basically you can do everything online, but still most people want to talk to someone. money transfers, nobody wants to talk to anyone, right? It's just doing digitally leave me alone. So then you start putting up the pieces on which customer is more important and but But which way you're gonna improve their service And then comes the hard part, which is making decisions and what you do first, because you can do everything. One of I can tell you one of McKinsey's gaps that they have identified with digital sales in Israel in general, not just volume. Still, we are not as good as the leading benchmark globally, in selling products, banking products online. But if we start developing each product online, it will take the banks Technology Division four to five years, but that's irrelevant. So we need to choose choosing is hard. But we did. So I think service as the major topic that we need, we understood, we need to do better, choosing which customers and which product and which distribution channel, do we want to give better service? And then starting prioritizing to be practical on where do we start this very long journey of giving the better service for our customers?

Anthony Taylor (16:07) I love that I think it's sort of like a simplified, you know, saying, Hey, what is the problem that we're trying to solve or the endpoint that we're trying to look at. And then like, an strategic planning strategy is about choices. You can't do everything for everybody. And I love the analogy of the cube. Because if you move one thing, it impacts all of the processes and systems. So that's why we say, strategy top down, bottom up, because the work isn't creating the strategy. That's easy, easy air quotes. It's the aligning the operation system, and then the psychological change of everybody that's been in the bank. And you might have people that have been there 40 years who've been doing things a certain way. And now you have to say, No, we're doing it this way. Now, that's the hard work. That's not as easy as writing a report because it's the hearts and minds of the people. And it creates a lot of work. So I think we got good timing on your strategic plan. I'll have to review it. But I'm curious to see how you are thinking about that our approach.

Tagil Green (17:04) Our strategic plan just got published. It was published on our Stock Exchange website yesterday morning. And I do want to say another thing about that. Actually, two things. First thing is Israel's regulation on banking is quite unique in its very specific involvement and very instant response that the regulator expects. So even when if we plan very good and how our tribes, we work agile for the bank's ecology, how our tribes are working, and how are we going to plan or what they're going to develop person with next, most of the times, we get very annoying interferences, because we need to re plan all of our work plan to fit into this regulators requests. And the second thing you talked about was organizational culture, which is something that we deal with a lot. We have a mix of people who have been in the bank for a little time like myself, like a year, combined with people that have been there for 30 years. It's a traditional sector in its basic core. And then we need to think about how to align everyone on the same objectives and get them on board. And with us, when we try and do all the changes that we're talking about. That's quite a challenge. I think we did a good job for that this year. And I myself have been, I've met in person, over 1500 employees of the bank for presentations, talking about our strategic plan. Yeah, I know, it's crazy. Talking about the strategic plan, it started off by whoever invited me. I said, okay, sure, I'll come and talk about our strategic plan. But when it started kicking off, I said, Okay, let's do something very organized. We had like an agenda. And I met every division in the bank, starting from 10 people to 300 to 400, whoever invited me, I told them, no, let's gonna do it very orderly. And I met everyone and talked about a strategic plan. So we all be in line, and on the same page on what the bank needs to achieve, that's very, very important for organizational culture, and for getting everyone on board.

Anthony Taylor (19:23) I love that. And at least the internet tells me you've got around 5000 employees. So you know, CEOs out there, if you're complaining about doing a town hall, once a quarter, imagine the amount of work it takes to get to get in and buy in 1500 people, but one of the things that is sticking with me is saying if you're committed to service, if you're committed to driving that value for the customer in those various segments of the customer, you really have to make sure that everybody's bought in because the service starts at the front line. It's so critical and that you know, just the amount of work that it takes to move an organization of that size towards a new direction. It is really impressive. You know, as we begin to wind down here, I have a question culturally, because I'm not I'm not familiar with it. So you mentioned in Israel, you know, people are very color blonde. And I can imagine in a historical context, you know, one of the oldest civilizations are communities, you know, that have a lot of historical practices baked into it. Are there it for people that are doing business in Israel with Israeli companies? Is there something that they should consider in terms of the culture so in Brazil, people are very agreeable, but might not necessarily follow up with it. And in Minnesota, people are also nice, Minnesota Nice. In French, you might get overly rude. I'm French, I can say that. But you know, I love all my French people. How just the, it's complex, bureaucratic, etc. What is the business culture expectation in Israel for people to be successful when they're dealing with either Israeli companies or individuals from Israel? is broad strokes. By the way, I'm not trying to throw you under the bus just genuinely curious.

Tagil Green (21:08) No, no, go. It's completely okay. Look, it's funny that you asked that, because usually what we try to do is the other way around, because we try and be wind down ourselves a bit to be more polite. When you talk to people. That sounds bad, but I'll explain. I'll give you an example. I was sitting in an HQ of a global company in Switzerland, with I think, 20 people from all over the world. And the lecturer was speaking with very heavy French accent, very low volume, no one could hear a word he said. And everyone was sitting quietly and politely and didn't say anything, and 10 or 15 minutes into the lecture, the only one that says, Okay, I have to sort of stop you. I'm sorry, I can't hear a word you say, please speak up and slowly because we can't understand. And everyone in the room started laughing and said, of course, the Israeli person would do that. So why am I saying that as an example, because because I think if you do business in Israel, basically, you understand that you need to basically get your answer straight in the face, decisions are made quite fast, and quite on the go. And in the process, there isn't a long planning time, we don't take things to the back and think about it for a week and call you back. You get it like, on the go. And for most people that from all over the world, that's quite a change. And for us, that's common, I had, during my time working for direct insurance we did we started Innovation Hub, it's called gdh tob with a Japanese partner with soy Samito insurance. That's a very big insurance company in Japan. And Japanese have a very specific culture. and Israeli is a very specific culture. And the mix wasn't simple. But after a year of talking over zoom, because they had COVID. And they came to Israel to live here and do the open innovation projects here. Like, balance, why, because they learned, we learned to be more patient, stop, talk slower, and wait for our answers to arrive. And they learned that we will give them the answer straight to the face. We talk fast. And we always say what we think if it's if it's a bit blunt. So I think in most cases, it's a good thing. It's very straightforward. Yeah. But sometimes we need to take it down a bit.

Anthony Taylor (23:53) Thank you for that very well, lunch and direct assessment. What would I do any less, you know, but I think it's important. So of course, all leaders need to be aware of the cultures implicit or explicit that they work in as a consultant. You know, we work across Canada in the US, and I won't say that the culture varies drastically. But I will say, you know, East Coast versus West Coast, there are different proclivities, and I would take someone's direct blunt and speed over passive or passive-aggressive any day. So I'd be right up there asking for them to be louder. So don't worry, you know, that I'm a Canadian, I'm nice and diplomatic. But I think it's, again, matching your systems processes and structure with your client needs. And everything we've talked about is not only from a need of doing business, but also cultural perspective is the bank evolved its processes and systems for both its customers, as in the people who do banking and their employees, who are the people who drive the banking, you need to be aware that everything matches and I think that you've got Good task on your hands to drive the plan forward. So I'm excited to see how it moves forward. And if you're interested, I'd love to have you back on the show in two years. And you can tell us what's been happening. So that's it. Where can people learn more about you? Where can they will drop the link to the strategic plan in the documents? Where can they learn more about you learn more about the bank? And if they want to do business in Israel, I guess they can.

Tagil Green (25:28) So first of all, I'm on LinkedIn. And I would be more than appreciate any question or concerns please do about the bank. We have an English investor relations presentation that came up just yesterday, as I said, talking about our strategic plan, I have to say it's very exciting after a year of working on it to get that baby out. So I strongly advise whoever is interested to look into that. It's not in much detail, obviously. But it's interesting. And I think what's also interesting that most banks on the globe are trying to address almost the same issues. And also, I think, multi layered complex organizations as well. And as I say, God is in the details. So it's always into the sector into the specific initiatives, that makes the difference.

Anthony Taylor (26:26) Awesome. I appreciate you. Just sharing, you know, behind the scenes of what it takes to, you know, move an institution like a bank forward, especially one that has the history of yours. And in a complex, you know, digital transformation, service oriented world, air quotes, post COVID The amount of work that it takes, and not only that to successfully drive organizational change with, you know, four and a half 5000 people is not insignificant. So just thank you for being here. I don't know if I said that, I'm sure. Very good. Excellent. Well, I really appreciate you being here. Thanks for sharing to Gil and I wish you nothing but the best because it sounds like you've got to work a lot of work on your hands. But thank you for being here. I just so appreciate your time and energy sharing with us.

Tagil Green (27:15) Thank you very much.

Anthony Taylor (27:17) Folks, my guest today has been tequila Green, who is the Chief Strategy Officer at Bank Hapoalim in Israel. You know, one of the things that I'm taking away from this conversation is that right sizing your strategic plan creation and implementation so that you have the right timelines, you know, understanding the Rubik's cube of interdependencies and prioritization, you can't do everything with your strategic plan. And also relevance, timely relevance, cultural relevance, and everything that you work on is critical as you think about leading your team forward, whether it's an domestic or international kind of structure for your plan implementation. So I hope you learned a lot, I invite you to check out that plan because you can never learn less, you can only learn more, and to learn from the best. And then the other thing that's actually cool is, you know, as small and medium sized businesses, large businesses, you don't always have a benchmark. So when an industry like banking, you know, you have other banks, institutions of similar size, you know, take advantage of the data that's out there so that you can know what to measure against, but also recognize you are your own entity. And so you have to make your own benchmarks for what good looks like for you. So I appreciate you being here. Appreciate your watching. This has been the strategy and leadership podcast. My name is Anthony Taylor fit SME strategy for more on strategic planning, and I'll see you next time.

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