The adage that "you're only as good as your people" gets paid more lip service by corporate America's CEOs than federal legislators' perennial promise to ease the tax burden on Americans. And while it can be argued that neither CEOs-including bank chief executives-nor Congressmen fail to see the upside of such contentions, getting there is something else. It takes focus and, more, leadership with conviction, something corporate America and the nation's elected officials fall short on.

The good news: It's never too late to start taking stock in what you have, and what you don't. Banking is and always will be about making money. That shouldn't change, though the means by which you do so is in an ever- constant state of flux. Maximizing the profitability of your financial institution requires leaders in senior management who can see the potential of existing and emerging markets, devise strategies to capitalize on those opportunities, commit to take calculated risks and then quickly and methodically execute on strategy.

The problem: Many senior managers are mired in the tidal wave of information technology. This has resulted in senior management's inability to lead the charge, which, in turn, quashes line employees' ability to understand and nurture what Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette senior bank analyst Tom Brown refers to as "lifetime customer profitability."

Who are your financial institution's constituents? A good question that requires the focus of talented leaders. If a bank CEO is indeed only as good as his people, then the institution's performance-revenue and earnings-is directly tied to the talent pool (see cover story, p. 40).

This point seems to escape many senior financial executives; hence, the success of Tom Peters and the slew of corporate self-help gurus who have made millions spitting out sound bytes on the lecture circuit. Many senior executives in banking are overly focused on what technology and increased size as a means of achieving scale will do for their respective institution's bottom line.

When author Martin Mayer wrote The Bankers: The Next Generation, he barely got the book to press before yet another generation of bankers emerged. The rapidity with which market dynamics are changing means that before the next-next generation of bankers can adequately address profitable electronic distribution of products and services, they need to be concerned first about recruiting the right people, and, secondly, about developing skills in information-based marketing and human resource management.

If you agree with Diamond Technology Partners's assessment that "the world has been transformed by technology, and the rules we were taught about business-rules about customers, competition and products-no longer hold true and are being replaced by new laws," then hiring forward-thinking leaders to help shape those laws is by far the most profitable contribution a CEO can make to his institution. Holly Sraeel Editor-in-Chief Sraeel tfn.com

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