Recently, a friend gave my family a debut CD of a local singer, and our enjoyment of the music prompted us to attend her performance. I offered to buy the CD for our children in advance of the concert—our daughter accepted but our son said he wanted to experience the music “fresh.”

We all have a different view of life experiences. My bias is to know as much as I can in advance. Maybe that is why I was fascinated by Billy Pilgrim in the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Those of you who have read this book might remember that Billy was disconnected from his life, popping up randomly at different points and out of sequence. One of the concepts presented in the novel is that life is permanent and can be viewed in its entirety; similar to looking down a path from atop the Rocky Mountains—seeing the beginning, end, and all points in between. Knowing what laid ahead gave Billy a ‘magical view,’ making him more at ease with each of his experiences as they played out.

At the 2009 BAI Retail Delivery Conference was a CEO’s roundtable called “Changing the Dialogue.” During that session, opinions were given on where the industry came from, where it is now, where it is probably going, and what leaders will need to do to change the current course. What was striking is that bank leaders know from history that sometime in the next ten years there will be another economic downturn. We can also expect new regulatory requirements that will limit the flexibility of banks to be innovative and meet varied customer needs—there will be banks that acquire and those that fade into memory.

The question is: what is the path through the Rocky Mountains of your bank look like? Can you see the twists and turns and anticipate how you will survive them? Have you gathered enough information regarding your customers’ changing needs, the ways your competitors are addressing them, the technology that will be required in meeting them, the additional resources that will be necessary, and how well each of your lines-of-business will be able to perform in your marketplace? A good place to start is with the Nolan Annual Bank Performance Study.

Knowing as much as you can and acting on that knowledge to position your bank or credit union for success seems elementary, but there may be some who just like to experience it “fresh.”