Accelerating Corporate Transformation in Emerging Markets: The Case of FirstBank


The aim of this article is to investigate how an established firm in a dynamic market was able to successfully execute a corporate renewal programme in a hypercompetitive business environment. The study seeks to understand how market incumbents can transform themselves and outcompete younger, seemingly more entrepreneurial players.

A longitudinal case study approach was used, following the extensive data collection in several periods between 2005 and 2013. Within this period, over 10 company visits were done to gain a firsthand knowledge of the transformation programme and to interview several senior executives and other stakeholders across the firm. In addition, relevant information from archival data and reports was collected during this period. Accelerated transformation requires taking calculated risks, redesigning the organization to align with the market, and making substantial investments in people.

The study is limited to the transformation strategies adopted by a single company, FirstBank. While some of the lessons from this study can be applied to banks and other firms in transitional markets, certain factors idiosyncratic to the firm may make the universal adoption of their approach impossible.

Many transformation initiatives tend to focus narrowly on technical, information technology (IT) issues, and leave out the so-called ‘soft issues’. From this case, transformation best works when process and structural transformation is complemented by radical changes in organization design and talent management systems.

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