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Three Cornerstone Themes for Growth in 2012

As the last quarter of 2011 dawns, the 2012 business plan of a financial services firm—including mortgage lenders and servicers—should involve initiatives that address the finer points of three important themes.

1. Address the Emerging Middle Market. While participation in emerging markets has probably been a part of your firm’s strategy in the past, next year it will be necessary to intensify your attention on these markets. Marketplace transition will continue throughout 2012 as the middle markets in these economies grow. Success in 2012 will require you to determine how to shift from exclusively serving western companies and elite customers towards building a presence with customers who are part of the much larger and more challenging emerging country middle markets.

2. Become a Solutions Provider. Next year, plans should be in place to help your company evolve from “selling a product” to become a “solutions provider.” Competition from low-cost countries like China will challenge product-centric businesses by offering very attractively priced almost-as-good products. In order to respond to this challenge, stop commoditization, and prevent its adverse implications on prices and margins, your 2012 plan must include how to move towards offering an integrated package of products and services that addresses the key challenges faced by your customers.

3. Create Headroom for Growth. Responding to the strong balance sheet that your firm has developed since the 2008-09 recession, you will hear about interesting opportunities for acquisitions and investments. Consider investments that will create headroom for growth and that can be justified by both top- and bottom-line arguments. Technologies like cloud computing and social networking can open up new avenues and sources for revenue. In addition to looking for growth through acquisition, consider expansion into adjacent product and market spaces.

All these initiatives reflect the opportunities available in today’s business environment, those which contribute to future growth and sustained margins. Successfully planning and executing these strategies will reward your audience’s firm with growth—but the challenge lies in making requisite changes to your business model in order to carry out these strategies.

To ensure that the good ideas underlying your 2012 plans don’t fail because of implementation issues and resistance to change, it will be important to include the appropriate funding for the implementation team in these 2012 plans.

George F. Brown Jr. is one of the founders and CEO of Blue Canyon Partners Inc., and the coauthor of “CoDestiny: Overcome Your Growth Challenges by Helping Your Customers Overcome Theirs.”