Research Report

In brief

In brief

  • Accenture research shows ‘fear, anxiety and threat’ is the greatest inhibitor of change in Financial Services.
  • Fear can inhibit desired behavioral changes, stifle creativity and reduce motivation and performance.
  • Organizations can dispel fear and build trust by establishing the right leadership, a supportive and safe environment and a living business culture.


Financial services (FS) organizations recognize they must master change as a core capability to thrive in a volatile world. Yet progress in change initiatives is often undermined by relatively high levels of fear and anxiety about change in the workforce.

The result is that many organizations are not achieving the change outcomes they were hoping for. According to Accenture’s FS Change Survey, 76 percent of FS leaders said their staff’s inability to adapt to change was one of the biggest barriers to their ability to drive through change; 74 percent said fear of change as a result of a poor track record was among their greatest obstacles.

Anxiety, threat and fear are derailing change in FS organizations

Accenture’s Change Survey Research shows that fear of change and inability of staff to adapt are among the biggest barriers to change in Financial Services organizations.

Fear and anxiety are natural responses to change, but they can inhibit desired behavioral changes, stifle creativity and reduce motivation and performance. The impact can be severe: our research indicates that an organization’s ability to realize the benefits of change declines significantly as levels of fear and anxiety rise.

Building trust and beating fear

The good news is that FS organizations can vanquish fear in the workplace and rebuild trust on the cornerstones of leadership, vision and direction. Our analysis indicates that leadership at all levels—from the C-suite down to team leaders—has at least twice the impact on business performance as any other factor. In the Accenture Transformation GPS study, the “vision and direction” of business leaders consistently has three to four times greater impact than any other factor on the organization’s success at realizing the benefits of change.

To reduce the negative impact fear and anxiety have on their organizations and change capabilities, leaders at FS organizations must create a trusted environment where employees feel safe and where change is supported.

To create an environment where employees feel safe, relish change and embrace behaviors that drive enterprise agility, FS organizations must provide the right leadership, offer a compelling vision for the future, rethink their business structures, and create a new ‘living business’ culture. Most of all, they must build and sustain trust. Those that do will lead in a world where the ability to change is an FS organization’s most important differentiator.

We have helped many banks and insurers to drive successful change outcomes, increase business performance and lower execution risk. To find out more, register to view the report.

About the Authors

Andy Young

Global Lead for Agile Organization – Talent & Organization


Edwin Van der Ouderaa​

Senior Managing Director – Financial Services Digital


Monica Juneja

Managing Director – Talent & Organization for Financial Services


Cathy Coleman

Behavior Change Lead – Talent & Organization for Financial Services


Julia Voigt

Inclusion and Diversity Lead – Talent & Organization for Financial Services

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