Financial services (FS) professionals from 30+ organisations tuned in to our inaugural webinar last week “What if business operations could be more like Lego?” to hear the challenges that COO and Heads of Change face in changing their business operating models and how we might break through the barriers. A summary of key takeaways from the discussion are presented below. See the webinar recording here


The importance of ‘Know Your Operating Model’

FS firms are under renewed pressure to rethink their operating models; competitive pressure, raised consumer expectations, and continuous regulatory requirements mean constant operating model re-think and change. Yet most firms are stuck with theoretical target operating models that lack a plan, a way to measure performance and progress, or a business case. As a result, only 25% of investors are confident strategic digital transformation will be effective.**

Innovation is hindered as firms struggle to overcome significant technical debt to implement new technology (e.g. automation, AI, cloud etc.) while effectively using budget tied up in high operating costs. Indeed, 80% of technology spend in organisations is focused on legacy systems and processes, while only 20% of analytics insights deliver business outcomes and 80% of AI projects “remain alchemy, run by wizards”***

Insufficient business understanding means lost opportunities, wasteful spends & risk – if you don’t understand your business well enough, you will be exposing yourself to risks and lost opportunities.


The barriers to business understanding

Firms current approaches to business operations and change are not fit for purpose.

Insight Gap in the Boardroom: Experts with specialist toolkits are needed to structure and interpret most business information. Management’s understanding of the business is often directly related to the ability of their analytical teams to explain it to them. Most firms are still stuck with an overload of information without insights, without the right questions being asked.

Cultural Challenge: Many execs still think in terms of headcount and empire building rather than outcomes, capabilities, and clients.

Misaligned metrics: Metrics are too focused on P&L, costs and bonuses! Less on holistic organisation metrics, proof points and stories.

Complexity makes it difficult to act… Most enterprises suffer from excessively complicated operating models where the complexity of systems, policies, processes, controls, data and their accompanying activities make it difficult to act.

…and difficult to explain: Substantiating decisions to stakeholders, regulators or investors is an ongoing struggle, for both new and historic decisions.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it: Inconsistent change initiatives without performance metrics compound errors of the past and mean opportunities for efficiency gains go unseen.
How can we break through these barriers?

Business insight comes from context, data and measurement: How the building blocks of the business fit together and interact is essential to the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of change, and measurement is key to drive transparency and improved behaviours.

Operating model dashboards are essential: Effective executives either have extremely strong dashboards underpinning their decisions or have long standing experience at the firm across multiple functions and get to “know” their operating mode innately. This is a key gap in most firms. 50% of attendees chose improved metrics & accessibility of operating model perspectives as priority areas to invest in.

Less is more: Senior managers should not be looking at more than 200 data points to run and change their business. Focusing on the core and essential metrics is necessary to cut through the noise.

The operating model data exists, it should now be harvested: The data you need probably already exists in PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets and workflow tools. Firms have struggled to harvest this data historically and automate the gathering process. We demonstrated how operating model data can be collected and used to create insights for improved decision-making using the modellr platform.

Culture change is central: Culture was voted by attendees as the #1 area to invest in, in order to improve business decision-making. Organisational culture is a key barrier to operating model change. A culture that incentivises crossing business silos and transparency will create benefits across the enterprise.

Client-driven: Clients are driving firms to more real-time processing along with the capability to understand much more information. Approaches that combine human intelligence with machine intelligence are already feasible and moving into the mainstream.

Get comfortable with making decisions with near perfect information: Increasingly executives and firms need to get comfortable with “near perfect” information to make decisions, act and deliver rapid business benefits.


Future Topics of Interest

Regulatory Reassurance: Regulators continue to expect comprehensive, responsible and tangible governance and control from Senior Managers. How can firms keep up with their regulatory obligations in a clear and simple way?

Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG): An increasingly-popular subject, ESG considers  the impact of businesses on the environment and society. ESG metrics are becoming more important for investors & regulators and firms are looking for consistent ways to measure performance and progress in ESG metrics.

Operating Model-as-a-Service: As well as managing business operations themselves, firms need to monitor the models that describe those operations; their current state, their target state and the roadmap between the two. Currently, this is often done with expensive PowerPoint presentations that are usually left in cupboards and ignored because they are not “live” documents. Metrics around the operating model can be captured and tracked in a dashboard.

Anti-Financial Crime (AFC): Money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud, sanctions, bribery & corruption; the list of ways to commit financial crime through FS firms grows by the day. How can firms track their AFC risk levels and control effectiveness to see where they need to strengthen?

Information Security: With the huge volume of data that firms now collect, process & store, there are more and more risks to keep that data secure and private. Regulations like GDPR can impose very large fines on firms that break those regulations. Industry standards, such ISO 27001, help improve standards around information security.

*,**  Oliver Wyman, 2020, The State Of The Financial Services Industry

*** Gartner, 2019, Our Top Data and Analytics Predicts for 2019