Agility is a critical characteristic for asset management operations teams and is defined by their ability to adapt and flex their operating model to absorb change resulting from the following:
- Mandates to reduce cost
- Heightened scrutiny on data and its availability
- Ability to support new products and markets
- An ever-changing regulatory environment
- Increased transaction and account volumes
As change occurs, it is critical to ensure minimal disruption to clients and front office teams. However, many operations team struggle with the ability to successfully introduce change while juggling day to day responsibilities. Further, simply waiting for change to occur and reacting will put your organization behind the eight ball. Given the constant waves of change our industry is experiencing it’s not about “if” change will come, but “when”.
The idea of an agility test is to get ahead of the change and ensure your operations team is fit and prepared to adapt to the various obstacles and challenges that may be thrown their way as a result of an evolving business model.
So where to start? The key to assessing the agility of your team is to first evaluate and acknowledge your areas of strength and risk. Ultimately you want to ensure that areas of strength can continue to scale to support the growth and evolution of your business model. In addition, you’ll want to develop a mitigation strategy for any processes which introduce risk to ensure these areas do not impede your strategic goals.
The following provides key questions that every COO should be able to answer:
Do we have a clear and comprehensive data strategy and governance structure? Given the focus on Data, the chief priority of every operations team should be enhancing the data delivery lifecycle to consumers and end clients. This involves ensuring data is thoroughly scrubbed, enriched as needed, sourced from an authoritative dedicated source, and delivered in a timely manner and in desired format to end consumers.
Where are my areas of risk and how are they being monitored/controlled? It is critical for a COO to have an enterprise operational view into areas (functions) of risk by business line. It is equally important that these functions / processes are fully documented, routinely reviewed to both highlight the scale of the functions, and confirm how these risks are being monitored and controlled.
Can the existing technology solutions continue to scale to support our business strategy and growth? This question goes beyond functional capabilities and should address performance for increased volume, timing to deliver enhancements, and accessibility of required technology skillsets.
How scalable are my operational teams? One of the key components of agility is to ensure your model can scale to support increased volume and complexity of new product offerings, market penetration, or unanticipated business growth. Firms need to reassess hiring models and balance the need for continued business knowledge with the growing need for data science to respond to the industry shift from data processing to data analysis. Additionally, the ability to scale teams can be measured by the following:
- Level of process standardization and automation
- Enablement of cross-functional workflows
- Existence of documented best practices and policy / procedure guides
- Routine rotation of staff for cross-training and elimination of key man risk
Do we have robust operational metrics to monitor and measure efficiency? Much like a front office team is measured on the performance of their portfolio, the performance of an operations team should be measured based on their ability to deliver and support the needs of their clients and front office. Ongoing tracking of key performance indicators and root cause exception analysis is critical (e.g., STP, client delivery, aged exceptions, manual postings, etc).
How does your organization measure on the agility scale? Olmstead’s Operational Agility Review offers a disciplined approach to quickly evaluate your current operating environment and develop a strategic roadmap to guide your firm to an optimized state of agility.
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