With investment banking in need of radicalising its workforce operations, it must pay greater attention to the effectiveness of its business staff. Continuous process automation is the operating principle that suggests everything must be automated as far as is sensibly achievable. Many would argue that this is a principle which already applies today. Unfortunately, all too often a level of automation is established, and then that level remains the same or even degrades over time as transaction types or working practices change. However, a proactive day-to-day process engineering function to perform continuous process automation addresses this issue.
According to this operating principle, every exception may be treated manually once, but as part of its treatment, the rules for automating it are also established and implemented. This continuous automation as part of day-to-day work means that if the same exception (or exception type) occurs again, it will be treated with increased automation from that point onwards.
Performing this type of processing successfully in the banking world requires two things: the introduction of a Process Engineer role in banking operations (ideally a business subject matter expert) and the deployment of a highly ‘business configurable’ process workflow toolset.
The idea is that the more you continuously automate, the fewer exceptions you have left to process over time. Fewer exceptions means fewer operations staff required to perform work, with the remaining work being left to the residual and more qualified staff. These qualified staff would have the dual role of resolving exceptions and future-proofing their automation. The vision is that in this way, very high levels of straight-through-processing (STP) automation can be sustainably achieved.
Continuous process improvement and automation by fully enabled business staff should be far more effective than the traditional way of queuing IT requests (which tends to be exposed to prioritisation and backlog beyond operational control).
Process engineering not only requires the deployment of a suitable workflow toolset, but also a highly configurable ‘rules engine’ solution. Most workflow toolsets already include a rules definition function, but to make this principle work, day-to-day business staff will need to be capable of defining and implementing new processing rules by themselves (i.e. without depending on IT staff). The rules engine must provide or enable some kind of business understandable meta language and business staff must accept that it is part of their revised day-to-day function to perform rules configuration in order to maximise automation.
Crucially, they have to culturally accept that their day job includes systematically automating work so that ultimately their job may become obsolete! This requires higher thinking by those in the new Process Engineer role and advanced career management strategies by those looking after their professional welfare.
Is this achievable?
With the correct toolset and people change management; then definitely.
This blog appeared on Finextra. Click here to see the entry on the Finextra website