Developing Hybrid Operations Capabilities

(By Ravichandran Natarajan) 

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, financial services companies were aggressively looking for talent with experience in Business Process Management (BPM) / Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The need for skilled people was incredibly robust and there were more available roles than potential candidates. Some reports even characterized hiring processes as “trespassers would be recruited.”

Fast forward 20 years, and there have been significant changes when it comes to hiring practices. Now, the BPM / BPO segments primarily focus on finding experienced workers with deep sector expertise. Underwriting, Fraud, Know Your Customer-Anti-Money Laundering are some of the talent segments aggressively pursued across the industry. To sustain business and domain depth in their organizations, companies have created their own programs to strengthen their teams. At Wells Fargo, we worked with the Mortgage Bankers Association to run programs for our teams including the coveted Accredited Mortgage Professional (AMP) program. In Wells Fargo India & Philippines we now have more than 50 AMPs, which is quite an impressive number in one company.

Wells Fargo also created an employee development program called Consultative Partnering. The essence of this sustained program is to get classical ‘Operations Managers’ to think like ‘Consultants.’  We adopted this approach because consultants personify the mindset we want to develop. Consultants are:

  • Focused on developing and implementing new solutions
  • Confident in communicating about recommendations and solutions
  • Committed to moving from solving current problems to identifying additional opportunities
  • Well-versed in the best available solutions, whether that is re-engineering, new technology, or leveraging relevant data

An Operations Manager has the perfect ringside view of what is happening in the business process. They are encouraged to keep abreast with technology trends and recognize the value in developing a data-driven operations team. Most of them are now thinking of how to adequately maximize efficiency, measure performance and make informed decisions that drive growth using tools like Robotic Process Automation, AI and Analytics. With this new consultative approach, the Operations Manager is now focused on solving known and potentially unknown process problems. As a result of this new approach, our best Ops Managers now:

  • Understand the business and are on the lookout for problems or the next big opportunity
  • Use their aptitude to leverage the latest skills and technology know-how to craft unique solutions
  • Navigate through the organization to build strong networks across teams
  • Deliver impactful pitches about solving for relevant business pain points or process issues
  • Guide the implementation process for proposed solutions

As teams grow and add more Operations Manager roles, we have started to look for people who are well-versed or experienced in some of these skills and have a hunger to learn the rest. One could argue that this approach limits the hiring pool, but to the contrary it actually expands the potential talent pool. For example, we could look at hiring someone working as a Project Lead in an ecommerce company with experience in Customer Service to run an Auto Lending fulfillment function. This profile would not be considered a fit if you go by the parameters of ‘past experience and accumulated expertise’ for Auto Lending. However, if this candidate demonstrates most of the above and has aptitude for the rest, then why not!

More importantly, we start thinking of building the team with candidates who bring in a variety of skill-sets and allow our teams to expand their knowledge base. We still have functional experts and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who offer significant value due to their knowledge depth, and they are now complemented by this emerging wave of solutions-focused consultants.

What has this hybrid approach yielded for our Operations teams? It has helped:

  • Build a culture of continuous and significant improvement within organizations. This yields the year-on-year percentages and assumes all levers from Six Sigma to Lean and RPA.
  • Establish frameworks to measure customer impact, even for those activities deep in the back-end that might not necessarily have a direct and immediate bearing on the customer, like submitting claims to investors.
  • Improve collaboration with in-house technology teams on opportunities to enhance core business applications. Apart from helping from an efficiency viewpoint, this also has helped establish the story of Agile teams in India.
  • Build an end-to-end solution for running operations – work allocations, tracking, reporting, etc. The Reporting solution gives a single reporting framework for all things operations – operational metrics, finance, people metrics, expense, risk, etc.
  • To start work on ideas of leveraging data to improve customer experiences and, or operational efficiency. Leveraging data here refers to all things ranging from Reporting to Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning.

In the world of accumulated experience and expertise, the traditional ‘Operations Team’ would only run a standard set of operational processes. Now, by embracing this new consultative model, our Ops Teams provide value through Agile, Analytics, Reporting, Program Management, Risk Management and Controls in addition to expert execution on operational processes. As a result, the ‘Value of Delivery’ has become our new SLA!

(The author is the Head, Consumer Lending (Operations), Wells Fargo India & Philippines)

hybridOperations CapabilitiesWells Fargo
Comments (0)
Add Comment