Financial Services Industry
Actionable Strategies work on both the buy and sell sides of the industry gives us a broad view to assist our clients. Our consultants have worked at large institutions, smaller trading firms, advisors and vendors including FinTech. Our experience with other asset classes includes real estate and energy.
Our work ranges from critical strategies to hands-on transformation of back office processes and implementation of technologies. In addition to major markets such as New York and London, we have experience in emerging markets in Asia and South America. Clients turn to us for unbiased advice and counsel combined with the ability to act quickly and decisively.
IT Transformation – Cloud Computing
As a global, multi-asset class broker/dealer, the European firm has dozens of offices worldwide with technology strategy driven from the U.S.. Asset classes include fixed income/rates, FX, equities and indexes, and commodities (softs, metals and energy). The Global Executive Committee sought business gains offered by transforming IT using Cloud Computing. Actionable Strategies was engaged to develop the strategy and transformation plan including the transformed operating model, financial models and risk assessment.
The CIO stated: “Actionable Strategies partnered with us to synthesize a crisp business case from a large set of global business considerations. We used their planning framework to define a strategic roadmap that encompassed an aligned business and technology model. They brought a knowledge of financial services and depth of technical experience that enabled us to work effectively together.”
Process Automation – Wealth Management
One of the 50 largest financial planning firms, the client is rated a top firm by Worth Magazine. As the firm grew, many manual processes became unwieldy and costly. Applying Lean principles, Actionable Strategies automated processes to ingest trading and charitable donation data, process it into usable tax information and feed it into the tax software platform. The client realized an ongoing reduction in processing time, costs and error rates.
Detailed Client Profile
The client is a leading independently managed wealth management firm in New York City. They have been providing comprehensive wealth management services to their clients for over 25 years. As an independent, registered investment advisor, the firm provides sophisticated planning, investment management and highly integrated tax strategies. These services are highly personalized and serve high net worth individuals and families, as well as business owners, executives and entrepreneurs looking to grow their wealth.
The client has been recognized as one of the Top Financial Advisory firms in America by Worth magazine and Medical Economics. Investment News called the firm one of the 50 Largest Financial Planning firms and Financial Advisor named them a Leading RIA firm.
As the firm continued to grow, many of the manual processes became unwieldy and costly. As part of the range of advisory services delivered to their clients, the firm provided tax planning. This included a broad set of activities including return preparation, filings and accounting for charitable donations. Many of the activities required to provide these services were manual, requiring data entry and checking by experts on staff. While costly, these manual efforts still resulted in errors in generating tax returns.
The firm sought to reduce the significant cost, time and effort required to manually process trades and other transactions for tax preparation.
Actionable Strategies provided specific expertise to design and develop an automated process to turn raw trading and financial transactions into tax information. Experience with Lean process, data analytics and application integration allowed Actionable Strategies to rapidly deliver a solution that:
- Extracts stock, bond and other trades as well as other financial activity from custodians who hold the assets on behalf of the client
- Consolidates trading and other data into tax lots by types of assets and transaction type
- Transforms consolidated trading data into tax information for loading into the tax system
- Identifies the source of any discrepancies
The automated process delivered ongoing benefits.
- Eliminated cost from personnel entering data
- Reduced the time to determine tax liabilities and prepare returns for filing
- Eliminated quality issues from data errors
- Reduced oversight requirements from senior management
- Enabled the Lean, straight-through process to operate in future years, even with data and technology changes
Process Improvement – Investment Banking
This European financial services firm operates in over 50 countries and is a primary market maker on the sell side. It provides wealth management, banking, asset management and investment banking services to institutions and individuals. Actionable Strategies was referred to the U.S. Investment Bank based on successful operational improvement projects at other top-tier banks.
Our mission was to manage a fractured set of manual regulatory processes, identify improvement opportunities and manage a program that optimized processes and delivered technology-based solutions. The project yielded sustainable benefits and resulted in referrals for business in other areas of the bank.
To meet regulatory deadlines, the bank was forced to implement numerous inefficient and manual processes. The errors in processing and bad data introduced escalating costs and slower processing times. Actionable Strategies was engaged to manage the fractured sub-processes and introduce improvements.
Stakeholders spanned the front, middle and back offices. Financial instruments include both listed and OTC products. There were two major beneficiaries of the project.
- Americas Regulatory team who rolled up into the Global Regulatory Management team
- Centralized data services group
The most significant issues arose as a result of U.S. regulations:
- Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
- FATCA (The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act)
- Volcker rule of Dodd-Frank
Actionable Strategies was engaged to manage end-to- end project lifecycle delivery across a set of process improvement initiatives. The most important activities included:
- Program management, PMO tracking and individual project oversight
- Regulatory requirements capture
- Impact assessment comprising both current state and gap analysis
- Stakeholder management and business analysis
- Business requirements capture
- Coordination of funding assessment and securing budgets
- Tracking of solution delivery encompassing:
- System design
- Process enhancements
- Execution of IT implementation and process changes
After stabilizing the processes that were rushed into place, Actionable Strategies proceeded to identified waste and inefficiency. We then managed improvement projects to deliver tangible business results. These were measured by metrics established during project definition.
Redundant client communications were disruptive from the initial implementation of regulations but did not abate. Traders, client on-boarding, prime brokerage and relationship managers were all contacting clients. In general, they were asking the same questions leading to growing frustration. Communication processes were streamlined to tamp down client dissatisfaction.
Process improvements opportunities were numerous and found throughout the organization. Duplicate processes were identified and consolidated to eliminate waste and the chance of errors.
Errors in the onboarding process often were not detected until the middle office checked the work. Bullet-proof onboarding the initial process reduced the cost of onboarding and lowered the cycle times. Process rigidity was addressed to prevent hedge funds with less regulations from being flagged and then manually cleared.
Excessive overhead needed to be aggressively removed. In some instances, after local approvals were received 10-15 offshore reviews were then applied. Bottlenecks often crippled the OTC review process.
Systems required integration and consolidation. In one example, electronic trading for credit products did not flow data downstream for confirmations and allocations. In an end user example, there were multiple PIN platforms causing friction in processes and security vulnerabilities as users posted security credentials on monitors.
Manual and fractured processes necessitated automated end-to-end processes. Applying technology facilitated visibility by enabling report generation and real-time process metrics. Actionable Strategies defined these processes and wrote business requirements encompassing process, data quality, cycle time and auditing issues.
Ongoing management of issues was a significant operating cost. An issue management system was defined to consolidate numerous spreadsheets used in manual tracking.
Automated workflows replaced e-mail as the method for routing requests. This enabled real-time tracking and visibility into process status.
Visibility outside the process was enhanced. Automated notifications to requesters kept them informed but also obviated the need to contact staff. This increased the usable capacity. Response time for exceptions was also enhanced. If a change resulted in non-compliance with Dodd Frank or FATCA, an automated notice would be generated for the appropriate management staff.
Workflow management enabled workforce optimization. For example, supervisors were able to assign work to specific individuals given the situation. This provided balancing capabilities and prevented bottlenecks.
Capacity management was enabled globally. Centralized distribution of work was now possible across regions. Similar to trading, middle and back office staff were able to pass the book cleanly without breaks. This enable processes to finish without long wait times between steps.
Process improvement and automation results led to demonstrable business results measured by metrics established when Actionable Strategies took charge of the manual processes.
The most significant benefits were perpetual and included:
- Reduced processing times
- Lower staffing costs
- Improved processing with fewer errors
- Burndown of the large backlog of requests
- Elimination of redundant processing steps
- Management visibility into process metrics
- Alleviation of pressure on front-line leaders related to operational issues
Actionable Strategies was engaged in other areas of the bank as a result of the successes delivered.
Competitive Product Strategy
Click here to view the case study about competitive product strategy. This global investment bank advises, originates, trades, manages and distributes capital for governments, institutions and individuals. The client is competing with other prominent firms for dramatically lower trading volumes. To compete effectively and win, the client needed to attain a better understanding of key client needs and wants, articulate a roadmap to meet client requirements, and execute against this roadmap. After conducting competitive and market analysis, Actionable Strategies then provided specific product strategy recommendations to re-align product development work.
Cloud Product Development – Salesforce.com
Click here to view the case study about Cloud Product Development. The client processes large volumes of data from over 15,000 institutions across many asset classes traded around the world. Actionable Strategies designed and developed Cloud data analytics integrated into Salesforce.com for a seamless user experience. Agile product development rapidly delivered successive versions of software using a cost effective hybrid onshore/offshore development team.
Transformation – Client Onboarding, Global Banking
Click here for the Transformation case study of a global bank. As one of the ten largest in the world, onboarding clients is a key process but presents significant challenges. The Change Management executive stated that he “needs what Actionable Strategies does” after an internal referral from the business. Actionable Strategies met both the stated needs of the client as well as a plethora of unplanned requirements.
Optimization – Global Technology and Operations
Click here for this transformation case study for Global Technology and Operations. This global bank engages in a range of activities including safeguarding assets, lending money, making payments and accessing the capital markets on behalf of clients. The bank sought to improve performance and rationalize costs on a worldwide basis. Global Technology and Operation believed operations and maintenance spending was crowding out new investments in both technology and other areas.
Actionable Strategies was engaged to tie together the strategic program delivering a target state operating model, transition processed, program plan, and metrics to measure progress and subsequently sustain improvements and cost savings.
The optimization initiative was an all-around success, but unheralded because it was not disruptive. Program planning and iterative executions de-risked the initiative and delivered early, quantifiable results. Initial optimization delivered $27.6 million in savings with improved service delivery. Funding was freed up for innovation and change-the-bank initiatives. Additional optimization produced recurring savings exceeding $15 million annually.
Enterprise Risk Management Program
Click here to view this case study about Enterprise Risk Management. The client is among the top ten banks and asset managers globally. It was unable to accurately report enterprise wide risk and revenue by counterparty and country. The exposure posed an unacceptable business threat visible at the Board of Directors level.
Actionable Strategies managed the program to successful completion: on schedule and within budget. The client was able to understand enterprise risk for the entire customer base.