The Operations function in a financial organization is crucial to the
success of the business. It drives both profitability and reputation as
well as contributing to business development and support. It is also a
complex part of a business and one that is treated differently in
different types of organization. Often considered a service or support
function, it can equally be designated as a profit centre or revenue
generator. The Operations function itself is made up of many processes
that are either standalone or part of a multi-process function, but all
the processes are linked to other processes elsewhere in the
organization and/or outside of it.
The complexity of Operations and the diverseness of the teams and the
people they interact with creates a need for a high degree of
relationship and resource management. A bank, for instance, that has
both retail and investment banking will have hundreds of different
relationship situations but so too will a small private client broker.
Some situations may be common to all types of organization, others
similar for certain types of organization and a few will be very specific
to an organization. These relationships may be very open or highly
discreet and confidential.
Whatever the type of relationship it is fairly obvious that any problems
are likely to have an impact on the business and so too will successful
Take, for instance, the client of a bank. What matters to them? What is
the basis for a successful relationship? Retail banks in the UK ran into a
high degree of client resentment at the closure of local branches. The
policy may have made financial sense to the banks but it angered the
clients and certainly in one case, NatWest, the policy was reversed.
Likewise if a large organization runs into a period of lower profits and
returns to shareholders it often takes steps to ‘rationalize’ its cost base.
This, in virtually every case, means reducing head-count and/or
reducing expenditure on systems and/or development. The action may
achieve the desired result of reducing the cost base but at what cost to
the business? If the reductions result in delays in delivery and the
quality and response time to customers then almost certainly the
impact will be to increase losses as frustrated customers take their
business elsewhere. Too often the importance of adequate resource
levels and the recognition of how vital relationship management can be
is lost in the ‘facts and figures’ produced by the accountants and
Another example of the problem with relationship management, and
in particular the client or customer relationship, is the use of help desks
and call centres. The logic is fine; receive the inquiry in a central place
and route it to the person that can deal with it. The reality is that many
people do not want to listen to recordings telling them to press buttons
and so there is an immediate resentment where perhaps the caller had
none before.
It is tempting to assume that relationship management is about clients
and resource management about head-count. That is not the case.
In the early days of the Industrial Revolution when engineering and
production processes became the heart of industry, the key to success
was the linking together of processes to form a continuous process. The
production or assembly line concept was created and worked only if
each part of the line completed its task efficiently so that the next part
of the line could start its task. This required a high degree of
coordination and conformity. Each person doing a task had to be able

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