Managing the Unexpected

By James Nethercott, RFS

For most organisations spikes in demand are inevitable, financial services is no exception.

Irrespective of the cause, spikes often come about unexpectedly; and can escalate beyond what was first foreseen. Business operations need to be prepared.

When confronted with the challenge to increase capacity they need to respond quickly and stay on their toes.

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A feature of the landscape

In recent years the financial services sector has been particularly affected by having to manage operational surges. One of the chief drivers of increased volume into customer operations departments is the influence and action of the FCA. This seems set to remain a feature of doing business in today’s regulatory landscape.

Thematic reviews put the onus on firms to tackle the issues raised. In more serious cases, under enforcement, deadlines can exert further pressure. In both cases the review and remediation of customer cases is a likely requirement for firms to undertake. Even where the affected populations are relatively small, capacity and capability can be stretched.

Managing a dynamic and emerging situation

Managing regulatory pressure is challenging. It is often not known from the outset exactly what is involved in the management of cases. The firm may be testing and refining new processes and additional affected populations may be identified mid-cycle. In addition, firms may already have concurrent projects competing for resource, leaving little to tackle new issues.

Such a dynamic and emerging situation is not easily forecast and planned for. Timings often slip and achieving the right customer outcomes can become compromised.

Media attention can also create pressure on firms, even where there has not been a direct failing. This may even be where another firm’s failing has become newsworthy, driving enquiries from customers who are checking that they are not affected by the same circumstances as those reported. This can also be a catalyst for increased CMC and FOS related complaints activity.

It is not just the volume of cases that create pressure of firms; variety and velocity create a compound of issues to deal with. This demands a flexible workforce that can be deployed, and scaled up and down, as timings demand. Also, a variety of skillsets are needed to fulfil different projects, workflows and role-types.

Performing under demanding targets

Finding, selecting and onboarding the right people in a competitive market is a specialist task, particularly when timescales are tight. Access is needed to a specific set of candidates, those with the right skills and experience who are used to working on an interim basis. The ability to learn and adapt quickly, and to perform under demanding quality and productivity targets, is critical to success.

Once the right people have been identified and screened it is important to deploy them most effectively. The right processes are needed to ensure spikes are managed most efficiently and that there is learning.

Learning is an important cycle that ensures continuous improvement and prevents the same mistakes being repeated. It demands the right methods to understand why things happen, devise effective solutions and then to embed this in business-as-usual.

Integrated and ready to respond

While spikes cannot always be foreseen they are a fact of business life and therefore organisations need to have contingencies in place. This may take the form of third-party supplier who is integrated and ready to respond. In addition, firms can take a proactive stance, looking for problems and fixing them before they emerge. Outcome testing and root cause analysis are both welcomed by the regulator and can help to smooth surges in operations.

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