Investment Banks are increasingly focused on driving a more cohesive client experience while enabling banker efficiency. Delivering on this aspiration requires all areas of a bank to engage on what client-centricity really means for them, forming the core vision of a front office digital transformation programme. As the focus on spend vs. return intensifies, getting buy-in from key stakeholders to move from the planning of a programme to execution is key, but also fraught with challenges:

  • Is the proposed scope going to deliver the right outcomes, which provide return on investment as quickly as possible, with clear outcomes and benefits ownership?
  • How do we underpin the case for change with evidence and data for the “as is” and “to be”?
  • Are we confident that all costs, including unforeseen costs of delivery and post-go-live, are included – avoiding having to include multiple funding requests?

Linking scope to outcomes

Digital transformation programmes can address a huge variety of use cases, and ensuring the right use cases form the prioritised scope of the digital transformation is critical to driving benefits from day 1.  Key to this is using a set of tools and approaches which prioritises the front office, not the solution. These include:

  • Working with key individuals to understand pain points and ways of working through interviews and role shadowing is an effective way to define critical requirements, agnostic of solution.
  • “Art of possible” prototype sessions to stimulate ideas helps to ensure more innovative, differentiating requirements are captured and provides a roadmap for future phases.
  • Capability maps, which define functionality components are effective in validating “must-have” requirements that, if excluded, could cause new front office systems to fail – these include regulatory and visibility requirements.
  • Applying a “top-down” lens – aligning strategy, core objectives and KPIs of the bank with the programme scope, providing clarity on what new capabilities should be used by whom and why shaping the programme vision.

Finally, understanding the root causes of the pain points is essential to ensure that there are no underlying issues that need to be considered as part of the programme scope. Is there misalignment on ways of working globally? What is the state of data quality and hierarchy structure? Technology tends to be seen as the “unicorn” that will solve data governance and broken processes; if left unaddressed transformation programmes will result in poor user adoption and ultimately, return on investment.

Evidencing the case for change

Documenting the underlying cost of supporting infrastructure, along with potential revenue uplift is a well-established process, driven by templates to be populated for various committees to obtain budget. We are however increasingly seeing banks pilot digital tools and methods to quantify a business case using empirical data:

  • Processing mining and visualisation: Using embedded analytics tools to capture front and back-end system data to provide an end-to-end view of processes across the bank and AI to visualize these actions into process flows; to help shape the case for enhanced productivity.
  • Video logs and tagging: Asking bankers (typically more junior grades) to log or capture via video, tasks which are repetitive, labour-intensive providing limited value over a defined period of time. This can be particularly effective to find “hidden tasks” that have slipped into ways of working and are hard to identify.
  • Productivity survey: A survey using quantitative and qualitative scoring across all grades, understanding how bankers are spending their time, aligned with perceived client value-add. This provides a useful baseline of current tools and is a helpful and quick way to validate assumptions on working practices. While surveys are helpful, they should be used only in conjunction with other tools mentioned, to provide another lens on activity.

Using a combination of these approaches will both provide insight on where hidden productivity drivers maybe that should be counted, and challenge to the programme team, to align productivity challenges to scope to build confidence that the outcomes deliver benefits that can be tracked throughout the programme

Unforeseen cost of delivery and business as usual (BAU)

Baking in the true cost of delivery is essential to ensure that the promises given to the business can be delivered on. Several areas tend to be overlooked, but are key programme requirements:

  • Accounting for the undocumented: Moving from a bespoke, legacy platform to off-the-shelf product requires detailed analysis to ensure that core process and regulatory functionality can be at worst replicated, at best enhanced. Given most legacy systems are missing design documentation, building in technical analysis early to understand and document functionality enables a more realistic view of time and effort to replace, along with downstream impact.
  • Data as a currency: Accounting for effort to address data quality and structure (e.g. legal vs sell-to hierarchies) as part of the case, or as a dependency to other programmes, avoids “side of desk” work for the most critical element of the programme. Ensuring that third party data feeds – which are increasingly essential to drive analytics and AI are budgeted for, avoids last-minute funding surprises.
  • Sustaining the change: Many digital programmes include a move to “off-the-shelf” products, as part of their transformation scope to build agility while focusing limited budgets on areas of innovation. Thinking through where the technical skills to service these platforms post-implementation will sit and how they will be financed is critical to sustain user adoption.

Building a business case for digital front office transformation requires a combination of working with key stakeholders to qualify the outcomes prioritised by value, leveraging experience to identify where value lies through capability maps, prototypes, and data and leveraging process automation tools.

Focusing on the bankers and associated outcomes, not the solutions, enables a stronger case which addresses challenges in the front office that are impacting productivity and user experience.

Using a data-first approach to underpin the business case and track benefits early and consistently allows the programme to both demonstrate progress vs baseline of key metrics, and also enables the programme to course-correct scope or actions where the metrics do not show progress where expected.