DBS shares the new skills you need to succeed in Financial Operations

In today’s changing digital landscape, financial professionals need to gain the tech knowledge to give them an competitive edge.

In speaking with Welson Jamin, Head of Institutional Banking Group Operations Singapore, Technology & Operations, he shares the skills necessary to thrive in the future finance world, as well as how his bank is using digital to improve financial operations and the customer experience.

IBF: How is digital disruption changing the roles or responsibilities of the operations function?  

Welson Jamin: Operations roles will be transformed from high-volume manual processing, standardised, simple activities, to low-volume manual processing, varied and complex activities. Automation will remove the bulk of high volume processing, leaving those complex, non-standard ones for operations staff to manage.

Simple, repetitive and labour intensive tasks like data entry, transaction creation, reconciliation and rule-based decision making processes can be largely automated – either through integrated platforms or through robotic process automation.

The responsibilities of operations will then be transformed as follows:

From managing Ops human resources to managing human-bot collaborations

From doing hardcore processing activities to managing exceptions which cannot be automated

From handling isolated steps of a transaction to managing end-to-end customer journeys

The change in digital disruption to operations function is similar to how computerisation of planes changed the roles of the crews in an aeroplane cockpit. Roles like navigators and flight engineers were made obsolete. Pilots interacted more with computers and obtained information previously provided by navigators and flight engineers.

IBF: Are there any other challenges or trends impacting the operations function?

Jamin: There are indeed challenges that we face during this digital disruption.

One challenge is how to quickly transform and upskill the entire workforce to take on new roles and work with new tools. There are people that either resist change or are not being able to adapt fast enough to the rapidly changing landscape.

The other challenge is how to influence customers to adopt and make use of digital platforms when interacting with the bank. As long as customers are still using paper to transact with banks, we can never fully digitalise operations.

IBF: How is technology enhancing operational performance management in Singapore’s financial institutions? What are the benefits of this for the organisations and for customers?

Jamin: The future of operational performance management is all about managing and reacting to real-time data:

• Data that tells us how our customers are interacting with our front-end apps or channels

• Data on how fast and efficient our back-end processing is being performed

• Data on how efficiently are our resources, both humans and bots, are being utilised

With the end-to-end availability and visibility of data, operations will be able to manage the customer journey like never before. On the front-end, we will be able to ‘see’ how the customers interact with the app – such as which functionalities are used most often, which screens they get stuck with, and percentage of those who gave up mid-way. Where the transaction requires further back-end processing, we will be able to ‘see’ each step of the cycle to see if there are bottlenecks or delays. This transparency allows us to plan our processing model to predict customer behaviour and proactively manage it.

Benefits for the organisation include the ability to finetune processes, achieve optimal efficiency and customer experience quickly, as well as measure outcomes. From the customers’ perspective, they will benefit by being able to perform their banking tasks easily, safely and with minimal effort.

IBF: How should financial practitioners adapt to the above developments? What key new skills are required?

Jamin: The way to adapt is to think end-to-end, but act in stages. You need to know what your end-game and overall journey will look like. However, from implementation, you need to do it in stages and do lots of experiments. Vendors will try to sell all sorts of technical solutions that look promising but during the implementation, the actual benefits promised may not materialise. This is because the vendor might fail to take into account real-life customer issues.

Operations of the future should not merely be well-versed in product and process knowledge but should ideally have some broad technology skills. Not in the sense of how to do complex programming, but being comfortable using and experimenting with new tools and confident to engage the techies on how technology can improve their work. Operations staff must be adept in dealing with lots of data and how to translate those data into information and actionable insights.

IBF: How can financial practitioners go about developing these skills?

Jamin: To ensure successful transformation of the operations workforce within the organisation, two things must happen:

  1. the individual staff must be self-motivated to learn
  2. the organisation must facilitate and make learnings easy and accessible to all

We need staff to feel empowered to own their learning agenda and decide on the skills they want to develop to contribute to the overall organisational goals. The organisation must make learning a key part of their strategy and culture. There must be varied learning opportunities and approaches to fit various needs – such as:

• self-learning

• classroom-based

• experimentations

• group-learning

• hackathons

• on-the-job training

• teach-backs

To learn more how you can use digital to improve financial operations and other skills needed for the future of finance, visit Learn@IBF.