In the first phase of this project, we set out to develop a thorough understanding of the business and its strategic objectives, to ensure we developed solutions that were aligned and didn’t conflict with any existing projects. We carried out an exercise to baseline costs and understand the key cost drivers, including full-time employees, real estate, technology, data, and outsourcing arrangements, making sure we were able to attribute these costs to each function and process of the operating model.
We benchmarked the asset manager with competitors both to establish its relative efficiency and to gain insights on good operating model practice for cost transformation. We then ran a series of workshops with key client stakeholders from the Exco through to business unit owners and process owners to establish where the challenges and opportunities were. This process shone a spotlight on problem areas: subscale, low-profitability locations delivering non-core services; duplication of core functions within the same region; and high-cost/labor-intensive processes with unnecessary variations creating unacceptable operational risk. Alongside this, we identified areas with non-optimal customer satisfaction, for example, in time-to-market around onboarding and meeting of service level agreements, and processes with low levels of employee engagement, for example, where employees were conducting non value-adding activity.
Based on this analysis, and using EY assessment tools and our global industry professionals, we developed a set of opportunities that could create significant cost transformation including:
- Exiting smaller locations and consolidating activities into regional hubs
- Making greater use of existing digital platforms to engage with new and existing customers
- Standardizing products and services
- Optimizing around a recent core platform upgrade
- Supporting the investment process with artificial intelligence
- Creating regional centers of excellence for trading, operations and lines of defense functions such as compliance, risk and audit
- Consolidating outsourcing providers
- Optimizing processes and using intelligent technologies in operations
Based on the business case, a small number of complementary initiatives were selected for implementation:
- Exiting geographical locations: The client had a sub-scale division in two geographies, with a high fixed-cost base due to local regulatory requirements. We supported the exit of these geographies, driving out real estate, staff, and legal entity cost efficiencies, enabling the client to redeploy capital into other growth areas. We supported the operational carve-out of the division from the overall global asset manager and assisted with each step of the divestment process.
- Digital distribution: The client had implemented digital platforms across core client segments, but was not exploiting these fully, instead of channeling activity through the sales workforce. Through a combination of improving the user interfaces and nudging changes in client behaviors, the company was able to free up headcount in the distribution function.
- Using artificial intelligence in the investment process: New technologies were used to scrape alternative data, alongside scanning and processing existing research data, to help increase the overall breadth and depth of data used to form ideas and make decisions. This enabled the re-focusing of research and performance analysts into more value-adding activities, increased the speed of decision-making overall, and supported greater scalability.
- Optimizing the front office platform: The client had recently implemented a leading front and middle office platform. We supported optimizing the front office platform by standardizing the investment risk operating model and enabling this to be better serviced by the front office platform functionality. We utilized EY assets to automate around this leading front-office platform, reducing headcount and associated tasks. Finally, the client had an in-house accounting system that had been in place for a number of years. The functionality of this accounting platform had been extended into the middle office and we were able to remove costs by decommissioning one instance of this accounting platform that was no longer required.
- Optimizing processes and using intelligent technologies in the operations functions: The client had many manual, high-volume processes, some of which were subject to unacceptable operational risk. We automated the reconciliations, the operational trade set-up process, and the account set-up process. Alongside implementing the automation, we created a center of excellence to manage the new virtual workforce, and trained staff on new ways of working with this workforce. This introduction of intelligent technologies reduced the cost associated with risk events and the cost of staff, as well as enabling enhanced quality and scalability.
“Throughout the entire implementation of these initiatives we kept a relentless focus on benefits realization,” explains Alex Birkin, Global Wealth & Asset Management Consulting Leader. “This was achieved by embedding a finance role in the program, measuring and signing off the benefits at every stage with the accountable owner, and making sure all our decisions were data-driven. This approach allowed us to deliver on what we’d identified in that initial phase of the project. It’s a component where many of these initiatives typically struggle to deliver.”