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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What do Chief Operating Officers do in banks(& why)

Most of this post is based on my reading of bank strategy notes/analyst reports/articles, as well as my own analysis, discussions with a COO and some staff, and banking internships. Seeing an increasing trend towards operations as the value driver(also discussed generally in this post http://iimaexperiences.blogspot.com/2012/02/hr-law-and-operations-next-hot-things.html), I thought this article needed to be written.For some background, Wikipedia has a gem of an article on the COO position(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_operating_officer), and gives an insight that The COO is responsible for ensuring that business operations are efficient and effective. While it seems BGO(blinding glimpse of the obvious and vague), it would encompass all back end/middle office functions in banks. Of course, generalizing is risky since each organization tailors the COO role according to the wish of the Board and CEO, but the below observations would throw some insights.
  1. In Jan-11, Citi named its first COO since 2007. The person was John P. Havens, the head of the investment banking division, appointed for his managerial acumen etc. That shows the importance Citi gives to this role
  2. Banks are increasing mentioning 'cost efficiency', 'cross selling' 'international network optimization', 'consistent operating models' etc. All that entails explicit focus to operations, as a way to improve Cost Efficiency Ratio-the other way is to increase revenues without additional costs i.e leveraging platform better
  3. Increasing focus on Cost Efficiency Ratio(CER)-which goes beyond compensation cuts, and leads to operational excellence mission for back end outsourcing/setting up COEs etc.
  4. With regulation becoming more complex, time to market is even more of a differentiation, as banks hesitate to launch new products before getting it perfect(as regulators need just an excuse to crack down in many jurisdictions for playing to the gallery). Hence, those banks able to navigate the labyrinth of internal systems and external approvals, will realize the pot of gold for a longer time. And this is where streamlining internal procedures without losing out on compliance and risk management, becomes much more important  
  5. COO is a link between the front end and support functions, to ensure the business is built and run efficiently.

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