Brexit is coming... smart banks are acting now!
With the UK set to lose £1tn of financial assets to Europe and banks forced to finalize plans only days from the set departure date, there is still considerable uncertainty on what kind of Brexit, if any, we will get; but the time for action is now.
On the FT Banking Weekly podcast, Bank of America vice chair Anne Finucane raised several interesting points which will probably hold true for all major banks. Finucane said her bank is well advanced in its Brexit planning, and is set to spend $400 Million dollars, which, when you consider that three-quarters of the 24 major global banks have announced significant relocations of their operations to Europe, the figure can be multiplied by at least 20 to get a feeling of the overall impact. A billion here, a billion there - soon you’re talking about real money!
Whether Brexit happens or not, whether it’s a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit, a red-white-and-blue Brexit or a gray Brexit, Bank of America’s European banking operations are moving from London to Dublin and that is where they will stay – “there isn’t a return, the bridge has been pulled up”. While there will be around 500 new staff joining the Dublin office, there will also be redundancies that Finucane is not yet ready to talk about, and trading is likely to change, reflecting customer requirements and how Brexit pans out.
In retail banking, it’s pretty obvious that most of the people needing services are going to be in ‘big’ Europe not ‘little’ Britain, and this is the inescapable logic driving many companies to move. A change is happening. However, when a board member says “we’re done”, she probably means the plan is in place, approved, and with funding against it in their strategic and operating plans… in the world of operations and jobs they’re not done at all! When she says she can’t discuss whether employees will be let go, this indicates that backroom conversations are ongoing with HR, but nobody has figured out exactly what jobs will move to where. If I was a student graduating with a financial degree, considering my future career, I might look beyond the South of England!
More immediately: What this means to me is that the operating model for these organizations post-Brexit is yet to be defined. This is not a bad thing - it’s very common for companies to take a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach to organizational change. These are big numbers – while $400 million is not a huge amount of money in the mega earning stakes of Bank of America, it’s definitely not small - it’s a lot of people’s livelihoods. The operating model is going to have to change - the business operating model, the back office operating model, the interface between the clients and the firm, and also the interface between the colleagues within the firm, the services they depend on, the IT enabled services, as well as those that are not. This must-do change is an opportunity to fix longstanding inefficiencies and service issues and help make Bank of America great again.
Virtual Clarity specializes in operating model transformation, so what I took away from the podcast is that with all these banks restructuring their operations, there is a load of business coming our way, which is exciting and a little scary! We aim to simultaneously make organizations more cost effective, faster and more appealing to deal with. Most large organizations tend to be very reactive, so when money needs to be saved, they save money, but these savings tend to be aligned with the quarterly earnings cycle and not focused on long-term sustainability. Decision-making centers in traditional IT models are distant from the businesses they support, so we bring these things together and make change that is durable and makes the business a better service provider, not just a cheaper one. Culture change, role and process redefinition, and automation are tools we use to help our clients’ staff work more effectively and harmoniously together.
What we can guarantee is that there is going to be change – there will be cultural change, process change and change in the technology associated with it. If you are one of these banks, looking at the inevitability of the transition ahead, take advantage of that change to build a better service.
To discuss how we can help your organization with operating model transformation to ensure sustainable change, please get in contact!