The role of an operations professional has come a long way in a short period of time. The skills that operations professionals need today have evolved from what was needed just a few years ago. And they’re going to need to develop entirely new skills over the next five to 10 years.
In the latest entry in our Q&A Blog Series, Gussie Tate, Mediant’s Head of Operations, shares her thoughts on how the operations role has changed in recent years, the biggest issues impacting operations professionals today, and what the role might look like in the future.
Q: How would you describe the operations professional of the future?
Gussie: The skill set needed is going to continue to evolve. I believe the operations professionals of the future will not just push buttons and process tasks. They will think strategically and adapt more easily to change, helping the company develop and move forward over the long term in the ever-changing landscape.
That means a mindset that enables them to think with an operational lens while simultaneously gathering data and using it to reduce risk and streamline manual processing. While some manual processes have been automated, many core processes are still intensely manual. In the future, I see that dynamic undergoing positive change.
A key attribute for this evolution is a natural curiosity: operations professionals should be asking why. The ideal candidate will think creatively and operationally, not only understanding why things are done but challenging existing processes, with a true focus on the client experience. How does the client feel about our latest product? How does the shareholder feel about the information they’re receiving? This professional will always strive to understand the overall impact. They will know that it’s not just about how processes affect us internally but what is delivered to the end client.
Q: How can firms overcome operations talent shortages?
Gussie: Our world has undergone a transformation over the last two years. After proving that remote working can be productive, employees now expect flexible working arrangements. At the same time, companies are looking to reengineer operations to increase efficiencies and prepare for the future. To meet both needs, organizations must empower operations professionals to suggest and enact changes that support these desires.
Opportunity and flexibility can attract talent, but far too often leaders hire people from outside company walls. They miss out on hidden talent that’s sitting right in front of them. To win the war for talent, companies need to embrace and develop leadership potential in their own employees. Spend time coaching these folks and giving them stretch assignments to help them hone their skills and become the next leaders of the organization.
Q: Can part of the talent shortage be solved by increasing efficiency in operations and investing in the right tools?
Gussie: The more operations associates are focused on technology as an enabler, the fewer resources companies will need to fulfill their missions. Unfortunately, giving technology resources to operations is not usually a high priority for most organizations. Operations is often viewed as an expense; money is invested into the revenue-generating side of the house. But there are a lot of tedious processes within operations. The more streamlined those become, the more productive and effective operations can become — and the easier winning the war for talent will be.
Plus, when you eliminate tedious processes, you elevate talent. Jobs become more rewarding and there is space for strategic thinking to flourish.
Q: The SEC has a lengthy list of new regulations. How is Mediant helping clients accommodate the SEC’s new regulations from an operational perspective?
Gussie: Mediant actively keeps abreast of regulatory changes, especially when it comes to SEC action. We have a deep pool of ops professionals involved with industry working groups, and we utilize these forums so we understand and are well-prepared to react to upcoming regulations that will impact our products and our clients. We’re always forward-thinking and proactive in this regard.
To give some examples, Mediant is part of the SIFMA T+1 Working Group. We’re also part of a pilot group that’s working on end-to-end confirmations for proxy voting and we took a lead role in the digital legal proxy initiative.
Q: What are the top operations priorities in the financial services industry for the next two years?
Gussie: There are three major priorities:
- T+1. Shortening the settlement time from T+2 to T+1 has such a major impact for our industry that it’s really at the top of everyone’s list.
- Cybersecurity. Hackers are getting more confident and capable by the day. To stay protected, firms need to be vigilant and very proactive in their cybersecurity stance.
- Regulatory changes. Balancing all the regulatory changes that are coming in at such a rapid-fire pace is a major challenge. Since there doesn’t seem to be a lag between regulatory changes and enforcement, it takes resources away from day-to-day work to keep on top of compliance.
Q: What are the key obstacles that the industry must overcome to achieve these priorities and how is Mediant addressing or supporting this?
Gussie: Achieving these priorities starts with preparedness — making sure you have the right folks taking the lead on these projects to move them forward within your organization. And it’s a collective effort.
Something as major as T+1 requires collaboration across firms in the industry to make sure everyone’s moving in the same direction and nobody is introducing new risks. Solving T+1 requires a very thoughtful, strategic approach.
The settlement cycle touches just about everything in financial services — from trades to margins to corporate actions and lots of other areas. Let’s look at trade confirmations, which can be delivered via paper or electronically. But the requirement is that those must be delivered to the client before settlement. When you’re talking about a T+1 settlement, that’s an increased risk for everyone involved to make sure we meet that deliverable.
The optimal solution for something like this is to move to an e-delivery default. It will save time compared to printing documents and physically mailing them. Either way, folks need to begin planning for this change this year.
Mediant is helping clients prepare for this SEC change with our innovative technology solutions. We’ve also developed an internal task force whose sole purpose is to address the requirements and changes for T+1 so that we can support our clients. We’ll continue to partner with our clients to meet all the objectives for post-sale delivery and all the SEC requirements. While we believe shareholders should continue to have the right to elect paper delivery if they choose, we’re absolute advocates for moving to an e-delivery default adoption across the industry, and we help our clients stay on the leading edge of this trend.
For more information, contact us.