BLOG: The Eagles Nest


The current atmosphere of trade talks in North America should be a strategic warning signal to all industries including financial services. There is a good possibility that the agreement could be scraped or significantly changed with long term changes in manufacturing, agriculture, etc. When our customers are impacted so are we! We don't have a central role in the negotiations but will have to quickly adjust to the fall-out. Your strategic and business plans should be re-considered with the contingencies associated with the demise of NAFTA. There are strong protectionist elements in the negotiating atmosphere as well as other negative possibilities plus in-country controls on data and security.

Even though all of us have seen the global economy grow and benefit many developed and emerging economies, the unraveling of the operating freedoms will have diverse impacts on individual countries, industries and businesses, especially if one of the largest players no longer wants to participate according to present rules. No doubt revisions to the decades old agreement would be beneficial to bring it up to our current operating and regulatory environments. One thing is for sure, if we sit on the sidelines as spectators and do not participate directly and indirectly in the negotiating dialogues we will have no one to blame but ourselves. The public needs to hear from the key respected industry leaders from every industry.

Pat Palmer | Tuesday, October 31, 2017 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

TD Canada Trust is currently caught up in a media attack started by ex-employees over outsourcing work and jobs off-shore and in this case again to India. The negative thrust is that Canadians private information is in the hands of non-employees in foreign countries. Of course, outsourcing or co-sourcing strategies have been around for decades based on efficiency and economic motives in financial services and just about every other industry in the global market place. In fact, larger countries have far out-shadowed Canada and our industry, especially the USA where there is now a President trying to revert the trend even though his business empire has been a participant in the outsourcing practice in the past. So, how much does negative media and public opinions affect corporate strategies and Board governance?

Technology has created or enabled a virtual world of sourcing along with continuous efforts by many countries for free trade agreements and open borders. This is based on sound economic principles but not necessary smart political motives with some leaders.

Can a financial institution survive and prosper in a highly competitive industry with only in-sourcing everything-perhaps if you are market dominant! Collaborations, partnerships, sourcing alternatives etc all make good strategic sense if the issue is front and centre and open to external assessment. It starts in the Boardroom where policy is set in this regards and is implemented by management as deemed appropriate. From there the problems may emerge if transitions are not handled effectively in considering all stakeholder issues and impacts. To attempt to "quiet" outsourcing initiatives is asking for leaks and waves of criticism. 

Pat Palmer | Tuesday, October 24, 2017 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Recently I have experienced the service response of organizations that acquired businesses that were long term product suppliers which I historically rated very high. But since the acquisitions there has been a significant deterioration in customer, quality service. I expect there should be some customer-centric postmortems so that top management understands the erosion that has taken place and initiates corrective steps to avoid a run off of profitable business.

First I will describe a scenario that is near to my heart and in which I am subjective on many fronts. In my RBC career I had the good fortune to help build the foundation contact centres which operated at high service standards in such measurements as wait times and the ability of the agents to handle requests without hand-offs, to name a few. Into the picture comes Aviva which acquires the auto and household segments of the insurance operation. Then I start to get feedback from family members and friends that the customer first culture was broken. Naturally, I was skeptical until this past week when I personally had to be involved with requesting a quote for insurance on a new condo. Contact centre calls had to be made four times; wait times were always close to an hour; agents had to check with background officers before any approvals which also took an extended wait time. In the end they had to admit that they couldn't provide the product required! A call was made to a local broker which we also deal with and in less than two hours the paper work had been done and the faxes had gone to the lawyers involved! This engagement will lead to not renewing other current business with Aviva plus the negative experience will be communicated to friends and family members.

Second, in our small rural community we were fortunate to have a privately owned cable company that provided outstanding service from the owner down to the newest recruit. Eastlink bought the company and promised continued high level service and expanded products.....until something goes wrong! The company started introducing upgrades which eventually affected the TV reception. A service call was placed to the local number which bounced to an Eastlink call centre with long wait times and a repeated message to try their Internet service. Naturally, I took the option and on the site I had to put in my postal code so they could respond properly. Their program did not recognize my postal code- one which covers over a thousand of their customers. So back to another long wait in the call centre wait line.When a technician gets on the phone he wants to try and remedy my poor reception from the their central service call centre, so I obliged. After a few minutes I had no reception the day before the Thanksgiving weekend with family members arriving. Now the wait was five days to get the "local" technician to come to the house, which he did. Service was reactivated but I was warned that there could be problems because the cable was old. Yes the reception was unsatisfactory so back to the call centre and wait a day or two for the technician to return and get it right. Fortunately in our rural area their is another option for Internet/TV/telephone.

These are personal examples which others are probably experiencing. So were are the leaders dedicated to customer service or don't they realize that service is what drives profitability or erosion thereof!

Pat Palmer | Saturday, October 21, 2017 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

For decades Canada has had a productivity deficit compared to other countries especially its neighbours to the south. Efforts to improve output with technology and other process efficiencies have shown some improvement but only incrementally compared to others.

The Canadian financial services industry sector is no different than the country trend. So why do we lack the ability or drive to make quantum leaps forward in productivity? Is it our leadership? Complacency and comfort? 

If each institution took a long objective look at themselves they probably would find the clues for improvement strategies. First of all, every CEO wants a upward,continuous curve of profitability. So how is this generated? Simply increasing prices/fees/rates more than costs are rising and expecting customers to be loyal and accommodate them? Or does the organization team truly identify and implement "best of breed" changes in a culture where productivity improvements are part of everyone's job? For example, in an omnichannel world which channels are more productive and how do you synchronize the trends with customers' preferences? Perhaps there are organizations that try to "buck trends" and carry on investment increases in less efficient channels! 

Having a people-productivity centric culture is got to be everyone's goal which means competing silos must be replaced with new attitudes and motivations. One of the consulting strategies we have always used is to have people isolate areas or activities which they feel are cumbersome and add little value using a matrix analysis approach for customers, staff and the bottom-line. It is always amazing listening to excuses why something can't be changed and coaching the people through to simple solutions. There are a variety of techniques that can be used to accomplish this purpose. Obviously leadership has to demonstrate its focus on productivity improvements plus a willingness to change.

Another strategy is to do a value for money audit on selected current and,yes, proposed processes, products and programs. 

In other words there is no reason why productivity improvements can't be made on a sustained basis in our industry and country. Do we have the will to do it?

Pat Palmer | Friday, October 06, 2017 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


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