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Guest Commentary By Bank Operations Team, DD&F Consulting Group


The Operation Game


Milton Bradley introduced the game of Operation in 1965 and for more than 55 years now, wannabe doctors have strategically attempted to remove ailments, or pain points, from “Cavity Sam.” Using the tiny pair of metal tweezers and no small amount of dexterity, the “surgeon” attempts to remove the offending item embedded in Cavity Sam without causing a loud, buzzing noise. Te poor, red-nosed patient is clearly in a state of misery with his host of ailments waiting to be addressed.


Bank operations, particularly in 2020, may seem not unlike the iconic game. Te essence of operations is to eliminate friction or pain points between the bank, its customers and its employees. Te process of managing customer relationships, product delivery modes, locations, front-office and back-office functions requires dexterity, as well as good strategic planning and resources.


Just as a flare-up of “water on the knee” may prioritize a medical procedure, a year like 2020 brings into sharp focus pain points that require a bank’s attention. Mid-March, the world shiſted to “remote” status, amplifying weaknesses (and capitalizing on strengths) in bank operations.


Sleek branches with their elegant lobbies and coffee stations closed their doors. Technology became the primary link to the customer. Banks with strong online experiences and solid mobile offerings held their own, particularly while responding to emergency lending (Paycheck Protection Program) over the past six months, although every bank experienced pain points when it came to e-notarizing and securely e-signing documents, proof that there is always room for further innovation.


As technology goes, it’s been a no-brainer for many years now that digitization of banking channels was necessary, and most banks have taken steps to make sure the client-facing


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aspects of their product channels look as up-to-date as their competition. However, just as a patient may swear to his doctor that he’s been eating healthy and exercising, increasing health issues and incriminating lab values tell the real story. Banks are notoriously bad at adding layers of technology and implementing data processing features designed to improve service offerings, only for them to wildly complicate life for employees on the back end. It does precious little good to present a pretty face to customers if the back-office reality is harried, frustrated and slowed down by layers of legacy systems. Te inefficiencies will leak out to the customer sooner or later.


Banks clinging to legacy systems while putting off the technological updates they desperately need may find themselves in search of a buyer if they are not prepared to take on the expense, disruption of conversion, operational risk, implementation, project management and training ahead of them. Although there is no true substitute for human interaction, the road ahead is paved with more technology, not less.


In fact, as the end of 2020 approaches and forward-looking decisions and strategies are being considered, it would be worthwhile to address “mobile back office” capabilities by exploring ways to provide employees with easy, highly secure access to bank systems via phones or iPads. Te degree to which operations will continue to be managed remotely is still unclear, so planning for better mobile support work could pay off big time in the long run.


“Cavity Sam” probably thought his appendix was essential — until it was removed and he found he didn’t miss it. Community banks may find themselves thinking the same thing about branch offices that were closed during the lockdown. Many are now asking themselves important strategic questions, such as “Why did we put that branch there?”


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