Client onboarding – The importance of business process assessment and optimization

Business process improvement and the implementation of business process management (“BPM”) technology can truly become a “cart before the horse” dilemma for many organizations. Software vendors and implementers are often called upon to deliver the nirvana state that they sold their customer on, by simply automating a process without considering the fact that the process they are automating is inefficient and frankly, broken. On the other hand, the client may want to implement a point solution that resolves an immediate issue, without full consideration of how that software will impact the existing operating model and current business processes.

Recently, during a requirements session for a client onboarding solution for a major global financial institution, a business analyst stated, “Well if that was the case, I wouldn’t want to automate that broken process.” The stakeholder was explaining the issues experienced with the legacy process. I had already introduced a new operating model for this client and helped define the new requirements. This client clearly understood that automating a broken process only subjects the organization to formalizing inefficiency, which is not a good investment.

Before developing a new solution, the client had requested that my team perform an end-to-end assessment of the existing process and compile a list of the issues being experienced by the various stakeholders, including sales, KYC, compliance, legal, credit, risk, product, technology, and operations for all lines of businesses, in all regions. The current state process was documented by a series of workflow diagrams and compiled together with a gap and competitive analysis, and the main pain points were collected into a consolidated set of findings.

The current state process was manual and consisted of a series of silos where limited technology was implemented and connected only by email and spreadsheets. In many cases the process was orchestrated by sales and the relationship managers who utilized their knowledge of what was required, to push their clients through, with varying levels of success. Among the major pain points that needed to be tackled were, no single point of contact, lack of governance, and lack of visibility into the process, that led to lengthy client onboarding process leading to missed revenue opportunities.

The current state assessment was followed by a set of recommendations. Because of the synergies in requirements across the regions, a consolidation under a single management umbrella was proposed. It was obvious that a new operating model was required to accommodate this consolidation. Another recommendation was the deployment of new technology – an automated BPM-based end-to-end solution to improve process efficiency and visibility. The recommendations were designed to mainly improve efficiency and included the following:

  • Improve governance and consistency by having everyone utilize the same playbook
  • Alignment of the new operating model with the stated business goals
  • Improvement in governance and visibility into the end-to-end process

The first step in executing the recommendations was the reorganization of the teams under a single management umbrella. The next step was the development of the new future state operating model that had to be designed, initially at a high enough level to be applicable across all of the business lines to ensure the necessary consistency. Once this was accomplished a more detailed model was proposed to account for the nuances between products, businesses, regulations, and locations that would incorporate the new team members and improve their ability to support business goals. The institution also needed to move towards a lifecycle approach and not consider client onboarding as just a linear process with a definitive beginning and end.

The new operating model leveraged a central utility of case managers that were assigned to an onboarding case, based on a number of factors including, volume and skill set. Additionally, the party responsible for that case would monitor initiation through to enablement. There were a few major advantages to this particular methodology:

  • Ability to better balance onboarding workload across various lines of business
  • Accountability and a single point of contact for a particular case
  • Alignment of process with the case management solution that the bank wanted to deploy

Although this approach required a period of cross-training and the need to obtain buy-in from a number of ‘sometimes skeptical’ stakeholders, with the migration to a case management approach, the bank was able to improve efficiency and reduce the amount of time required to onboard a new client by a number of days.

The client was then ready for automating the process and eliminating a number of issues namely; lack of visibility, dependency on spreadsheets, email , and the lack of process governance. The lesson to be learned here is that in order to fully realize the value of automation, it is necessary to consider the process and ensure that it has been optimized, prior to deciding to move forward with a technology solution; i.e. fix it before you can automate it.