The Finnovate Show
The Finnovate Show

Episode · 1 year ago

Tom Frosina: The Next Normal? Rethinking Back Office Operations

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Our guests Tom Frosina, Head of Card Operations at TD Bank and Santosh Joy, EVP & Head of Operations at ActiveOps discuss Operations before the pandemic, what’s changed, and why. They discuss the strategic decisions that were made along the way to better position TD’s back office for success in the next normal.

...as a leader of your company you must stay up to date with your strategies and execution or risk obsolescence. Welcome to the Fin of a show. Financial services innovators bringing you the future today and now here's your host, jerry Purcell. It's the innovate show brought to you by Innovation 3 60 group. I'm jerry Purcell. Get ready to think about your biggest challenges and capitalize on your biggest opportunities. After this. Executives depend on external consultants to fill knowledge and experience gaps or to have an experienced mine audit their thinking. The Innovation 3 60 group brings together a wide range of proven thought leadership from around the globe and cost effectively makes it available to you. Get the insights, advice and systems. You need to succeed, learn more at www dot innovation 3 60 dot com. Our guest today are tom free Xena head of card operations at TD bank and santos Joy be VP and head of operations that active ops, which is the leading management process automation software company. Today we're gonna talk about operations management And in particular the whole COVID experience. In the summer of 2019, TD implemented a planning and control system across its retail card services group. The system which is provided by active ops, manages operating data and resourcing within the card services team. But just nine months later, COVID-19 hit. How did TD bank respond? They made a few immediate pivots and innovations to respond to the challenges that the pandemic represented and then well, Tom and...

...santosh are here to tell us some more. Welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you. So tom maybe we could start with giving me a little bit of background, the T. V. And your role for those who don't know about the T. V. And maybe tell me a bit about where your team was. Pre pandemic. Sure. So yeah, I've been working for TD bank now for a little bit over four years. I've pretty much been in the banking you know most of the operation space for probably a little for 30 years now and TD bank you know well known of course in Canada and you know and especially on the east coast of the United States you know for their retail branch operations and all that. Um We also have some different credit cards and Visa but the area I work in is called retail card services and we offer private label sales financing. So again these you know the kind of a closed loop system. People who want to go and purchase furniture when you know when extended out over time we interest you know offer different plans. Many of them are no interest is paid off on time and things of that nature. Again furniture, verticals, some electronics verticals, jewelry and the Lord and garden sector. So that, that's the business we've been in and where we work pre pandemic was business was continuing to grow. We had got into a number of the verticals that I spoke about. They were growing privately. The sales finance tend to still be a very strong part of the industry. So we were in good place in and as you have stated earlier, we probably about nine months or so early had started active office. I had actually used them when I worked for barclays over in the UK men santosh and a few of the other folks from there. And so as soon as I got into tv, I started to inquire about bringing them in as well because I was so happy with the work they did with my back offices over in the UK. So I was very happy that TD or had a relationship with with yours and with active up. So it made it a lot easier for us to actually integrate it into our group and went quite well with my team. And I was very proud of how they kind of went through the initial learnings and all that because it's tough. It's, it's when you...

...try to do something different, try to do change. It's never easy. Uh, and it's additional work, you know, and I told everyone, hey look the first four or six weeks it's going to be rougher because you could be doing more things than you used to. But believe you guys that payoff is there, you just got to kind of hold on. Um, and they looked at me kind of skeptical, but you know, a couple of weeks later they really started to see the payoff and now they couldn't imagine doing without it. That kind of gets up to the pandemic. So that sounds like santos. You have a happy client here. So tell me a little bit about the installation, at least a particular one that you put in place just before Covid. It was one of our most successful implementations of active ops, our software and our methodology within TD bank, you know, TD bank as a customer has been a longstanding customer of ours and a top priority one for sure. And we are closely embedded within what they call their workforce management approach. So one of the best implementations that we had, I think it was an implementation that ran for 12 weeks. Tom and his managers were outstanding in terms of their in terms of the response to this. But you know, every implementation goes through its journey. But Tom's senior sponsorship helped tremendously in terms of making the implementation successful and more importantly in delivering the results. So tom so you've had the party now you put the system in place, everybody's happy and then covid hits. So when did you start seeing implications of the pandemic and what were the kinds of challenges you were faced with as your team first encountered it? Yeah, I mean actually I was the last place I had traveled to was to our site where these operations are, which was up in Northern New Jersey, Matawan, New Jersey to be specific. And I was actually up there early week of March and you know, back then there are certain things in Italy in other parts of the world and we started getting nervous and starting things. We better come up with a plan for this for operations besides my back office, but my telephonic operations and all that. So we were slowly trying to get some things right in the background and then boom you know, probably by mid March the 16th or 17th if I remember, you know, tD at that...

...point made a decision that you know we were going to start to close down our sights as soon as possible to the pandemic across the board, us Canada every place. So we started to kind of get ready and how that would happen, luckily at least for this group with a um is they already have laptops. So that was a huge issue for me to do it. My phone centers different story for a different day, but they already had laptops so they were able to immediately deployed to go to work from home. I think we had a few issues at the beginning because I think the biggest thing wasn't necessary a work scramble, but the kids schools at the same time started sending kids home and parents are trying to rearrange schedules and getting their kids up on laptops. Well they're trying to work and all that. So we definitely saw a dip for a couple of early days, just more. Again, people just scrambling overall life disruption, but I haven't seen within 3 to 4 days that team started to get back on track and again, you know, having the um step, we knew exactly where we were, if we had any backlogs develop, you know, where whips were work in progress and all those different things to. So those metrics really helped guide us back to, okay, we got a little bit off track. That happened no different to be honest with you than if we got hit with a three day snowstorm or something like that, you know, So we got, you know, snap back onto track and quite quickly were able to kind of adjust, see where we needed to head in some overtime. We're able to very easily adjust people's work schedules if needed because again, the whole school thing and try and people to work that things out into life. So I would probably say from, you know, late March and early april it was a bit of an adjustment. But I was also very happy that we didn't miss any of our service levels and a number of the things in those shops or regulatory nature, none of those were missed. So I understand that the volume started to pick up as well during the initial part of the situation and the sort of physical requirements changed. Although, you know, where there were signatures involved and stuff like that. It began to be a problem. Tell me a little bit about those kind of actions or kind of issues you're experiencing what you had to do about them. Yeah, I'll go with the latter first. We still dealt with too much paper in that shop. We have...

...been working over the last couple of years to get the paper out. Some was just you know where it was overall in our kind of hierarchy of things we wanted to get done. There are certain permissions to be done and everything else like that. I guess the good side per se of the pandemic was you know, now we kind of when you kind of enter that crisis mode, we able to fast track a lot of the approvals to get things done. Our vendors work with us quite well too. So we're able to automate a lot of our incoming mail and immediately send that to a venture to start scanning that because we just got a couple of 1000 pieces a day that people physically had to go through. So within a week or two we start to get that stuff scanned automatically. We also had an issue on the back end. We also used to mail out a lot of letters and we were looking for a long time to put those kind of a male distributions coming out of print centers either internally to the banker with one of our vendors. Never quite got there. Well, we did with this thing. So within a couple weeks after that we start to slowly move our work over. But again, we have to make sure it was done in the correct and quality controlled manner. So we had a little bit of interim where people still have to go in and pick up mail a couple of times a week or print stuff. But I'd say within a couple of weeks after that, we're able to knock that piece out. Now, initially in our customer volumes, it was everyone as much as we were scrambling so our consumers and our partners, because again, as I said earlier, we're partnership business. So everyone in the same token was kind of scrambling. So I say, initial volumes actually got a little quiet for a while as people trying to act. But immediately right after that on our consumer business, you know, the people, the consumers who we deal with, we sort of see a lot more people coming in when to check, especially on credit heroes and things like that because at the same time, people becoming very concerned about the credit bureaus and this has been an ongoing trend, but it really escalated during the covid crisis, partly, people kind of, you know, Philosophies that might just, people have more time on their hands. They were using more of these services. Also, if people are looking for other credit means and things like that, your credit had to be quite good and different, not just in our industry but across mortgages and everything else. So people kept an eye on. So those credit things really boomed by about 20 or 30% these credit...

...bureau researches. So that really entered a lot into our capacity piece as well. On her other side, we also deal with merchant disputes. So consumer might say, hey, I got this couch, but it's not exactly the shade of green that I desired. And you know, we typically have to get those done in, you know, 60 odd days. Well, our merchants are a big part of it and a lot of them were not there because their stores have closed down and things like that. So we had to work to try to figure out a way to keep the investigation going, keep the consumer whole. So she or he didn't, don't get penalized or putting a negative spot. Meanwhile, we floated a few of these perchance for a couple of weeks where we normally would have done what we call the chargeback saying, hey, you haven't answered us, boom. You kind of lose, you know, we're giving back this money to the consumer. We, we knew the merchants were in a rush shape at this time, especially the smaller guys. So we floated a number of them for a while. But again, this will add it to our work queues and things like that. Again, having a when were, you know, active outside apologists keep using the old acronym, We were able to see where inventories were very easily. We're able to quickly kind of make determination that, you know, hey, when when we do have to process this work, you know, what kind of overtime these would be planning out our people's PTO and things like that as well. So all that came together and again, by having, you know, active ups in the middle of all this, it really did help us give us that road map. So what else was going on in the marketplace? Santosh other clients experiencing similar things? What other sorts of things were happening that affected people's back office? Well, so when you, when you look back 12 months jerry, literally every organization that we work through and I think more widely the ones that we didn't work through, we all went through this whole pivot, survive adapt and try sort of realism of you know, especially when something like a pandemic actually takes takes an enterprise by surprise. So I think most organizations, the the enterprise ones you of course have this mass exodus of people and technology and we are...

...working from, you know, from an office to a whole. I think that was sort of the overarching, you know, trend at that point in type. But while all this was going on, there was also a certain way in which organizations were responding to this challenge. So so organizations who could confidently access real time operations, data on work on resource on capacity on time across their footprint because you know, you have onshore businesses and then you have often, you know, they have their extensions offshore. I think in terms of response rates, organizations who had all of this responded quicker and in a more sort of an agile and resilient manner in comparison to those who don't. So, and while this was going, you know, most businesses still have to continue to as they say, run operations. So you still have to meet as surveys. The regulations were only getting title risk and security, if anything was on everyone's agenda. And then you've got to manage the whole exodus. So while operations runs, that's what businesses need to focus. That's what businesses exist. While you have to keep in tune with the changes of the pandemic was doing it, what was present. You have to be agile. You had to be resilient. And as work moved as people moved from from offices two homes, the challenges only increased and many organizations did well. And some organizations didn't do well. But talking about organizations that did well, I think they did well because that reduced their time from that pivoting to thriving point of you know in terms of that journey. And and and these were the ones who were able to easily flex their resources coincidently they were also the ones who got better control because they had better access to data. But they were also the ones who later when the pandemic slowly started to settle, immediately shifted focus from. We are now we've now adjusted. We're now...

...adapting to this challenge. Let's now shift to what our people are actually doing at home. So they focus on employee things like employing wellbeing employee inclusion their days in the day. I think that focus also started to increase. So in truth the organizations were very busy getting work done. They were living with the challenges of the pandemic present with them but they were also sort of finding their path. And I think the key thing is from the pivot to survive to thrive. The ones that reduce that curve did well a lot more quicker. And especially the common theme. I think with all of these organizations was the ones that had operational control. We're able to assert efficiency and effectiveness more seamlessly more smoothly as come back to those who didn't. Yeah, The world is moving fast. It's difficult to keep up. Your executive team routinely needs new ideas to keep them ahead of the competition. Imagine having a plan in place in 30 days to focus your innovation efforts, improve customer experience, accelerate your move to digitization or increased speed to market. Our guide to accelerating your innovation agenda provides you with insights and time saving resources to plan your path forward, contact jerry to book a quick call or for your complimentary copy at www dot linkedin dot com backslash in backslash jerry Purcell, G e r r y p u r c E L L or email jerry at jerry dot Purcell at innovation 3 60 group dot com. So tom I read a piece of data the other day that 70% of employees going forward are...

...looking for flexible working options. How has the pandemic affected them in that way? But other sort of ways that you're observing, you know, now that we're into the process and almost over hopefully. Yeah, I mean across my piece, you know, just in the operation we're talking about, you know, as santa said, I kept, you know, lots of communications with my teams had lots of little mini huddles just to see how people were doing, especially early days. And uh, I would say probably 70% pretty low. My people are probably running at about 92-95% saying they would like to remain at home. Um, there was a small group of population that says, Hey, they want to go back into the office full time, Whatever is happening at home is driving them crazy. And I'd probably say there might be another 15-20% who missed some of the interaction the office, but enjoy the flexibility they have of working remote, you know, overall, especially in this group that we're talking about the back office operations. One of the reasons we gave them laptops back in 2018 was, well, we had this other solution for for a hot site, which never really, to me made a lot of sense because everyone else used the same provider. And if there was a major problem in Northern New Jersey, there would be people trying to cram through the doors and couldn't fit. So he said, look, our people can do this be a laptop, their work. So we always had that bit of remote option and people enjoyed the flexibility of yet traditionally back then their work was in the office. But hey, if they had to stay home because the cable guy was coming in that 12-4 window, sure you could work from home that day, that was fine. We made it flexible and I think we got a lot back for more employees. You know, if they needed to work over time because we got behind in a certain Q. Or things like that, they were more than happy to jump on, especially in an area like in Northern New Jersey where 30 miles can take, you know, an hour to an hour and a half to drive, You know, each way that that getting back that commute time was very important to them. And actually we've made the decision now that for this site where most of this work is done, that's going to be 100% remote workforce going forward. So they are all very happy about that piece. They enjoy the flexibility gives them...

...in their lives. And again, this is not, it's important work and need to get done, but it's not like a call center where they need to be tied to hours that they need to pull 10 minutes away to get the kids on the bus or off the bus, they can do that and get right back into their work things. So I think this is really going to benefit all this down the road and like I said, you know, sometimes on a saturday if I need two or three hours people like weren't looking forward to driving into work doing it and going home. But now if they want to jump on the computer at six a.m. Get a couple of hours in overtime and still can enjoy, you know, a soccer game or what our family time, you know, we, I think we both went. So what have you learned from this whole process in terms of things that perhaps didn't appreciate the value of data or whatever? Like what sort of things that become more important to you? Do you think that this is sort of maybe brought to light? Well, I think what really brought to like to us because we were asking more questions now because we have this pandemic and I'll give you a better example in a minute. Then we didn't use to ask sometimes volumes would go up for a certain reason and you know, we will be able to identify quickly through our workwear in different pieces like that. But we never we would ask the question why then it would go down and then we would not really pay a lot of mind to it. But during the pandemic we really were trying to figure out, okay, why did that go up? Was that pandemic related? Is it going to be a short term effect? Right. We saw some short term effects mike Wilson is where customers arrival patterns change. So but that's a big deal because for example, we needed to change schedules. That's a significant move to move people's schedules and you don't want to do that because they know if the pattern changes back in you again, you've got to reverse it all of the system. S so we were learning that, you know, with consumers in the past, we would see behavior changes and things like that in different work coming in. But we wouldn't necessarily maybe investigate the wise it would come. It would go I think with Covid though we really try to make a decision of okay, what is this, is this Covid related? Is this short term, long term and all of those matters. So I think we did a lot more due diligence and we're able to look at the data and get a...

...little bit better information out of it. And there were certain things that were transitory I spoke about earlier about these merchant disputes, I kind of got piled up because the merchants weren't around. Well once the merchants started getting back into their offices and where they figured out how to do the remote thing by mid april eight april, we're like pretty much back to normal there. And that was really a very short term event. We didn't have to change any of our long term functions or anything else like that. But those credit bureau disputes continue to kind of rise. And then the initial thought was, well, this is just a reaction. People are nervous about losing their jobs, about, you know, how they're going to hey the mortgage and the rent and the credit bureaus and that, that would go away. Those things continue to accelerate. So by using it, were able to start to look and quickly trained up some of our people that were working in certain areas like merchant disputes and even our front areas, which have gone down a little bit, retrain them and cross train them and have them work immediately over in our credit your dispute. So we wouldn't miss it there. So I think really what Covid kind of taught us was we should have been doing this all the time anytime we saw a blip or something, you know, investigated a little bit deeply to see if that's really a changing trend in your business Or is that something that was just gonna be a short term thing And just don't always assume that just because it went away two weeks from now, it wasn't going to come back again two weeks later and put you well out of position and again, having the different things with active opt and having our people cross train even if it was a temporary swing, we could make those swings and get people back to their regular functions as needed. So, uh, santosh, I recall before Covid that the big deal was figuring out how to integrate robots into the process and you know, all these different kinds of labor and stuff. Now now we have changed in the way work is done. Hybrid workforce is you know perhaps even the, you know, the ability to apply ai to patterns and predicting resources going forward and stuff. What do you what do you think is coming in the marketplace now that tom can depend on, you know, for the next five years for his business. But I mean I because you said sort of pre pandemic, you know, the...

...truth is the world was already transforming um and many large organizations and I'm sure you'll agree. But you know, you guys as banks or healthcare organizations, you were already looking at your operations transformation digital automation journeys. If anything, I think the pandemic, it not necessarily change that approach, but I think what it did is it present the opportunities for large enterprises to accelerate those journeys now in terms of acceleration, I think it was a good point to say, oh, you already had a plan in place. My, you know, is my transformation automation digital agenda. Is it still fit for purpose? If not let me quickly make the change? Because this new normal is something I wasn't prepared for. And you know, I know people make references to new Normal, I'd like to call it the next novel because you don't know how long it's going to last now. You know, some of the reality is that businesses have to come in. In truth, it was one big one is we have to recognize some new realities, the focus on employee well being on autonomy on, you know, it suddenly became extremely important in the workplace. And I start at this point because I think we should not forget the humans, as we start talking about bots, we might end up seeing if we're not already are a convergence of three or four of the most studied generations in the workplace. And I think it's already happening now again in the past when it came to the data and I heard you mentioned that a couple of times, Surely we measured everything, you know, we measured everything the pandemic taught us. It's victoria stream to measure what's important. You know, it gave us this this thing. It's not why you measure, it's what you measure. So businesses were present at the opportunity to decide the purpose. What is it that we want to decide well in advance Then you build systems and support, you know, to sort of derived...

...that purpose. You know, the completion of data. And how much time do we actually spend collecting data that there's so much of less than to analyze it. You know, I think these are some of the realities that came forward and then the other big one is the whole compliance and risk in those bits. Now. I think as we go into what I call, you know the next novel, I think the workplace has changed. We had to reset work office time, they all became fluid by necessity. So so resilient. Cos I think now have the opportunity to re imagine an adaptive future fit hybrid workforce in a hybrid workplace. And I think that's going to give, you know, that's gonna give businesses the competitive advantage, the operations excellence and control that's much needed uh in terms of what the future is going to press it. So uh you just speak about what's I think there's a place for them. But if you read through articles, the amount of focus I think bots to probably have a back seat in the terms of focus, I think the people suddenly came to the fore. It's the aspect of my go back again to the employee engagement, the employee well being taught now. I think the future, as I said, a hybrid workforce in a hybrid workplace, what I mean by that hybrid workforce is humans and bots were already used to that a hybrid workplace is tom's point, we've got a large mass of people who want to stay at home. Some of them want to want a bitter form and a bit of office and all of those who had cabin fever. I want to get back to office now that's going to change the way you're going to look at data. When are you going to need it? And I think you will need it much more real time in due course, you're going to read now, you're going to need data that's real time, that sort of converges humans and bots, You can't you can't keep measuring efficiencies in two different ways. You need one common measure of efficiency. Productivity is going to become all the...

...more important because they're going to have people sort of rotating between their places of work. Now, all of this essentially means that your your your demand on your transformation journey and digital journey, if anything, is probably going to increase a little more and and and that means when you as you go out and create that hybrid workforce as you go out and create that hybrid workplace being adaptive is significant and organizations that have great operational control, great operational excellence journeys and of course the reliability of data when they needed to make those decisions I think are going to continue to succeed. Excellent, So tom how do you imagine things going forward? Um I agree with the hybrid approach. I mean we're looking more at thoughts and things like that to you know, several years ago it was boss will be doing everything and that will be everything and you know, it didn't quite get there. But I think that's okay. I think it was always going to be as santa said a bit of a mixture. So we're looking at things now, we deployed a few pots during the pandemic in a few different areas, including one area that was like we were giving relief to consumers. But as we did that we wanted to be sure we were doing it correctly accurately. And of course there's uh the ever ending kind of need from upper management. Know how many people applied, how many, how much is it worth? All this stuff? Almost on it minute by minute basis. So the fact that the only way to get to these records as it became larger and larger, but I think, you know, it's getting to that point of, you know, where does it make the most sense to invest in that? You know, is it smart to invest in a boat? Is it smart to invest in a new workflow system for things like that? You know, you don't want to be putting a number of boats out there that really hide a bigger problem that you might have to work on systemically. And actually we reorganized, you know, through my leadership during the thing where I had kind of more about global picture of just one piece of operation. So she broke out my organizations and others, a gentleman who's up your mind who's just working on some transformation, looking at bots, looking at all...

...different efforts and kind of looking at the full array out there to see how we're going to move ahead and it's going to be a little bit of each, it's going to be a little bit of smattering of different workflow tools, new systems as well as bad as well as again, just also people performance. How can we improve our people with things like, you know, active ops and other programs that help with coaching to help us get where we need to make and actually I just, I just want to continue that thought process a little more. I think large enterprises organizations, they've got access to great technology and now at the end of a pandemic, hopefully I think we have, we always have a committed workforce, I think we have an even more committed workforce now, but there's a world out there that is ever changing. It's going to present us different realities every single day. To your point. What defines of future fit organization is not just access to all of this, but it's the rate at which organizations continue to exploit these assets so that they can green control and green it quicker. It's a question of building capability and investing in management, process automation. It's, you know, essentially an ecosystem that you want to get to as soon as possible that converges technology, people and process. Thank you. So Tom one last question. So what advice would you give today's leaders in terms of addressing some of the challenges in the marketplace today? So, I mean, again, it's the only thing that just being flexible because you never know what next curveball is going to be thrown at you and always having options ready. So one thing I've learned in my 30 plus years of ops, you know, just being ready for the unexpected and not just assuming things you're going to go a certain way and I think part of it too was we're able to respond quite well in this air and others because we had thought about a lot of different things at different improvements, some of them were quite hard to do, some of them weren't as important, but we kind of kept that kind of inventory, you know, some were written down somewhere more mental inventory saying, hey what if we ever tried to do a work from home skit...

...with our phone reps, right, so we actually kind of noodle what that would look like, but we never really went further with it because it was investments in real estate, there's a lot of technology hurdles, a lot of HR hurdles, but we have at least thought about those questions, so I think kind of by doing some of these mini desktop things are sometimes, you know, they're done over coffee or over a beer someplace, you know, we always kind of thought ourselves about all these different scenarios, so when actually it came to saying now we really have to do this, we had already had, you know, a good part of the work done or started to ask the right questions were able to quickly, you know, modified the result was never, we initially would have thought it was going to be, but I got us pretty much there and gave us what we needed at that point. So again my thinking operations doing that, you know, being open to different things, I mean again knowing your data and knowing that all the bots and everything else in the world is great, But unless you know where you're exactly at, you're going to just be lost. And so we were, you know, we really just taught us again just to re ground ourselves, whereas our numbers what's driving it and then move the piece forward and then see what's the best solution forward. So it's also that kind of going back to what what brought to their as well. Thank you gentlemen. So that wraps up this episode. As always, I look forward to hearing thoughts from you, our listeners about today's show. Please keep the conversation going. If you like the show, tell your friends and please take a minute to radar show or post a comment. Go to www dot innovation 3 60 dot com or your favorite podcasts like to find out more. To listen to more shows. Tom and santos. Thank you very much for chatting with me today. Thank you jerry, please Jared you've been listening to the Fine of Eight show with jerry Purcell. If you like the show, share it on your network and subscribe on itunes or wherever you listen to podcasts and you can go to www dot innovation 3 60 dot com. To listen to more shows, download the transcription from today's show or to...

...contact today's guest. This is the Fine of Eight Show financial services innovators bringing you the future today.

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