The cost and quality service agenda for banking

I think that one in the context of building and flying the plane. Michael, I think you know the operational areas. We never get the mandate to say, OK, we are gonna do this really large change and we're actually going to, you know, just take a break from serving customers that it doesn't work like that.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of our new ActiveOps employees, Martin Hogg. Martin is a Client Relationship Director with our APAC team based in Australia. He has a wealth of experience not only in ActiveOps, but most importantly Banking. He has built a career helping operations teams improve quality, productivity and led transformations efforts on top of the expected outputs. We are very excited to have his experience join our customer success capabilities in advising other clients on the journey to improved operational excellence.

What skills do I have? Where are they best fitting and what skills do I need? So where do I need to direct my skills in the context of future work?

Take a listen or read through the transcript of the podcast. You will learn from Martin key elements of moving from firefighting mode to truly transforming operational outcomes. He shares his views on the impact of workforce optimisation for Employees, Managers and Senior Leaders and we discuss the impact of AI and ML on the operational future.

You can find the full podcast on our AOTv channel on YouTube or click below. You can also access all of AO on Air podcast using your favorite podcast player on Spreaker here.

Read the full video transcript

  • Cupps: Hello and welcome to a on air. My name is Michael Cupps and you're watching a podcast sponsored by ActveOps. We're talking with someone that is not only an employee, but he's been a customer out in the wild. He has implemented ActiveOps on multiple occasions, so lots of practical experience with the software and what it's like on both sides of the fence. Martin Hogg welcome.

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    Martin: Thanks Michael. I'm happy to be here.

    Cupps: It's good to have you here. So how are things down in Australia?

    Martin: Yeah, really good look. You know the last couple of years have been different, but that's not unusual for the rest of the world. But at the moment we’re doing well, we're just coming through our summer, and you know a few issues up north with floods, but otherwise fantastic.

    Cupps: Excellent, glad we can make this connection. So, you have a broad range of experience both in operations and technology. Why don't we start with an introduction of yourself and maybe a bit of your background?

    Martin: Sure Michael, no problem. I've had multiple years of experience in the banking and finance industries and somebody actually said it was multiple decades the other day, which you know was a little bit sobering. But yeah, 30-years of experience in cross banking and finance industry. Look that covers retail, banking, relationship banking, some program management, operations, and leadership. This is where I really started to develop my passion for operations and then extended more to operational enablement. And, you know, really delving into leader capability across a broad range of things like visual management, operating rhythms and planning and control. So that's where I got a real passion for the work that ActiveOps does.

    Cupps: Well, I know we're thrilled to have you join ActiveOps. Because that experience paid dividends for our customers and for their futures. How about we start there? You just mentioned you've been in operations. You've been in banking. There are so many elements that cover; it's people, it's work, it's time, it's customers. All of those things. But just at a high level. Why would a bank want to engage with ActiveOps?

    Martin: There are so many moving parts Michael, and I think all of them are striving to meet the cost, quality service agendas that they have. I think ActiveOps is a way to actually harness the resources, particularly the people being one of the biggest variables in that equation. So bringing to that element the control and the stability is absolutely critical to success.

    Cupps: Yeah, so let's maybe talk about it as a persona because you've been in leadership roles down to the front line but let's start with the symptoms. If you're an operations leader and you have 1000 employees, what would the symptoms in your operation be, when you say, “Hey I need some help here?” What are those telling signals?

    Martin: Yeah, so I looked at the service pressures that come with that. You know, things are constantly getting escalated. You are constantly looking for data to find a way out. You're constantly dealing with employee engagement issues so you know you see a lot of dissatisfaction around you. I think that leads to attrition, so you know you're constantly trying to find answers to backfill all of the investments that you've made in your people and start again. It's never a nice place to be.

    Cupps: OK. So if you are a leader and you're seeing attrition, or you're seeing those engagement problems, what about that next level down that manager? That's dealing with the employees on a frontline basis, but also dealing with that SLA that you mentioned that says, “Hey, we got to meet this service level.” But you know the employees are still human and we have to work with them too, right?

    Martin: Yeah, absolutely, and look that really comes down to constant firefighting. I mean you're constantly dealing with the areas that are providing the work you're trying to keep that balance between, giving them some confidence that you can get out of it, but also you've got to try and prove to your employees that you can actually get through it. But that constant firefighting, the energy that you spend on talking about the work instead of getting the work done, is amplified significantly.

    Cupps: That's an interesting comment. I want to get back to that, but now let's go down one more layer. The employee. What are they feeling and where would they need help? What are the pressures on them?

    Martin: The employee feels constantly fatigued and you know there's always these requests coming through to do this, do that which might not be their normal role. It may be going outside the process to fix something so that fatigue burnout is something that is a constant characteristic, I think, on the individual. Very anxious so very unsure about what is going to unfold and you know that level of anxiety generally leads to a feeling that they're unsupported and that is a place which leads to the attrition.

    Cupps: Well, all right, let's play a little word association. Maybe this will work. Maybe it won't, but let's take those three personas again and let's go bottom-up. So, if you say before ActiveOps and what could happen. An employee feels fatigued. What would they feel, post-implementation or what would be different I guess.

    Martin: Yeah, so that that would feel balanced. I think balanced is the right word, so you know that they would be getting a blend of doing the work, growing their capability and actually getting a balance in terms of home/work/ life balance.

    Cupps: Yeah, balance is good for people. Everybody wants to feel balanced. All right now, you said the managers were constantly firefighting. So what would be the kind of post effect of having a system like this?

    Martin: Yeah, so look managers would feel control so you know the environment would be well planned and they would have that sense of control that people are striving to meet that plan. So not so many unexpected things are happening and the control aspect would be the word that I would use for managers.

    Cupps: That's good. And then we go back up to the leadership role and that was, you said they were dealing with a lot of fires and attrition. You know, bigger items, but what happens after an implementation like that?

    Martin: I haven't necessarily got one word for this, but well, maybe, I have. It's more strategic for them, so I think strategic is the right word. They've got confidence that the now is being looked after and you know they can focus, really focus, on the road ahead. And really, instead of a lot driving the car through the rearview mirror. It's actually they've got much better visibility of where they need to take the car through a forward-looking view.

    Cupps: Excellent, well I actually like the way it played out there because it's strategic and confidence control and balance. If you think about that, that's a pretty nice operational change from the firefighting and fatigue. So great.

    You've implemented ActiveOps before. I'm just wondering, could you share a little bit of the experience? You don't necessarily have to go into the company or you can, do whatever you feel is appropriate. But what was your experience? You know, maybe start to finish, or maybe outcomes however you want to tell the story.

    Martin: I think that one in the context of building and flying the plane Michael, I think you know the operational areas. We never get the mandate to say, OK, we're going to do this really large change and we're actually going to, you know, just take a break from serving customers that it doesn't work like that. So it's really important that you know through these deliveries that the plan around the BU or the existing is really well laid out and well managed and we know that when this is done well, we can sometimes find that capacity within the existing operation to really support those transformation efforts. And that's what we found, generally, through areas that we were able to implement into in terms of my experience that you deliver a 10 to 15% capacity over a 500 seat operations shop. You know you've suddenly got 75 people worth of capacity to really help with that transformation effort, so having that really laid out and having both the transformation and the BU plan work together, I think is really critical. And we found a lot of success.

    Cupps: Very good and you've mentioned your background earlier. You mentioned retail banking and other areas, but is there one that just kind of stands out that had the most problems or the most benefit from getting some control and some consistency.

    Martin: Yeah, absolutely.I think it was those areas that, interestingly enough were more, diverse in terms of where their people were, and, really being able to harness the ability to understand the capacity expectation communicate that well and control that well.The business and private bank for example. We saw a bit of success in areas that are managing the financial crime agenda. That was one that we were leaning into. But you know, the traditional operations of lending or home loan mortgages. Lending fulfilment is probably the one that is really most beneficial to use.

    Cupps: Got it that the financial crime area is interesting as well, and hopefully we'll have something new to announce from ActiveOps soon. But let's talk a little bit about technology in operations. You know you can't pick up a newspaper, open a web page and not hear the words AI and ML, right? So artificial intelligence, machine learning and we just announced our innovation and Insights Lab, and doing some critical thinking. Around where those might apply to operations management. What's your take on the opportunity ahead with new technologies like that?

    Martin: Yeah look I love this I think there really is some fantastic opportunity here. So, you know if we think about forecasting and planning, we think about all the work that goes into really trying to predict what that future is going to look like. I think you know machine learning and AI are something that we can really benefit from there. You know it is an area where at the moment if we look at. At client base, it's probably the area that is the most opportunity in terms of uplift in capability.

    So if we think about you know management process and really leaning into what should I do now? Highlighting those insights to a leader and really getting a view on what they've got to work with and how they should take action in terms of the day to get the result they need. I think that's absolutely an opportunity.

    And finally. Look the skills and capability piece I think is another really untried area that AI and ML could lean into to really understand. What skills do I have? Where are they best fitting and what skills do I need? So where do I need to direct my skills in the context of future work?

    Cupps: That's interesting and you're right, there is really a lot of data there to go through and in some cases, it's good data. In some cases, there's not enough data, but it's going to be an interesting play and looking forward to what our lab and other labs can kind of figure out there.

    So let's talk a little bit about the past two years. I mean, everybody talks about the pandemic and they have their stories. You were, I guess you crossed over a bit. You were with a bank during the start of the pandemic and through kind of learning how to manage in a different way or other and then you kind of moved over to a vendor.What do you think of the world today and post-pandemic operations? What are the new challenges? What are the new opportunities?

    Martin: Yeah, well, it's the last two years as it's seen a massive redefinition of what the working day is and not only what it is, it's where it is. You know, a lot of employers have adopted hybrid working practices, really getting an insight on how people are working and how they can best support those work habits is absolutely critical. And I think one of the things that the innovations that have come out of how that is handled now have been absolutely fantastic. I think early days of the pandemic, we were all working at home. Meaning we would generally sort of roll out of bed and you'd start your day at whatever time, but you just keep going and you were home all that transit time. Sort of got boiled up into work time and you know that it's fair to say that led to. You know, a lot of burnout and a lot of frustration and a lot of people rethinking. You know schools wanting home teaching and you know a lot of parents with young families were having to play that role as well. So you know, that's not a role that can sort of be played after 5:00 o'clock. It's what's happening. During the day. So really fitting that in and evolving. How do we manage that capacity? Because it is finite. You know, we do have to try and work within the constraints of that working week was really difficult early on, but you know pleased to say as we've come through that, you know, some of the tech that has been developed has really given insight into how we can best support our people in that regard.I think the other thing Michael, is connectivity management in terms of how we connect to all our systems. You know that's something. Again, you know that there's a much larger demand for that type of work. Some of the bigger organisations that just got hundreds of systems that you know you can interrelate in so many ways, and I think now organizations are really looking at how to manage their data. Just in terms of you know, matching up the insights and the cross-platform data that they have.

    Cupps: Very good. How is the market there in Australia? Are people going back to work? Are they split? Are they staying home? Is it truly hybrid?

    Martin: Yeah, so look. Hybrid working, I feel like it's alive and well. Looking at organisations, there are a lot going down that road and having you know people talk about you know how best it would suit them to actually run their week. Judging on this, it's probably a bit of a false economy because we've just had the Grand Prix down here but judging by the traffic in the CBD here in Melbourne, it seems to have lifted incredibly so. And people are definitely coming back into the office as well. I think that's something that you know the economy does actually need. That's a personal view. We do have to support that type of activity as well.

    Cupps: That's interesting and curious. The great resignation is the thing that's talked about a lot here in the US and a bit in the UK. Are companies in Australia experiencing the same thing where people now have a choice because they can work from home, and they could work for any other employer just the same way? Or is it not affecting you as much?

    Martin: Yeah, so you know talking to some of our clients, I don't think it is affecting us as much. I feel that the balance in terms of how people are working and the opportunity to actually choose their own adventure in that regard, Michael, has really helped. And I think most organizations seem open to that approach and if nothing else, that's probably a strategy to mitigate. Given that the people's working day has evolved so much over the last two years.

    Cupps: I don't want to make a broad statement here, but I think in the US there tends to be less about balance and with you guys, I think maybe a bit more focus on that human side of it. But it will come to the US otherwise people will choose to go elsewhere.

    So you're with ActiveOps now. You've kind of crossed the chasm if you will into a software company. Any thoughts or do you like it? Any new challenges or anything you didn't expect?

    Martin: Oh look I love it. I mean there are always things that you don't see as a client. But the things that you do see. It's that problems are very similar across the client base, so they're all dealing with similar issues and I think one of the things that I really love about this role, is I'm able to apply my expertise across a broad range of clients and industries. Which is valid, it's good in one way that you're sort of vindicated in terms of that approach so. You know that. You can always draw on that experience to help point out, and that's what is really energizing me at the moment. Because you know, I do have a lot of experience and I can offer that up to assist clients with problems that I've dealt with before.

    Cupps: That's why we're excited to have you because that true experience is hard for us to replicate. And you've lived through it, so it's nice to have you onboard and it's always good to talk to you if somebody wanted to pick up a conversation with you after watching this interview, how best to find you?

    Martin: I'm on LinkedIn. Certainly, my email address is also available if anyone wants to reach out and drop me a line, I'd more than happy to have a chat.

    Cupps: Excellent, we're glad that you spent a bit of time with us today and if others want to reach you. I just want to remind everybody they could also go to and fill out a form. Contact us and we'll put you in touch with Martin or other experts.You can also find resources like videos and white papers on that site.

    You can also check us out with other podcasts like this one on AOTv. We really appreciate you joining us Martin. It was wonderful talking to you and thanks so much for starting your day with us as we end our day here. Thank you very much, Martin.

    Martin: Absolutely my pleasure. Thanks for connecting. And have a great evening.

    Cupps: Thanks for tuning in and we'll talk to you in the next one. Thank you.