As the pace of change in the trust and corporate services market continues to rise, there’s an ever-increasing need for firms to self-analyse their processes and KPIs to ensure they’re keeping up. Yet the ability to achieve such self-awareness is difficult and all too often firms can be lulled into a false sense of security as the world changes around them, much like the proverbial frog in a pot of water. It’s because of this, your firm can fall into the trap of being efficiently inefficient.

So, what do we mean by the term efficiently inefficient? It’s what we call the use of techniques, technologies and processes that have been deployed in a highly efficient way but have since been superseded. This alone is not a bad thing, but if your firm is running such processes in highly efficient ways, you may not be quite so perceptive of the potential improvements that should be being made as the market changes around you.

Change generally requires a motivator. If your current processes are working well, fee recoveries are good, client requests are being handled on a timely basis, and you’ve got low staff turnover and a happy team, then the motivation to change your processes is probably quite low. But this is where we come to the big issue and the trap you can fall into if you are efficiently inefficient – the cliff edge. The cliff edge means the efficiency in the processes you’ve been happily running for many years could fall away almost overnight. This happens because over time the processes become increasingly fragile, until they can no longer keep pace with the change demands being placed on them and one final change becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Here are some of the signs that you may be efficiently inefficient:

  • You’ve historically had low staff turnover, but more recently, while turnover is still low you find it increasingly difficult to fill the open roles you do have. Or you may find you fill the roles, but the person hired doesn’t stay for long.
  • Your processes are digitalised, but the digital process mirrors the analogue world. Take checklists for example, which are a necessary routine in our industry. You may well have your checklists in an electronic format, but perhaps they closely mirror the paper version that was used some years ago and haven’t evolved since. And while those checklists may now be stored electronically on a network folder instead of being physically passed from one in-tray to the next, those network folders are an electronic manifestation of the in-trays, rather than anything more advanced.
  • Each process is reliant on just one or two individuals that know how it works end-to-end, or even worse, only one or two individuals that know the process at all. It’s highlighted when these people go on holiday, when instead of your processes continuing as they usually do, it instead stops until their return when the backlog can be worked through. Perhaps the line manager can step in for a time, but this still isn’t resilience.

Modern technology nowadays allows for automation, workflow and processes to be ubiquitous. It allows for processes to be implemented such that they are a routine part of the wider work. It allows for processes to no longer be the domain of a single person. It allows for processes that are truly efficient, that blend into the background allowing your staff more time on work of value.

Perhaps most importantly, they allow for a shift in organisational focus. Instead of being worried about the granularity of detail, by allowing technology to handle the what and the how you’re no longer concerned with ensuring your team knows how a process works. Simply because the technology ensures it always happens the way you need it, at the right time in the right way – every time. Yes, you still need to ensure your processes are well documented, but this then becomes about ensuring you can improve and refine them, rather than ensuring they work and the whole team understands them. They also become processes that can evolve much more readily, than processes that mirror an analogue world.

Put simply, it becomes more about the what and the why

The trust and corporate services markets are undergoing unprecedented change, as 81% of you thought in our Future Focus Report. To ensure your firm isn’t at risk of the cliff-edge, take a step back and ask is my firm efficient, or is it inefficiently efficient? Once you know, you can then take steps to change… before that change gets forced on to you.

About the Author

Simon Witkiss

Simon is Global Head of Product and Marketing at TrustQuay