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On a recent visit back home to India, I had the opportunity to spend some time with EXL’s EXLerator team that is working on how to improve insurance operations and deliver more business value for its clients with a “version 2.0” of EXLerator. From what I saw, this team’s efforts couldn’t be more timely and are in line with what we have outlined in our research as its areas of improvement.
Like the HfS Buyers Guide on EXL suggests, the service provider pursues an industry-led approach to providing business processes, with strong vertical practices in insurance, healthcare, travel and logistics, banking and utilities. The 2015 Insurance As-a-Service Blueprint highlighted EXL’s domain expertise and scale and execution on BPaaS strategies. However, both the Buyers Guide and the Blueprint also pointed out that EXL needed to bring more technology enablement. It has struggled to find footing with technology-enabled BPO that will fundamentally change the way day-to-day operations are run, moving away from the legacy BPO model. In addition, we have heard from clients the message, “great story but give us examples of how it all comes together.” So EXL also needs to convince its clients to come on this journey.
The work-in-progress V2 of the ‘Business EXLerator Framework’ is EXL’s approach to delivering a change in customer and business outcomes for its clients. What stands out to HfS from the visit, is alignment on the HfS Eight ideals of As-a-Service delivery, which we see as the building blocks for more collaborative and business oriented engagements, including:
- Design thinking principles: The EXLerator team highlighted “effortless experience” for insurance customers as one of its key goals. The point, therefore, of EXLerator v2.0 is to give the EXL team a framework for helping clients create “effortless experience” for their stakeholders and clients. Instead of focusing on only traditional process views to make improvements, EXL is starting with comprehensive customer journey maps, taking an insurance customer/agent lens on, for example, lead-to-sale, and then working through the appropriate processes and where and when to use what technology to create that targeted experience.
- Collaborative engagements working towards outcomes: EXL stressed its commitment to improving business outcomes, which are impacted by achieving process outcomes. In this way, EXL is making a distinction between efficiency (and KPIs) and business impact. Confusion between the two is what usually results in the “watermelon effect,” an industry challenge where the service provider delivers on its KPIs, but the services buyer is unhappy with the results of the engagement. Defining and delivering business outcomes comes with its own challenges, but we like the linkages that EXL is making with process outcomes as building blocks to overall business goals. For example, its client, a US personal lines insurer, outlined “cost per quote” as an outcome, which was reduced by 20% by EXL, through a 10% improvement in process accuracy using the EXLerator framework.
- Actionable and accessible data and analytics in core processes: EXL is investing in machine learning and operational analytics as one of the key technologies that will improve core insurance operations with EXLerator v2. The journey maps we saw had clear points of decision making where analytics interventions could make a difference, such as the insights that agents and underwriters need in commercial underwriting. Its EXLerator analytics team sits on the operations floor and receives direct mentorship and guidance from EXL’s analytics practice.
The vision is gradually coming together for EXL as it evaluates how to change its traditional business and drive progressive services engagements that will survive the next 5-10 years of this industry. EXL has invested in developing or acquiring a lot of ‘pieces’ and is known for delivering on analytics, etc. but the EXLerator 2.0 framework looks like it is designed to bring it together to enable a journey with the clients.
Even with this progress, the hard work for EXL – like many of its competitors – starts now. The future is all about driving more intelligent operations that will help enterprises become digital customer-facing organizations. Technology enablement is a big piece of that puzzle and EXL has challenges to overcome in executing on its 2.0 vision. The EXLerator team is still fairly small and will be unable to hit EXL’s entire client base consistently, making those valuable “2.0” experiments slower to roll out. Additionally, its robotic process automation approach is currently hinged squarely on its partnership with Automation Anywhere, with which not all clients are willing to get on board. In its journey to create “effortless experiences” for end customers, EXL must keep working on how to make it easy for clients to join along for the ride.
We started off the new year at HfS with the launch of the Capital Markets Operations Blueprint last week. This is our first coverage of the key dynamics in capital markets and furthers our BFS research on the back of the HfS Mortgage As-a-Service Blueprint mid-last year.
Policies, politics, and structural market challenges are plaguing capital markets firms, raising the stakes in partnerships with service providers
Going into 2017, we find banks and capital markets firms are cautious as they continue to endure a volatile environment with no signs of letting up. Policy ambiguity across the US and European markets, political uncertainty, and structural market changes continue to plague the capital markets industry. Meanwhile, low interest rates and as a consequence, bank margins across sectors have created new waves of cost pressures. Capital markets firms continue to struggle to generate more revenues to counter their rising cost of capital.
To add to this perfect storm, the revenue-generating aspect of this industry is under fire as well. Capital markets firms have had to abandon categories of products due to new regulations. They are more challenged to attract and retain clients that expect different, digitally enabled levels of service with faster turnaround times across the ecosystem, particularly in wealth management. As more big-ticket fines and penalties hit the headlines, public confidence and trust are continuing to erode, and at the same time, the competitor landscape is expanding for the biggest players with the continued success of community banks, regional banks, and fintech disruptors.
Overall, banks and capital markets firms are severely challenged in predicting strategies for long-term sustainability in a changing market and need to have several strategies in play to meet short-term cost pressures. Traditional cost management from cutting back trading desks and providing front-line compensation have not yielded results at the magnitude required to significantly balance profitability.
As a result, we believe that capital markets firms will undergo large-scale operational transformations in 2017 and beyond.
Since the early to mid-2000s, global technology and business services providers have taken over large parts of the back and middle office processes for banks and capital markets clients. They are now in a unique position to help rethink and run more Intelligent Operations as capital markets clients figure out their strategies to tackle these market challenges. Some of the key buyer-service provider dynamics include:
Back Office Processes Continue to Dominate the Services Landscape: The capital markets operations market started a little over a decade ago with back-office BPO processes offshored to IT service providers. Today, these processes are the majority of work engagements, prominent in 63% of contracts in our analysis. Major service areas include clearing and settlement, corporate actions, reconciliations, fund accounting, collateral management, data management and reporting, investor operations, and product control.
- Market Forces and Regulation Stimulating New Demand: With global regulatory bodies placing continual pressure on banks and capital markets firms, there are new areas of opportunity for service providers to step in to help clients meet regulatory compliance requirements in different ways. Regulatory data management and reporting and analytics modeling and model monitoring are some of the biggest areas of growth for service providers.
- Industry Staring at Technology-Driven Change: We see multiple initiatives fighting for prioritization within client stakeholders and service providers’ strategies, all related to technology-enabled service delivery in capital markets’ operational processes. Platform-based services, provided as a utility, are sparking new interest from clients especially as these models promise consolidation and economies of scale across internal LOBs and asset classes. Similarly, clients are also driving automation initiatives within each business, led by robotic process automation and some level of machine learning and predictive analytics to improve operational performance for retained and outsourced functions.
Standardization: We see a sort of “gold rush” for standardization in the foreseeable future of the capital markets operations. Service providers, including new entrants and industry veterans, are in a race to find ways to bring more standardization to overcome the significant challenges in data management. The managing director at a midsize PE firm we interviewed remarked, “Although we all have to do reconciliations, everyone’s built up in a certain way. The challenge for a service provider or market utility is not the actual processing but standardization in the upstream data that has to be fed in from various systems and the downstream outputs to different stakeholders like regulators and clients where the reporting requirements may be different.” Even within the walls of one enterprise client, data metrics, logs, and audit terms and the systems that consume them across businesses are varied. The biggest areas of investment for clients in the next few years will be in consolidating and standardizing processes such as reference data management and reconciliations.
Robotic Process Automation: Along with potential cost savings, one of the biggest business benefits of using intelligent automation technologies is the higher level of accuracy and standardization due to the lack of manual errors. It is no wonder that the new breed of automation tools has caught the attention of capital markets clients. We see a strong appetite for automation with RPA at the forefront. In the next year, we anticipate many more implementations, particularly for processes that have not been offshored yet where big bang savings are more possible. In the medium term, the cognitive capabilities and machine learning projects under way today in areas like due diligence and inquiry management will have matured and created more confidence for conservative buyers. This is a big opportunity for new market entrants to come in with an automation-first strategy for displacing incumbents. The key will be in proving domain knowledge by coming to service buyers with industry-specific use cases and examples; don’t expect them to have done the homework in this emerging area.
Industry Expertise: On the subject of domain experience, we see emerging opportunity for providing ongoing guidance to capital markets clients for the changes in and the impact of regulatory reforms on their operations and compliance needs. They have traditionally sought consultative advice from risk advisories and consulting firms, and our primary research reveals that for many clients, most service providers are not perceived by key client stakeholders as experienced enough to take on those advisory roles. We anticipate more acquisitions and strategic partnerships by service providers to bridge this gap as multiple clients in our research state that they would find value in getting advisory input from experienced operations partners.
Overall, banks and capital markets firm in our Blueprint research highlighted – and evaluated—the need for a collaborative service provider that is willing to take risks on critical new initiatives that they plan to roll out in the next 12-18 months.
Bottom Line: Whether it’s automation-led, pure-play BPO services, platform investments to drive BPaaS and/or market utilities, or bringing experienced consultants to address regulatory concerns, this high-stakes market demands service providers that are willing to take risks and invest for the long term.
For more details –including visuals of the market activity and analyses of the service providers—click here to access and download the HfS Capital Markets Operations Blueprint. The service providers included in this report include Capgemini, Cognizant, EXL, Genpact, HCL, Hexaware, Infosys, NIIT Technologies, Syntel, TCS, Tech Mahindra, WNS and Wipro.
Arvato just announced its acquisition of Bangalore-based Ramyam Innovation Lab, whose stated mantra is to make customers “raving fans” by enabling contact center staff to have valuable customer information at their fingertips. Ramyam’s key asset is its omnichannel platform, Enliven CEM. The platform integrates various communication channels such as email, chat, voice and social media, and uses interaction information to generate individual customer profiles. This is layered with analytics and dashboards; the analytics model aspires to manage customer journeys with “context-based decisioning” in real time, helping agents more proactively solve customer problems.
Our research shows that in this race toward providing digital customer experience, most of the leading customer experience management companies are taking a stab at providing omnichannel customer services. Major CEM providers are starting to/have figured out their strategies for developing 360 customer views that would provide insights to improve contact center effectiveness. To provide progressive omnichannel service support, a CEM service provider needs a strong framework for the underlying data and technology, and that’s what this acquisition is about. Most are taking a third-party approach to enabling the technology, but Arvato’s move provides it an opportunity to have better integration and perhaps move towards providing CEM As-a-Service in the future.
Arvato’s approach is admirable, especially where it affords the company an inroad to one of its key growth markets in India. Ramyam’s highlighted consumer-facing verticals of telecom, retail, banking and travel are key industries for omnichannel customer communication. This also is some much-needed publicity for Arvato, which has fallen behind its customer experience management competitors in thought leadership and demonstrated investment in innovation.
However, all of these buzzwords around omnichannel are used so often and heavily (i.e. “next generation analytics-driven actionability, enabling service providers to deliver superior experience and engagement to their customers”) that they are becoming diluted, making it harder for service providers to carve out a real differentiator with these platforms. Arvato’s assertion that this capability creates “a distinct competitive advantage” is disillusioned. To create differentiation, it will need to use this acquisition to craft and articulate an As-a-Service on-demand, flexible strategy for providing customer experience management—one that provides a single contract with well-defined business outcomes by leveraging technology platforms, data and insights and omnichannel customer support functions.
The bottom line: Kudos to Arvato for making an investment in a young, emerging tech startup with some solid customer experience thinking. But the messaging needs some maturing to really highlight the differentiation that Ramyam can bring to the table.
Whether the combination can help turn Arvato’s end customers into raving fans, we’ll wait and see.
Wipro has recently been firing on all cylinders to get going on its ‘drive the future’ strategy for growth. We wrote about their smart move on acquiring Appirio with the opportunity to bring together consulting, IT integration, BPO, and global delivery scale. From my recent conversations with its analytics leaders, I’ve seen a similar “combination” strategy resonate around Wipro’s analytics stack.
Wait, what is RPA symphony and why does my shared service center need it? This blog is about exactly that - the use of robotic process automation (RPA) by shared services centers, where we found two different but equally effective approaches that share a few common traits. I learned these stories on the RPA panel at the NASSCOM BPS Summit in Bangalore a couple of months ago and followed up with the speakers to learn a little more. Capturing the essence of the two practitioner experiences from global in-house centers, we have the following approaches to getting started with RPA:
IBM’s Watson has come a long way since winning a Jeopardy contest in 2011. While popular games remain a benchmark for advances in Artificial Intelligence as seen in Google’s DeepMind winning at Go, Watson’s capabilities have evolved strongly. So much so that IBM is betting much of its fundamental transformation on the deep investments in the development of Watson. Thus, Watson has become a key strategic pillar for IBM next to cloud and Bluemix. Having had the opportunity to attend the World of Watson in Las Vegas, one couldn’t help to notice the scale of the evolving ecosystem as more of 17,000 people attended the gathering. Suffice it to say but the scale also references the complexity of the evolving ecosystem.
Charting the complexity of the evolving Watson ecosystem
The issue that struck us the most in Las Vegas was the comprehensiveness (put positively) or complexity (put slightly more negatively) of the various Watson offerings. The core Watson Cognitive Platform is composed of four components: cloud, content, compute, and conversation. From a service delivery perspective, the two key components are conversation and content. Within the conversational services, Watson Conversation enables developers to create dynamic interactions and custom applications using the full spectrum of Watson services.
Service providers in the last decade have made significant efforts to pivot from commoditized IT and BPO services to more "higher value" services like research and analytics. We know this has been the direction of the industry up to today. Analytics services have had the fortuitous blend of:
- higher margins
- rapid market growth and demand
- evolving offerings/scope for differentiation
- the potential to make big impacts on clients’ business performance
HfS analysts recently attended Wipro Digital’s first analyst and advisor day event in the U.S., and our collective first impressions could summed up into, “Ok, they get digital, and what it means for enterprises, but are they articulating exactly how they’re going to market on it – and will clients understand?”
The mantra that this group articulated is to think it - design it - build it – run it. Wipro has traditionally been associated with the last two of those battle cries, and is making investments and efforts to climb up the ladder on the first two. With its acquisition of design firm Designit, it has a new set of capabilities, organizational practices and culture that it has started to draw from. As importantly, it is hoping to leverage the agency’s design positioning and brand identity for Wipro Digital – and perhaps Wipro as a whole.
EXL just announced its acquisition of IQR Consulting, a small but fast-growing marketing and risk analytics service provider to the banking industry. This follows EXL’s acquisition of RPM Direct early last year to augment its insurance data and analytics portfolio (read more in our coverage here), which it is also starting to use in healthcare. With IQR, EXL is continuing its focus on adding analytics and data assets with a vertical flavor.
Have you ever had a meal that tickled your intellectual curiosity, delighted your sensory perceptions and of course, sated your appetite? Challenged your concepts of what a restaurant should be and what it should deliver? That’s what Chef Grant Achatz and his team at Alinea, Chicago are trying to create— over and over again. Much as I would like to have had the actual experience, it was while watching an episode of Chef’s Table that I saw eerily familiar themes– concepts we talk and write about in the services outsourcing industry everyday.