Why we need to pay more attention to user experience

While the industry may have upped its game a little in terms of client experience, Virginie O’Shea, founder of Firebrand Research, argues firms haven’t focused nearly enough on internal systems and their user experience.

This week, I’m launching my first full research cluster around the topic of corporate actions data and processing and one of the key findings on the operations and technology side is that we really need to think more about the user experience and its impact and relation to staff churn.

Now, I’m afraid corporate actions is a bastion of industry inefficiency overall and an area that no firm really wants to spend technology budget (those two things are very much related). It’s viewed as a cost of doing business and given some of the ancient platforms that live in this realm, digital transformation here is slow and project risk is high.

But we really need to think about the continued reliance on manual processes in a space that faces exceptionally high staff churn and, frankly, an ageing workforce.

Just imagine, if you will, what it must be like for a new starter going in to work within corporate actions:

  • You have to learn a whole raft of new terminology that is incredibly complex and not transferable to many, if any, other areas of the business.
  • Days are filled with repetitive boring tasks such as re-keying information from unstructured documents.
  • If you make a small mistake, the cost could be significant to your organisation and you will likely lose your job.
  • The office technology with which you have to interact often feels like something out of the 1980s. For example, you have to use a fax or scanner to send and receive messages with certain market participants—something the new generation of employees have never likely seen in their personal life.
  • Certain peak months are so hectic that you have to work late into the night.
  • The pay compared to functions in the front-office or data science, for example, is much lower.
  • The processing systems you are have to use every day take weeks to learn and understand and that’s on top of understanding the processes and corporate actions terminology.
  • The user experience is often so poor that often nothing is intuitive – there are lots of screens to scroll back and forth on to find the data you need, it takes endless clicks and popup screens to perform relatively simple tasks, the list could go on.

Is it any wonder that the corporate actions space is facing a decline in qualified staff?

The simple fact is that given the current lack of harmonisation across markets and the seemingly endless complexity of some of these events, certain manual processes are unavoidable. So how do we make the best use of employees’ time? How do we prevent these new trainees from getting out of Dodge as quickly as humanly possible?

As an industry, we’ve upped our game a little in terms of client experience (if you ask me, we still have a long way to go there too), but we haven’t focused nearly enough on our internal systems and their user experience. The same things we’re applying to our client-facing front ends should also apply to our heavy operational systems.

If we want to reduce operational risk, focus on automating as much as possible and making the manual tasks as simple and easy as possible to carry out. You shouldn’t have to train for months to understand how to perform these tasks and the front end shouldn’t be headache-inducing. Corporate actions may be one of the worst performers in the market when it comes to UX but it isn’t the only one. Post-trade systems could all do with a facelift and a functional overhaul – but that takes money and C-suite executives need to sign off on the upgrades and investments needed to make this happen. Forget about next gen technology for a second, focus on the basics.

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