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What to do when your Operations role is at risk

By: Cynthia Cheung, Banking and Financial Services 
Published first in Just Finance News - Asia Edition 

Operations has traditionally been a stepping stone for fresh analysts looking to gain product and hands-on experience within the financial services sector. However, operational roles are also cost centres at the end of the day. This means that these functions are at risk of being outsourced to lower cost countries or if possible, automated.

The best example is the traditional operations function – Settlements, Reconciliations and Confirmations. A few years back, these were separate functions with teams of 5 to 10 per function per product. But if you look at the actual work duties, you find that they are highly manual and add little value.

The first step was to move them to lower cost centres. Hong Kong and Singapore made great headwinds over a decade ago when America, UK and Australia outsourced the functions there, as labour was cheaper and the quality was not compromised. But as these cities become more expensive, companies will again pivot towards outsourcing or automation. In the last four years, we have seen a major shift towards moving these functions to shared service centres in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Bangalore and Pune. And this will just continue.

So what can you do to ensure you remain competitive in the job market?

Move to a smaller set-up
Operations in small set-ups are usually run by a team of 1-3pax. Private equity, hedge funds and asset management firms are great options. The operations function is usually too small to outsource and automation is not required yet. Keep in mind competition is fierce and you would need to have hands-on experience in all functions within the trade lifecycle. You may need to compromise salary for stability.

Learn a technical skill
For those who are more introverted and are more mathematical/logical, try to take online courses in coding. The most in-demand language being Python and VBA. We are seeing a growing trend towards data analytics within the operations function and a popular requirement is proficiency in Python and VBA (* Note: this is strictly referring to Operations, not Technology).

Beginner courses are generally free online – check out udemy and codecademy.

Improve a soft skill
Not everyone is meant to code and for those who have zero interest in it, there are other ways to remain competitive. The human element is still preferred by clients, and financial institutions are always looking to improve their customer service levels in order to remain competitive. By using your existing product and process knowledge with communication and stakeholder management skills, you can carve a niche for yourself either within client services or change management (again, referring to Operations)

To build on soft skills, try joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking and communication skills. It also helps build confidence. Being an international club, it’s a great place to network.

The key takeaway is, invest in yourself because in today’s market, situations are always changing and the small amount of time you dedicate to improving yourself pays off in the long run.

Note: This advice does not cover CFA, MBA and other qualifications as these may not necessarily benefit all, unless you have a clear career path in mind and the qualifications are must-have requirements to get you there.

To discuss your operations and change management career in Asia's banking and financial services sector, feel free to contact Ethos BeathChapman.

Search here for operations and change management jobs within the banking and financial services sector.

About Ethos BeathChapman, EBC:

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