Transformation is a top priority for COOs


Belinda Nicholas

A BNP Paribas Securities Services global survey shows that chief operating officers (COOs) are more focused than ever on growth and transformation, reflecting financial institutions’ drive to adapt to change.

In APAC the trend towards transformation was most pronounced, with 56% of COOs feeling that one of the areas in which their work adds the most value is delivering transformation or significant change projects, compared with a global average of just 39% of COOs who said the same. 

Key findings – overall

  • While risk management remains a key part of the role (cited by 42% of respondents), COOs said that driving growth opportunities, including new products and services (52%), and delivering transformational and significant change projects (39%), have become essential.
  • This trend is particularly marked in APAC where 56% of COOs ranked transformation as their top priority (vs. 26% in North America).
  • COOs overwhelmingly recognise the role IT has to play in driving transformation. 68% of COOs say they collaborate closely or very closely with IT. 38% say they want greater collaboration with technology and IT departments.
  • COOs globally recognise that they cannot simply rely on technology alone. Asked what could help drive transformation projects and business growth, 67% of COOs said upskilling the workforce while 60% said spending time with clients.

Key findings – Asia Pacific

  • Over two-thirds (68%) of APAC COOs want a different title – with “Chief Change Officer” the preferred alternative.
  • 52% of APAC respondents said they wanted closer collaboration with technology and IT departments.
  • 37% of APAC COOs have technology or IT teams reporting to them, compared with 24% of COOs globally.
  • 62% of APAC COOs think change projects will become one of the areas they spend most of their time.

Key findings – buy-side

Highlighting the increasing competition and ongoing digital transformation in the asset management industry:

  • 63% of asset manager COOs cited increased competition in the market as a key challenge.
  • 59% of asset manager COOs said they saw themselves spending more time on delivering change projects in future (vs. 43% overall). Nearly a quarter (24%) would prefer to be called chief change officer (vs. 10% overall).
  • 61% of asset manager COOs said they were looking for closer collaboration with IT or technology departments (vs. 38% overall). Furthermore, asset manager COOs were most likely to come from technology or IT backgrounds (35%), whereas COOs across financial services were more likely to come from finance or accounting backgrounds.

Key findings – sell-side

COOs in sell-side organisations show renewed focus on performance, growth and costs, after previously focusing on implementing new regulations:

  • 56% of sell-side COOs cited commercial acumen as the most important competency to have in the future (vs. 38% on the buy-side) – a twofold increase compared to today.
  • 42% of sell-side COOs saw themselves spending more time on realising cost savings in future (vs. 32% currently).
  • Sell-side COOs were most likely to feel the COO title is still relevant. Only half of respondents felt an alternative (such as chief strategy of transformation officer) was more appropriate (vs. 66% on the buy-side).

Belinda Nicholas, BNP Paribas Securities Services’ Head of Relationship Management, said: “BNP Paribas has a long history of working with COOs, whose responsibilities are wide-ranging and continue to expand. As the operating environment in Australia has become increasingly competitive, collaboration with technology is seen as a key amplifier of business performance. As asset owners and managers outsource more, our report found that a key priority for COOs is harnessing data and technology to support better investment decisions and add greater value for members and investors.”

Read the report: The Future COO: Evolution or Revolution? report. It is based on interviews with 250 financial services COOs worldwide. Interviews were conducted in Q4 2019.

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