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7 steps to planning client onboarding and CLM change

2021 will be a challenging but critical year for financial organisations wanting to deliver change within client onboarding and client lifecycle management (CLM). Covid and the fear of a global recession have dramatically increased the need for digital transformation, automation and streamlined processes, and there is no doubt that banks have to respond. The challenge, of course, is that we’re also in a time of tightening budgets so organisations have to be focused on maximising their return on investment from a limited set of resources

So how do financial institutions ensure their finite resources are focused on the ‘right’ client onboarding and CLM initiatives for 2021? 

1. Align with the organisation’s strategic goals and current environment

Many organisations are currently undergoing structural changes driven by reasons such as the adoption of a more customer-centric approach, the need to increase efficiencies and reduce costs, or the requirement to reduce risk. While many financial institutions want to achieve all these outcomes over time, generally there is a single overriding priority at a given time.

As you consider your plan for 2021, are you clear on your own organisation’s goals and have you communicated how your plans support them? For example, if the organisation is looking to reduce costs and you are considering implementing a new CLM system, you should consider the operational and compliance savings that could be achieved, as well as if there is a positive revenue impact.

The more closely you are aligned to your organisation’s goals, and the more clearly you can articulate how your plans support them, the more likely you are to secure budget and buy in.

2. Articulate a clear vision 

Ideally, you should have a clear vision for how you want to develop your CLM capabilities, from accelerating the onboarding process, to developing a single view of the customer, to delivering continuous KYC processes or high levels of automation. This vision should set out how you want these processes to look in 3-5 years’ time, and the key capabilities you want to enhance. This should be documented and communicated to the team on a regular basis – a task that we know can be very challenging due to both BAU activity and immediate priority management.

A clear articulation of where you want to be and when helps you and your team stay focused. It helps you prioritise projects effectively and gain buy in. At a minimum, it is worth considering where you want to be by the end of the 2021 and communicate these goals to ensure everyone is on the same page. This provides the foundations for your planning for 2021.

3. Understand the full portfolio of current and planned initiatives

Do you have a clear view of all the initiatives that need to be considered in your plans for next year? It may seem like a relatively simple question, but there is a lot to think about here.

The critical part is that you need to uncover everything that your team will be spending their time on. This will include:

  • Mandatory projects, such as regulatory change and internal audit / regulator driven projects – for example KYC refresh and remediation.
  • In-flight projects, understanding which of these (or elements of) are going to slip into next year.
  • Strategic initiatives, those programmes of work which help to transform/change the organisation – these may include ones around automation, outsourcing, or new technology system implementation.
  • Backlog items, such as the projects, enhancements, fixes and other initiatives that have been previously considered but not yet prioritised; and
  • Other projects, for example large cross-organisation efforts which may require time and effort from your team.

This is critical in ensuring you are are creating a realistic plan for next year and will enable you to identify any gaps, particularly around resourcing and budgets. If you understand your team’s commitments at this level of detail, it will help you effectively communicate budget requirements, and critically, allow you to articulate the impact if the required budget is not allocated.

4. Define the scope, timeframes, ROI and resourcing required

It can be a challenge to find the time to properly plan and scope your future initiatives.  However, the more that can be done at this early stage, the more beneficial it will be later. At a minimum, each initiative under consideration should be assigned an owner and each owner should complete a project initiation document to capture some critical information.

For instance, if you are considering a project around KYC automation, you would aim to develop a high-level understanding of the scope, key business requirements, current process, expected costs and benefits, systems impacted, estimated timeline, key risks and dependencies, and finally, the resources and skills needed for this specific initiative.

While this approach supports the prioritisation of initiatives and budgeting allocation, it is also a critical exercise in enabling your team to think through what they need to achieve next year and what they need for a successful outcome.

5. Communicate benefits and value

In a time where budgets are very tight, you must be able to answer ‘why’ you need the funds. And that answer must clearly articulate the value or return on investment that will be delivered to the organisation. You should aim to express the benefits from both a qualitative and a quantitative point of view, ensuring you can describe the holistic improvements the investment will bring alongside a $ amount on the return that will be delivered.

An important point here is that you need to be able to measure what you do today. If you’re building a case for efficiency or productivity saving, you need to measure the reduction in time taken, increase in overall speed, or reduction in costs. If you’re building a case for reduced risk, you need to show how your project will demonstrably reduce losses – either from fines, fraud, or reputation through high-profile breaches.

We always recommend that is conducted at the individual project level to ensure you understand how the benefits are attributable across your portfolio and the value of each individual ask.

6. Identify your resourcing requirements

As part of the planning process it should become clear whether your current resourcing can meet future demands. In 2021, unsurprisingly, there will be a clear incentive to use internal resources wherever possible. We recommend you consider resourcing from the perspectives of capacity, experience, expertise and skills. Do you have enough resources to deliver your plan? Do they possess the right level of experience and expertise to deliver successfully? Are you confident you can deliver?

To get the full picture, you should include your FTEs as well as any contractors and consultants you use in your resourcing analysis. This is also an opportunity to reflect on current or past performance to identify whether you are getting good value for money from your contractors and consultants, or whether you need to make a change. Your goal should be to identify any resourcing gaps, allowing you to plan and budget appropriately. This may lead you to identifying FTE and contractor hiring needs, as well as what you will require from existing or potentially new consulting suppliers.

We recommend that you use specialist resources where possible to maximise value on your spend on external support. These specialists can supplement your team to deliver your change agenda.

7. Get ready to hit the ground running by preparing now

One common theme across the industry is that the challenges of 2020 are still front of mind, meaning that many will only switch their focus to 2021 in January. Delaying the ramp-up and mobilisation of projects will impact the ability to get the right resources and teams. This may delay activity by three months or more, meaning that initiatives will only start in Q2, leaving nine months or less to deliver the plan for the year.

We see the most successful organisations maintaining their discipline and continuing the planning process after their budgets have been submitted, while actively preparing for the projects that will kick-off early in 2021. They are conducting scoping exercises; engaging other business areas; developing joint plans and gaining commitment to timelines, suppliers and resources; navigating any procurement, legal or contract issues; and managing the internal politics to drive a successful outcome for the year.

Your planning should help pinpoint any gaps and risks, and help demonstrate how budgetary decisions may impact your ability to deliver. Ultimately, having addressed the above key areas you should be comfortable that your finite resources are focused on the ‘right’ initiatives and that your team is able to deliver successfully throughout the year.



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