Heard at Ops: Kyndryl’s Soneel Raj on operations facing an inflection point and how to evolve

As part of the Heard at Ops series with top operations and technology leaders, Soneel Raj, US General Manager for Financial Services at Kyndryl, explains why operations teams are at an inflection point and how they can evolve.

Q. Why are operations teams at an inflection point?

A. As we look at what’s happening across the spectrum – from regulatory changes all the way to how technologies are advancing, how banks or just the industry in general can operate – we see several things happening that potentially have opportunities for transformation: how technology is being leveraged, how organizations are evolving their operating models, and how the industry is reshaping to better serve clients and users.

As firms strive to be more nimble and competitive in the marketplace, they also need to look at how to build out technology to support the operational nature of the business, drive costs down, and provide more efficiency and productivity. That legacy technology stack is providing a decent challenge from a cost – as well as a roadmap – standpoint: 67% of Fortune 100 companies and most of the financial services industry still work with or depend on mainframes.

Q. How are operations leaders changing their models to keep up with the speed of market participants’ demand and an evolving marketplace?

A. It depends on how your lines of business are set up. Driving transparency across each of these lines of business means you have an end-to-end view of not just the line of business, but also across product lines. And that means the operating models must evolve. From a location standpoint, given the last two years, we have seen that our staff cannot come into work every day. So how do you support a hybrid model? And how do you start to think about leveraging technologies that allow you to work in an agile way across the spectrum of onshore, nearshore, and offshore types of models?

Operations managers must think about how to evolve the service model, the operating model, and attract and retain talent.

And not just thinking about operations as a processing capability, but more of driving better, high-value capabilities – where they are a little bit more technologically savvy and able to write their own scripts – and outcomes for the business. That’s an example of how operations is evolving and needs to continually evolve.

Q. Where do you see the greatest challenge in the industry right now?

A. I believe the biggest challenge is the ability to balance requirements from a regulatory standpoint and from the standpoint of what you are providing your clients – to use the opportunity of complying with regulations to also serve our clients better. There needs to be a balance across that spectrum.

The cost of doing business is going up. There are opportunities in the industry to bring in partners that deliver in a way that allow us to scale better in terms of resiliency and future capabilities.

In addition, it is becoming difficult to find and keep talent. We need to think about how we can excite people, to give them more intellectually stimulating work, create environments in which they are constantly learning, but also enable them to retool and reskill.

Q. How does connecting with SIFMA help you and the industry?

A. The opportunity to come together helps participants to share ideas and discuss how we can do things better – not necessarily for the sake of driving costs down, but from the perspective of resiliency and better industry output.

You also hear from each participant their view of how the industry is evolving and how they are responding to regulatory and operational challenges. Whether you actively participate in the market or are a service provider, this is a great forum for the industry to share roadmaps and see where the common opportunities for success are.

Soneel Raj is US General Manager for Financial Services at Kyndryl.