Heard at Ops: Protiviti’s Keith Zielenski on new tech adoption and upskilling

As part of the Heard at Ops series with top operations and technology leaders, Keith Zielenski, Managing Director at Protiviti, talks about keeping up with new technologies and why upskilling is critical to operational resilience.

Q. Operational resiliency is a top industry priority. What should firms keep in mind as processes are being modernized internally and across the securities industry?

A. Your disaster recovery preparation and business continuity plans need to keep up with new technologies, which can be a challenge because technology advancement is at a pace that we’ve never seen before. Your operations team must be knowledgeable about the firm’s new platforms to have the capability to stand it back up and recover in the event of an incident. It’s also important for your team to continue to build on your recovery plans as no two incidents are alike. It’s critical to be able to recover from all types of events.

Q. How do you see the role of the operations professional evolving to keep up with advances in technology and ensure resiliency?

A. The operations professional needs to be very close to the adoption of those new technologies, so the skill sets gained through the integration or implementation of new tech can be applied to activities that strengthen resiliency. It’s a big task ahead: teams will continue to execute on operations, but now they must also learn new platforms and make corrections, as necessary.

With only so many hours in the day, operations teams should have talent that is dedicated to learning these new skills and scaling them across new platforms.

Q. Describe some of the other challenges that operations teams may need to plan for.

A. Resiliency can be challenging for those firms that are in the middle of transitioning to the cloud because your capability could be on premise at one point, with other portions in the cloud. It’s important to know how to stand back up, no matter where you are in the process. After the transformation is complete and you become cloud-based, resiliency will be easier because the cloud provides a lot of protection against issues that could trigger your business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

Another challenge is the staffing issue and retaining operations professionals – with their skills and knowledge – as well as keeping teams intact. The adoption of new technologies can slow down if talent leaves.

Q. How does connecting with SIFMA help you?

A. The SIFMA Ops Conference is an insightful series of discussions. There are hundreds of operations professionals sharing current and future challenges as well as ways to address issues – and I have gained a lot of insight, especially into regulatory and governance challenges. With regulatory bodies continuing to evolve their requirements and guidance, it has been interesting to learn how different companies of all sizes are pivoting and addressing regulations effectively while also remaining focused on resiliency.

Keith Zielenski is a Managing Director at global consulting firm Protiviti.