The global pandemic has completely changed the way collateral management professionals conduct business. The all-remote work environment has altered the typical fintech project. While many of these changes have been difficult at times to manage for both the client and the vendor, the work-from-home model has allowed additional flexibility, benefiting upgrades and implementations. As we look forward to some type of return to work “normal” in the coming months there are some positive changes which have emerged in the new project landscape.
The traditional project model has a professional services (vendor) team like mine engaging with a client for a new product platform or an upgrade of existing capabilities. As requirements are gathered, the vendor becomes completely familiar with the client’s existing daily workflows. Once these processes are clear our engagement quickly moves toward training. Client and vendor will work together, typically for a few weeks, to make sure that the output of current processes performed at a client are delivered in the vendor’s offering in a more automated and controlled fashion. Continued testing and often production parallel running will occur just prior to the magical day known as “Go-Live” and all aspects of the cutover run smoothly.
Please note my quick outline of a typical project contains very high-level observations with some light humor on a usual client engagement. I want to illustrate a few interesting observations on some of the client engagements taking place with COVID-19 sitting as a backdrop.
Mass transit and busy highways for now are not part of my daily routine. I have become that teenager working from his basement. (My teenage daughters of course belie that lie!) Commute time could be measured in seconds, down from 90 minutes. The laptop is always on in the basement office and after a quick cup of coffee from the Keurig I’m in place to begin my day. With many of our clients as well as internal colleagues based in both Europe and Asia, a good deal of email traffic takes place during the overnight hours in the USA. Having a 90 minute head start to engage in those communications delivers a higher level of efficiency as well as a slight ease on my brain in the early morning period usually spent on a train and unable to completely participate. For what amounts to effectively extended working hours, overall project efficiencies are being obtained as response wait-time is reduced.
Early day hours are also a much better time to really catch up with internal colleagues even if it is just for a few minutes. The day has not had a chance to fill-up and calendars sometimes may yield 30 minutes or so even if it’s just to discuss Netflix or home power tools - some of the topics recently covered by my team’s check-ins. (I recommend “ Ozark” and some people are inordinately happy about their power washer purchase…)
Until March my evening commute home from the office took about 90 minutes door-to-door. However, it’s rare that I’m able to come straight home. I have two daughters who are quite active in sports. I’m usually instructed to make multiple stops at basketball gyms and swimming pools to collect my girls as well as other members of various carpool groups and neighbors. This usually puts me in the car for an additional 40 minutes. Only after a hot dinner and a cold drink am I able to check emails received since leaving the office that sometimes require immediate attention. Of course, an i-Phone equipped with collaboration tools make responding at least rather easy. The fact that my laptop is plugged in and connected instead of in the coat closet or my car makes a tremendous difference. When hands on activity or face-to-face (screen) interaction is needed after-hours it’s much easier to flip a switch and connect with colleagues 12 hours ahead of me to address a point raised by a client 3 hours behind me.
I am not claiming to be a superhuman SME available 24 hours a day to test, check, speak, implement, demo, document or replicate all points of collateral management workflows from my basement. I’m recognizing how the added flexibility of remote working has enhanced many aspects of projects and deliveries. In most projects the teams we are training are business or end users who are still responsible for maintaining production duties in addition to the testing and training required during any type of upgrade or implementation. They must divide their day between PROD and UAT. The UAT part of the day for our clients usually occurs after production tasks are closed out. Margin call activity has spiked dramatically during this pandemic. The impetus for the spike is volatile market activity, increased CCP requirements and buffer- and threshold-triggers never previously approached. At times the testing and training opportunity suffers as production issues take over, pushing UAT to late day time slots. This schedule leads to many questions and training points that come during the late stages of a normal business day. Basement working can improve response time!
All VERMEG’s Colline Professional Services team members have worked in line and managerial roles of large FCM’s. We understand the challenges of maintaining production business in addition to a testing and training environment. We are committed to delivering our products and the new flexible remote working environment we all find ourselves in can allow for quicker responses and reduce downtime waiting for time zones and resources to overlap. Now, back to my Keurig.
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