Driving change tops priority list for Asia-Pacific COOs
Most see increased focus on technology and change projects as key to boosting growth
20 Feb 2020 | The Asset

Chief operating officers (COOs) at financial institutions are more than ever focused on growth and transformation, and the trend towards transformation is most pronounced in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a BNP Paribas Securities Services global survey.

Globally, 52% of COOs surveyed list driving growth as their top work priority, followed by managing risk, which garnered 42%,  and driving change, 39%.  However, in contrast to their global counterparts, driving change is identified as the top priority of 56% of Asia-Pacific COOs, with only 26% of those in North America doing likewise.

Technology is widely recognized as playing a significant role in driving change, with globally 68% of COOs saying they need to collaborate closely or very closely with their technology or IT departments to achieve this, and 38% of them want even greater collaboration.

However, the COOs recognize that technology alone can’t drive change, with 67% identifying upskilling their workforce, and 60% pointing to spending time with clients, as key to helping drive transformation projects and business growth.

The survey also notes various issues that are of importance to Asia-Pacific COOs, namely 68% want a different title with the preferred alternative being chief change officer (CCOs). Slightly over half want more collaboration with technology and IT departments, while only 37% have technology teams reporting to them, 13% higher than the average for their global counterparts. A majority, 62%, foresee change projects as the area in which they will spend most of their time.

On the buy side, COOs, or possibly future CCOs, in the asset management industry highlight increased competition and ongoing digital transformation as their key challenges.  A majority of global asset manager COOs, 63%, cite increased market competition as their main challenge, while 61% of them want more collaboration with IT departments. And 59% of COO asset managers see themselves spending more time on delivering change in the future, versus only 39% of COOs overall.

COOs in sell-side organizations show renewed focus on performance, growth and costs, after previously focusing on implementing new regulations. A majority of sell-side asset manager COOs, 56%, cite commercial acumen as the most important competency to have in the future, versus only 38% of them on the buy side.

And 42% of sell-side COOs see themselves spending more time on realizing cost savings in the future, versus 32% on the buy side. Most feel the title of COO is still relevant, with only half of respondents feeling an alternative title such as chief strategy of transformation officer is more appropriate, compared with 66% of those on the buy side.

“As someone who has worked closely with COOs, I see first-hand the challenges they face, especially when it comes to the rapid pace of transformation in our region,” says Diana Senanayake, BNP Paribas’s chief executive officer for Singapore and Southeast Asia. “Given the fast rate of growth in Asia, COOs need to be able to implement new strategies rapidly, and new technologies will be a strong enabler and drive this transformation.”

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