IBM Institute for Business Value
By Daniel Latimore, Ian Watson and Greg Robinson
Restructuring costs rationally for long-term
competitiveness in financial markets
In 2001, securities industry revenues dipped dramatically
the largest decline
in 20 years
and spurred a similar drop in profit margins. In the near term,
securities firms have tried to prop up margins by reducing capacity. However,
long-term competitiveness depends on altering a company’s cost structure
permanently. Three strategic initiatives promise the type of far-reaching change
that is required to rein in costs today …and position firms favorably for the
next market upturn.
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1 Introduction
1 Eliminating excess capacity will not
be enough
3 Establishing an efficient cost
structure: A competitive advantage
4 Straight-through processing:
Start small; start now
6 IT delivery optimization:
Decrease duplication
9 IT outsourcing: Preserve
financial flexibility
11 Implementing a type II strategy
12 Assessing your efficiency
12 It’s time
For the securities industr y, 2001 was the worst year in a generation. At New York Stock
Exchange (NYSE) member firms, revenues fell by 20 percent, the largest drop in the last
two decades.
1, 2
Even during the last major revenue dip in 1990, revenues declined only
10 percent.
But even before the recent revenue freefall, there were signs of trouble. Between 1996 and
2000, expense increases outpaced revenue growth by 10 basis points.
Pretax profit margins
at top-tier firms declined even more severely than the rest of the industr y— contracting
by 50 percent between 2000 and 2001.
When revenue was growing 10 percent annually, rising
costs seemed less ominous. However, with revenues deteriorating, the growing imbalance can
no longer be ignored.
With top-line growth stalled, financial markets firms have only one avenue for increasing
shareholder value in the near term: reducing costs. Scrutinizing budgets and trimming surplus
capacity — although necessary — will not be enough to produce margins that satisfy anxious
stockholders. In fact, research at the IBM Institute for Business Value indicates that top-tier
fir ms may need to cut overall costs by as much as 16 percent simply to regain previous
profit levels.
Eliminating excess capacity will not be enough
As they have done during past market downturns, securities firms initially responded
to margin pressure by reducing headcount and cutting compensation. Between Februar y
20 01 and February 2002, Wall Street cut 43 000 jobs — the largest reduction in 25 years.
In 2001, investment-banking bonuses were slashed to half of their 2000 levels.
reactions are not surprising because, on average, compensation comprises almost 60 percent
of a securities firm’s noninterest expense.
Yet, not all cost-cutting measures carry equal weight. Cost-reduction strategies generally fall
into one of two categories: type I strategies, which reduce costs by reducing capacity, or type II
strategies, which drive savings by improving efficiency.
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Besides the typical first-wave cost-cutting measures already mentioned (pay cuts and layoffs),
type I strategies also include initiat ives s uch a s consolidating locations, exiting geographic
markets and reducing the number of services or products offered. In contrast, type II
cost-reduction strategies enable long-term efficiency gains by lowering the price of inputs
(switching data providers, adopting open-source software or relocating specific operations
offshore), streamlining operations (perfor ming processes electronically or centralizing support
functions) or reducing infrastructure costs (optimizing or outsourcing IT support). These two
types of strategies can be further differentiated by their business impact (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Cost-reduction strategies: type I versus type II.
Source: IBM Institute for Business Value.
But, the most important distinction between the two types of strategies is the difference in
their impact once business picks up again. Although the payoff for reductions in capacity may
be quick, it will not — in and of itself — return margins to their historical levels. Compounding
the problem, type I initiatives can actually hamper a fir m’s ability to grow as the economy
revives. In contrast, type II strategies require more upfront investment and take some time
to implement, but they allow a company to make permanent changes to its cost structure —
helping improve its financial position now and, perhaps more importantly, offering a source
of competitive advantage as the market rebounds (see Figure 2).
Type I
Type II
Effect on revenue potential
Neutral to negative
Neutral to positive
Investment required
Minimal to substantial
Time until impact
Short- to long-term
Supports long-term, strategic goals No
Execution risk
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Figure 2. Type I strategies move a company down the cost curve; type II strategies shift the
company’s cost curve down.
Source: IBM Institute for Business Value.
Establishing an efficient cost structure: A competitive advantage
As financial markets firms contemplate more substantive cost-reduction measures that funda-
mentally alter their current cost structures, they will likely encounter a wide variety of type II
improvement possibilities. The IBM Institute for Business Value recommends a closer look at
three specific areas that show significant potential for long-term efficiency gains:
• Straight-through processing (STP) — By optimizing and automating processes related to the
performance and confirmation of securities trades and other financial transactions, the IBM
Institute for Business Value estimates that a company can eliminate 10 to 20 percent of
its back-office expense.
• Information technology (IT) delivery optimization — Inventorying IT infrastructure,
identifying redundancies and redesigning the IT organization, processes and technology can
lead to a 20- to 30-percent reduction in IT delivery costs without sacrificing flexibility or
• IT outsourcing — Through the use of third-party vendors for development, management and
maintenance of technology systems and personnel, firms can lower IT costs by as much as
five percent and, more importantly, make a sizable portion of their fixed IT costs variable.
Although initiatives in any one of these three areas would likely provide worthwhile gains,
firms often uncover additional synergies by combining elements from multiple efforts into a
comprehensive cost-optimization portfolio.
Type II: Shift the cost curve down
Type I: Move down cost curve
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Straight-through processing: Start small; start now
The Securities Industry Association’s (SIA) push to move the entire industry to a one-day
settlement period (T+1) relies heavily on a comprehensive, inter-enterprise STP implementation.
In fact, the T+1 initiative has made STP a standard part of the industry’s vernacular and
tightly linked STP and T+1 in most execut ive’s minds. However, the urgency behind T+1 has
waned. Succumbing to industry debate questioning the validity of the business case that it
commissioned, the SIA is reevaluating the costs and benefits of moving to T+1.
Without reg-
ulatory backing, the SIA mandate — with its deadline already postponed to 2005 — has
limited influence.
As the momentum behind T+1 slows, STP is dropping off the priority list at many firms. STP
has become so intertwined with the now controversial T+1 initiative that businesses tend to
ignore them both, overlooking the possibility of selectiv e STP implementations — in individual
processes versus end-to-end and with other financial products beyond equities.
Despite T+1’s reliance on STP, they are not synonymous; STP pursued in individual opera-
tional areas by individual securities fir ms can yield significant returns, with or without the
industry moving to T+1. Besides the cost-savings potential, STP can increase the overall
transactional capacity of securities firms, helping handle periodic spikes in trading volume.
Particularly attractive amidst today’s highly volatile market, selective implementation of STP
has the potential to reduce operational and settlement risk. By enabling STP in key areas,
companies can reduce costs now, and at the same time, position themselves for a future
end-to-end implementation. To identify the specific processes that would benefit the most
from STP, firms should examine their back-office operations both vertically and horizontally
(see Figure 3).
Figure 3. STP can take costs out of the back offices of securities firms in two ways.
Source: IBM Institute for Business Value.
Equities Fixed
Derivatives Foreign
Vertical process improvements:
Improving processes within specific product silos
Horizontal process improvements:
Improving processes across product silos
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Vertical process improvement
At many securities firms, cross-border equity trading is a prime opportunity for vertical
process improvement through selective STP implementation. By its very nature, cross-border
trading is significantly more complicated than domestic trading, with differences in currencies,
transaction calculations, regulations and settlement periods.
With complexity come consequences. The Global Straight Through Processing Association
(GSTPA) estimates that 15 percent of all cross-border trades currently fail to settle on time.
Estimates from SWIFT are even higher; they suggest that on-time settlement failure affects
15 to 20 percent of all cross-border trades.
In addition, the one-day settlement lag between
the foreign exchange and the equity transaction makes hedging risk difficult, particularly when
one considers the significant amounts involved.
To make matters even more challenging, cross-border equity trading volumes are rising
significantly. Dollar volumes in and out of the U.S. tripled between 1990 and 1995, from
US$615 billion to US$1.7 trillion. Traveling a continually steeper growth curve, cross-border
trades in 2000 totaled US$10.6 trillion, over six times the amount traded in 1995.
As companies chart their response to these trends, they should consider the pivotal role that
STP can play. By automating key processes and reducing the number of failed trades, STP can
help companies lower the overall cost of cross-border trading and mitigate risk.
Equity trading — both domestic and international — represents only a portion of the overall STP
opportunity; STP-enabled trading processes for other financial products can generate savings
as well. Companies should look beyond the STP avenues popularized by T+1 and examine
each line of business for potential STP efficiency gains.
The average cross-border
transaction weighs in at
US$210 000.
15,1 6,17
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Horizontal process improvement
Looking horizontally across a typical financial markets organization, collateral (securities and
cash) and liquidity management stands out as a significant opportunity for gaining efficiency.
The growth in the number of products offered and geographies served has led to a complex
and inefficient collateral and liquidity management process. Firms often interact with a
large number of correspondent banks, as well as numerous clearing and settlement providers.
This complexity has made it increasingly difficult for organizations to have a transparent,
near realtime view of collateral on a global basis.
Lacking this view, financial markets firms are unable to optimize their asset utilization, and
the cost of managing exceptions is high. The IBM Institute for Business Value estimates that
the typical large investment bank could generate savings of US$1 to 2 million per day given
a transparent and efficient approach to collateral and liquidity management. Connecting and
automating collateral and liquidity management processes through an STP implementation can
help firms achieve these significant cost savings.
IT delivery optimization: Decrease duplication
Throughout the last decade, several factors have reshaped I T deliver y at financial markets
firms. Industry consolidation and global expan sion created a g roundswell of industry mergers
and acquisitions (M&A)— with the number of M&A transactions increasing 316 percent
between 1990 and 1999.
With other synergy opportunities garnering corporate attention, IT
integration often received short shrift. Newly formed organizations were frequently left with
overlapping systems, excess computing capacity and inconsistent IT service levels.
During this same time period, many securities firms abandoned centralized IT functions in
favor of business unit or geographic-based IT organizations, in hopes of gaining speed and
flexibility. Unfortunately, decentralization also introduced significant overlap and unde-
rutilized capacity. As with prior decades, the 1990s brought advances in technology,
pressuring firms to experiment with unproven technology simply to remain competitive.
Caught up in the unprecedented growth of the late 1990s, firms spent more
freely on IT, making investments that— in hindsight — seem risky and, in some cases, unnec-
essary. With unrelenting emphasis on top-line growth, controlling IT costs was not
a priority.
1999 saw a record number of
securities firm consolidations
with 82 in the Pacific Rim,
113 in North America and 101
in Europe.
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Taken individually, each IT decision made in response to these industry pressures was
undoubtedly sound … at the time. But, collectively, over the past ten years, these actions have
led to bloated, inefficient IT delivery infrastructures, which now cost the securities industry 3
to 4 percent of its annual revenue.
21, 2 2
At most securities firms, IT infrastructure needs a major overhaul, not only to reduce costs but
also to improve service levels and increase operational flexibility. The payback on improved
efficiency can be substantial. The IBM Institute for Business Value estimates that a compre-
hensive IT delivery optimization strategy — implemented at a top-tier financial markets firm
with an IT budget of US$1.5 billion — has the potential to reduce annual IT expense in the
range of US$122 to 250 million.
Taking a holistic look at IT infrastructure involves careful consideration of three types of
consolidation initiatives — sha red serv ices, hardware consolidation and application ration alization
(see Figure 4).
* Estimates based on IBM Business Innovation Services consultants’ experience working with financial markets firms.
Figure 4. Three key infrastructure consolidation initiatives.
Source: IBM Institute for Business Value.
Potential savings as a
percent of IT spend*
Shared services
Consolidate similar IT functions • Hardware
4 to 6 percent
across multiple business • Software
units to reduce costs and • Staff
improve service
• Processes
• Sites
Hardware consolidation Review and redistribute a firm’s • Networks
4 to 10 percent
technology components to • Storage
optimize operational capability • Servers
and flexibility at the lowest • Sites
possible cost
Application rationalization Review and reduce a firm’s • Applications 4 to 7 percent
application portfolio to better
align applications with business
objectives and lower costs
while maintaining necessary
functionality and flexibility
Revenue and Fiscal Management
Revenue and Fiscal Management
IBM Institute for Business Value
Shared services
When shifting IT toward shared services, firms should evaluate each function carefully to
deter mine whether it is best delivered centrally or through individual business units. A shared
services model is not an “all or nothing” proposition; finding the right balance between
centralization and business unit autonomy is key. An important output of this evaluation is
a business case that clearly delineates the expected returns and helps garner management
approval and commitment.
Naturally, business units may be apprehensive about losing influence and control as IT becomes
more centralized. To gain their confidence , a shared services strategy should include provisions
for governance to establish unambiguous decision-making processes, flexibility to meet the
needs of a larger constituency and incentives to maintain responsiveness to the customer
(business units).
Properly implemented, shared services encourage collaboration, reuse of intellectual capital
and implementation of best practices across the company, which, in turn, can help increase
innovation, raise quality levels and reduce cycle time. But, most importantly, shared services
help businesses control costs. IT expenses — which were previously scattered and hidden in
pockets throughout the organization — become more visible and easier to manage, allowing the
business to allocate increasingly scarce resources to the enterprise’s highest priorities.
Hardware consolidation
Besides eliminating hardware costs through consolidation, businesses can lower support costs
as well. By shrinking the overall architectural base, IT departments have fewer systems to
monitor on a daily basis, change becomes more manageable and the IT department’s ability to
introduce new business capabilities may improve.
Although hardware con solidation offers tremendous opportunity for cost savings, businesses
should perform an in-depth analysis of user needs and expectations alongside the potential
impact of any hardware restructuring, to avoid negatively affecting the company’s long-term
business strategy. When planning a hardware-consolidation initiative, it is also an opportune
time to revisit business-continuity plans. Consolidation can make contingency plans less
complex and reduce continuity-related risk.
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Application rationalization
Rationalizing application investments involves careful scrutiny of a fir m’s entire application
portfolio. To remain part of the optimal application portfolio, an application must pass
through multiple filters — strategic, functional, technical and financial. Based on this analysis,
applications are retired, replaced by or combined with other applications, restructured to
reduce repair frequency or retained “as is.” Reconciling the application portfolio can also
help position the business for additional changes — such as implementing shared services or
outsourcing application management.
Changes to the portfolio are likely to face organizational resistance. The line between
preferences and needs blurs quickly when business units face losing applications that they
designed and built. The company must be prepared to address organizational challenges
throughout the valuation and implementation stages. The magnitude of financial benefits from
applicat ion rationalization varies widely based on a number of factors, such as size of portfolio,
age of applications and degree of overlap. However, the greatest returns usually come from
retiring applications or transferring application management to a third party.
IT outsourcing: Preserve financial flexibility
At financial services firms, IT budgets command a higher percentage of company revenue
than at firms in almost any other sector. And, with the latest market downturn reminding
securities firms just how cyclical the industry is, the idea of converting fixed IT costs into
variable ones is particularly alluring. However, securities firms have been extremely reluctant
to venture into outsourcing arrangements.
Securities firms have the same concerns as other companies that are considering outsourcing:
deteriorating service levels, lower IT morale and loss of control. They are also nervous about
prospective vendors’ industry knowledge, track record and solvency. But, above all else, securi-
ties companies worry about risk. In the financial markets, penalties for operational failure are
much higher than in other industries. Technology problems can escalate quickly in a realtime
trading environment. With high transaction volumes and huge monetary amounts involved,
one glitch can cost a securities firm tens— or even hundreds— of millions of dollars.
Yet, business pressures are intensifying, compelling the security industry to reconsider its
views on IT outsourcing. Industry cycles continue to drive large swings in IT demand.
Securities firms have difficulty increasing capacity precisely when needed, and — during
troughs— overcapacity places a heavy burden on the corporate income statement. Competition
is intensifying, requiring fir ms to deliver a solid financial performance quarter after quarter.
All the while, remaining technically current is difficult — and expensive to sustain. In a world
shaken by the events of the September 11 terrorist attacks, fear of catastrophic disasters
is rampant, pushing firms to seek cost-effective methods for safeguarding the business and
reducing risk.
In 2000, outsourcing comprised
only 8 percent of the IT
expense within the securities
industry — compared to 20
percent for insurance and 25
percent for banking.
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In many ways, outsourcing helps insulate securities firms from the pummeling effect of these
market pressures. Acquiring IT support on an incremental basis — paying only for the capacity
needed at any given time — helps financial markets firms cost-effectively address oscillating
levels of demand (see Figure 5). IT costs become variable, rising and falling with demand.
Transferring assets to an outsourcing vendor can help businesses boost return on assets.
Plus, with most outsourcing arrangements, business-continuity protection is built in. Fir ms
can avoid large upfront capital investments to construct their own in-house disaster recovery
capabilities — and the ongoing expense of maintaining them —plus, the outsourcing vendor
assumes a portion of the risk.
Figure 5. Obtaining IT functionality on an as-needed basis allows firms to reduce lead times,
upfront costs and unused capacity.
Source: IBM analysis
Total lost and unused capacity
paid for in this example is
approximately 35 percent
Total lost and unused capacity
paid for in this example
is approximately 15 percent, a
20 percent reduction
Used capacity
Unused capacity
Unmet capacity need
Capacity, which is increased and
paid for in a step-function manner
Lost capacity during set-up
Used capacity
Capacity obtained as needed from
outsourcing vendor
Unused capacity
Lost capacity during set-up
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Implementing a type II strategy
Type I I initiatives are more complex and difficult to implement than type I strategies. As
companies execute these long-term strategies, they face three primary challenges:
• In-depth oversight — Strong leadership is required to successfully shepherd a type II initiative
through approval, planning and implementation. Whether consolidating trading platforms
across multiple lines of business or negotiating an outsourcing agreement, major initiatives
need a champion — someone willing and able to take significant risk to achieve potentially
significant results and someone tenacious enough to see the effort through to completion.
• Funding — Paying for a type II initiative may seem impossible, given the constrained fiscal
environment. Upfront investments can be substantial, and payback periods are often longer
than those of other initiatives. However, with careful planning, firms can create a self-
funding portfolio of initiatives that uses savings from early — usually type I —initiatives to
pay for subsequent efforts. To work around restrictive budgets in this manner, firms must
withstand the short-term earnings pressure to let type I savings flow directly to the bottom
line and, instead, invest some portion of those funds to develop a more competitive long-
term position.
• Organizational impact — Implementation of type II strategies may require extensive organiza-
tional change. Because compromise may be necessary, businesses need to devise methods for
overcoming territorial defensiveness and reducing organizational friction. Carefully outlined
and effectively executed change management plans — which encompass every facet of change
from restructuring the organization, to adjusting incentives, to introducing new systems and
processes — are critical to success.
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Assessing your efficiency
How much opportunity for improvement currently exists within your operations? Take a moment to
reflect on your existing operations and identify areas worthy of a more in-depth investigation:
• What are the major expenses involved in the trading processes of each of your product groups?
• How much are broken trades costing your firm?
• What are the primary causes of trade settlement failures?
• Which areas within your trading process are manually intensive?
• What are the top three cost drivers within your IT delivery infrastructure?
• How complete is your understanding of the total cost of IT?
• Which IT areas have expanded considerably over the last few years due to M&A transactions and
global expansion?
• What are the key similarities and differences in IT needs among your various lines of business?
It’s time
Cost-cutting initiatives that required nominal investment and carried low execution risk have
largely been tapped already, but, for many companies, these initiatives have failed to push
margins back up to desired levels. To improve — or perhaps simply sustain — shareholder value,
financial markets fir ms need to make substantial improvements to their cost structures.
Long-range initiatives, like the type II cost-reduction strategies outlined here, require time
and money to implement— both of which are in short supply during a market downturn.
Yet, during an upturn, operational efficiency initiatives are almost always suffocated by an
overwhelming focus on growth. Simply stated, the optimum time to invest is when companies
can least afford it.
Because the timing rarely seems appropriate, firms can easily ignore operational efficiency
altogether, steadily falling behind competitive benchmarks until some type of crisis forces
change. But, by investing regularly in type I I initiatives, securities companies may be able to
avoid drastic, catch-up attempts.
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Although type I initiatives may provide temporar y relief during financially challenging
periods, they may eventually stifle a firm’s ability to grow. Type II strategies, on the
other hand, offer an important premium: they remain in effect long-term, helping
position a firm for market leadership as the industry rebounds.
To learn more about type II strategies and their potential impact on your business, we
invite you to contact us at
. To browse other resources for business
executives, we invite you to go to our Web site at
About the authors
The Financial Services Sector Team at the IBM Institute for Business Value created
this executive brief based on their study entitled “Pulling the Cost Lever to Optimize
Operations at Financial Markets Firms.” To learn more about this study or discuss the
potential impact of type II strategies on your business, please contact Dan Latimore
The IBM Institute for Business Value develops fact-based strategic insights for senior
business executives around critical industry-specific and cross-industry issues. Clients
in the Institute’s member programs — the IBM Business Value Alliance and the IBM
Institute for Knowledge-Based Organizations — benefit from access to in-depth con-
sulting studies, a community of peers, and dialogue with IBM strategic advisors.
These programs help executives realize business value in an environment of rapid,
technology-enabled change. You can send an e-mail to
for more
information on these programs.
• Vikram Lund, Banking Lead, IBM Institute for Business Value, IBM Global Services
• Claire Paisley, Consultant, Financial Markets Industr y Practice, IBM Global Services
• John Raposo, Consultant, IBM Institute for Business Value, IBM Global Services
• Sumit Sood, Consultant, Strategy and Change Practice, IBM Global Services
Daniel Latimore
Financial Markets Lead
Ian Watson
Senior Consultant
Greg Robinson
Associate Consultant
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IBM operates.
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1 1
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