While the financial industry doesn't deal with physical products, its back office faces forecasting issues very much like those of companies with tangible supply chains. In order to be a good record keeper and to forecast properly, says Wendell Hull, director of capacity management at Fidelity Investments, his organization needs clean data and accurate transaction histories and be on top of its "inventory."
While clients aren't involved in the back-office forecasting that goes on in the investment industry, they sure do determine what and how much work goes on there, says Hull. There are any number of services they may want with their 401(k) or other accounts, for instance. Customer demands can require data uploads, cleansing of data or many other services to make an account "healthy," he says.
All of that requires forecasting the number of employees that will be required to handle these needs. That often requires staff "manipulation" to allocate employees for certain duties. That often entails overtime and other management decisions, but in every instance it mandates matching workers with the right skills to the needs of the customer at that moment.
An "error rate" of 10 percent - in the number of employees assigned to do the work - is generally thought to be pretty good with this type of forecasting, says Hull.
To his way of thinking, the forecasting involved is not that dissimilar to what's used with physical products. With the latter, you may rely heavily on a good work history, and it's no different with investments. At the same time, the work is much more subjective than forecasting the production or sale of cars and bubblegum.
Call center techniques are of little use to forecasting requirements in his industry, says Hull. Call centers largely analyze the average handling time and speed of service of a pool of calls. "In those environments, you're not really looking at the individual skills needed to handle a call."
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