Lean seems to be taking root just about everywhere… manufacturing, government, healthcare, education… you name it. Now we learn about lean manufacturing being applied to banking.
Many corporate banks and other financial institutions routinely apply the management principles of lean manufacturing to help standardize straightforward business procedures, such as the straight-through processing of securities transactions. The advantages include speedier operations, lower costs, better products, and an improved customer experience.
Of course every industry is different, however the core concepts and methods of lean remain constant.
But many of an institution’s most valuable activities involve dozens or even hundreds of steps that may require sophisticated customization and expert judgment from numerous sources—and thus resist standardization. This was the problem facing a specialized commercial lender that had
expanded its sales force to fuel rising levels of business from several
industries but couldn’t keep pace with demand for new loans.
Constrained by head office limits on the number of new hires, its only
alternative was to investigate ways of making its processes less
Time for lean.
The bank responded on a number of different fronts:
First, it established multifunctional loan teams for the
industries of its major clients. Each team had a designated leader
responsible for the team’s effectiveness and business output (as
measured by the success of loan decisions, team collaboration, and
To win the buy-in of functional experts, the leader reported to a
new-deal committee comprising senior executives from the functions
represented on the sector teams. The committee streamlined loan
processes by assigning loans to one of four standard tracks based on a
combination of risk and regulatory factors (exhibit).
Value stream organization as opposed to functional silos.
The bank then kept the momentum going through a combination of clear
milestones and deadlines, as well as the use of tools such as real or
electronic whiteboards to identify bottlenecks and areas for
improvement at the team’s regular meetings.
KPI’s and visual management. And it worked.
As a result of these actions, the time required to complete a
transaction shrank by 70 percent, and productivity improved by 30
The lessons learned are the same for every industry that implements lean.
The task of choreographing the activities of the credit analysts,
lawyers, product managers, technology specialists, and various other
experts who support a financial institution’s complex, high-value
activities can seem daunting. It needn’t be. The key is for banks and
other financial institutions to focus not only on the operational
manifestations of the problem (the tailored processes and ineffective
handoffs that slow down turnarounds) but also on the organizational
shortcomings that inhibit collaboration, accountability, and a sense of
common purpose among teams.
By adopting this integrated approach,
senior managers in a variety of financial settings—including corporate
lending, investment banking, and project finance—might extend the
benefits of lean production to their businesses. The results, on top of
improved productivity, will probably include happier employees and more
Welcome to the lean world!