Productivity gap: What the industry leaders do differently

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Recent research shows the bulk of finance and banking businesses are lagging behind in growth and innovation while a few trail-blazers power ahead. What separates these leaders from the pack? And how can you join them at the front?

Telstra's latest report into productivity in Australian business revealed a higher than average percentage of businesses in the banking and finance sector were lumped into the report's lowest productivity category, with few business between the stragglers and those at the top.

The report identified three categories of productivity success: Productivity followers, productivity leaders, and the final and most coveted category, growth champions.

Productivity followers are those that have made little or no improvements of the year, productivity leaders have achieved 'substantial' improvements, and growth champions are businesses that achieved the highest levels of productivity and growth, both in terms of revenue and capability.

The banking and finance industry had a higher percentage of growth champions than the study’s average (10%), but also a higher percentage of productivity followers (83%) – signifying a substantial gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in finance.

Rocky Scopelliti, Telstra’s General Manager of Industry Development, admits there is a clear disparity between different businesses in the sector.

“There are parts of the financial service market where the productivity gains have not been as great, where improving productivity is a key opportunity for them to improve performance.”

The way to achieve this, says Scopelliti, is to look at the way the growth champions operate. One of the key differences between growth champions and other businesses is the importance they placed on investing in mobile technology, he says. Mobile technologies are now an integral way of working in the advice field.

“To be able to capture accurately information from a conversation they’re having with customer, be able to process that information in real -time and get it back to head office, and the difference that can make in terms of turn-around on a decision, is a huge competitive advantage.”

Growth champions also recognise the need for collaboration within the workforce, as well as being open to diversification through partnerships with third parties.

While many of the larger companies in finance have undertaken expensive technology upgrades in terms of cloud computing and e-commerce investments, the same advantages can be achieved by small businesses with relatively small cost, says Scopelliti.

"It’s about thinking at the far end of the spectrum in terms of the productivity of the individual, and that doesn’t need a $10bn systems upgrade, those technologies are available today.”

The report notes there is “significant room for improvement” in terms of the productivity of Australia’s financial services sector, but Scopelliti is confident that businesses can step up to the challenge.

“If the strategies employed by the growth champions are developed and deployed throughout the course of this year then I would definitely expect the see that growth champions proportion increase by our next report.”

Characteristics of a growth champion:

  1. A customer first approach
  2. High levels of employee collaboration
  3. Strong investments in information technology

Key strategies of banking and finance growth champions:

  1. Pursuing an improved customer experience – 59%
  2. Becoming more agile in how to respond to market opportunities and challenges – 53%
  3. A focus on improving productivity – 50%

Where growth champions plan to invest:

  1. Mobile technology  – 74%
  2. Data and business analysis – 62%
  3. Online and self-service technology – 61%
  4. Video collaboration technology – 56%