Reinventing the Back Office: 7 Questions to Werner Weingraber

A MBA holder from the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Werner Weingraber, who is also an expert speaker for our Back Office Summit, is working in investment research division in Raiffeisen Bank International AG. As Department Head Research Sales and Operations, he is responsible for sales and back office functions such as application management for core investment research application.

Werner executes further innovation, such as implementation of Robotic Process Automation as the first in capital markets and investment banking, setting up data and driving data analytics initiative and cloud services. In addition, he is a leader mentor in RBI’s Fintech Accelerator Program “Elevator Lab” and have seen relevant companies, turned down options, and decided to run pilots for innovative technologies as well as organizational approaches.

We asked Mr. Weingraber seven questions regarding trends that are redefining the back office.

What is the main role of Back Office in banking?

Back office shall take over all tasks so that front office can focus on customer needs and customer interaction. Also the work of back office shall aim at servicing directly or indirectly the customers better and quicker.

What challenges can digitization bring to banks in the current state?

It is paramount to choose from the numerous digitization options and always think digitization not as an “IT issue” but a general approach to employees and customers.

No bank is able to follow all available options for “digitization” but it is key to decide on approaches, technologies and partners for exploration and productive use. Part of it is also “to say no”: what will not be done.

Thinking of digitization as a pure “IT issue” will guarantee for many undertakings to fail. The heart of digitization are the people in your organization right now, and that goes far beyond IT and includes all employees.

What are the skill-sets, capabilities, and future requirements of a back office specialist?

Most of all I believe in people themselves: As required skills are changing quickly, it is most important to focus on people that like to cooperate, are curious and creative, and have a certain tolerance of ambiguity. People must feel comfortable in time where change is happening quicker than ever before.

If you want me to put one skills forward: It is Python knowledge. In my department we are on a “road to Python”: Until the end of the year, every single person – from application management to CRM analyst, from marketing to layout, from student assistant to senior, will learn to make use of Python in his/her daily work.

What are the consequences of merging front and back offices?

New chances and new challenges! People need to learn to talk to each other and understand each other and cooperate. Front and back office people are experts – but they do not speak the same language and do not have the same priorities.

When people work closer together – ideally co-located – an anonymous ticket is replaced by a personal relationship between colleagues and ultimately the customers. This can form the basis for better and quicker solutions, but also creates new problems.

What should be changed within back office in general?

I am convinced that from traditionally seen as “back office”, some should be much closer to the front office. But also in front office there are tasks which could and should be handled from back office. From my opinion sometimes the separation should be clearer, but sometime there should be no separation between back office and front of office at all.

How do you see the back office development within 3-5 years?

In a time of changes also the changes for back office will speed up. Core point for me is the change in the way we work, the cooperation between back office and front office, between IT and business, in whatever form.

I have been working in SME companies, when it is hours from ideas over decision to implementation. While banking overall has a systematic need for stability, we need to learn again where flexibility and continuous innovation must override stability and where this is not appropriate.

What are you going to discuss at our Back Office Innovation for Financial Services Summit in London on May 23-24?

I will share experiences and give an outlook on organizing back office and front office function for about 100 people in investment research in Raiffeisen Bank International AG. The traditional organization, a non traditional way, and the potential future in an adaptive set up.

Find out more about what will be discussed on Back Office Innovation for Financial Services Summit in London on May 23-24 and who is attending the event .