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Performance in Consumer Financial Services Organizations: Framework and Results from the Pilot Study


  • Frances X. Frei
  • Patrick T. Harker
  • Larry W. Hunter


Financial services comprise over 4 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States and employ over 5.4 million people. By offering vehicles for investment of savings, extension of credit and risk management, they fuel the modern capitalistic society. While the essential functions performed by the organizations that make up the financial services industry have remained relatively constant over the past several decades, the structure of the industry has undergone dramatic change. Liberalized domestic regulation, intensified international competition, rapid innovations in new financial instruments and the explosive growth in information technology fuel this change. With this change has come increasing pressure on managers and workers to dramatically improve productivity and financial performance. This paper summarizes the first year of a multi-year effort to understand the drivers of performance in financial services organizations. Financial services are the largest single consumer of information technology in the economy, investing $38.7 billion dollars in 1991 (National Research Council, 1994). While this investment has had a profound effect on the structure of the industry and the products it provides, its effect on financial performance of the industry remains elusive. Why this "productivity paradox" (Brynjolfsson and Hitt,1993) exists is an important part of this project. The authors describe the differences in productivity in services from manufacturing. In the service world, the consumer co-produces the product with the firm, ofte nadding labor to the creation of the service. In addition, the scope of the service enterprise typically is quite vast, with components of the service production process being both producers and deliverers of the service. In addition, the quality of the services provided is forever changing. Thus, the authors suggest that productivity gains from human resource improvements or technology investments may not show up in standard performance measures, but may rather be used to improve the quality of the service provided. What appears to be a stagnation in productivity may actually be an increase in value delivered to the customer. Delivering value to the customer may provide the institution with sales opportunities and much needed information about the institution's customer base. The pilot survey conducted by the authors examines the relationship between technological advancement and the relational part of service delivery by studying time spent with the customer in relation to technological sophistication and time spent on the entire delivery process. The authors adopt the view that processes are the central "technology" of an organization. As with any technology, the process must be maintained. After a process has reached its useful life, it should be scrapped or rebuilt. Thus, the authors suggest that researchers should take a life-cycle view of processes when undertaking efficiency studies. The authors rely heavily on a process-oriented methodology in their analysis of performance drivers in financial services. The study does not focus on traditional measures of productivity or financial performance. Rather, the authors base comparisons on intermediary measures which evaluate the drivers of performance from the perspective of all participants in the co-productive process. This pilot study starts with consumer financial services and in particular, retail banking. The authors review the relevant literature on financial services performance and then propose a conceptual framework for the study. The framework assumes that industry conditions and firm strategy are given. The authors focus is to examine the components of performance that managers can affect, given a strategy and industry operating conditions. Thus, their initial focus is guided by their desire to direct attention to issues of implementation and their effects on performance. The authors attempt to bridge the gap between traditional productivity measures and difficult-to-measure financial performance by developing a set of value creation components as an intermediary set of performance indicators. Based on pilot interviews, these indicators reflect effective performance in ways that are more meaningful than the more traditionalmeasure of productivity, as they are the goals toward which bank management strives. The key values the study attempts to measure are customer convenience, precision, efficient cost structure, adaptability and market penetration. The survey conducted by the research team benchmarks two types of management decisions that are presumed to drive these outcomes. The first set of management choices are implementation choices, human resources choices, technology implementation processes and product/servicedelivery processes. The second set of choices relates to management infrastructure, resource management processes, the information architecture of the firm, the performance management and control systems and the organizational structure of the firm. Based on interviews and the work of previous productivity studies, the research team developed a pilot survey focused on the practices of the functional areas, business lines, product groups and the retail distribution network. The pilot measured the outcomes and choices made by managers in seven large commercial banks. The pilot results will lead to a large scale survey of practices for the entire retail banking sector. Based on early pilot results, the researchers concluded that managers in consumer financial services firms typically assume that improvement in one area of performance is largely at the expense of decreased performance in other areas. The authors believe this is only partly true. Based on the pilot results, the authors believe that better management practices can move outcomes in a number of areas simultaneously. Through effective process design, use of technology and management of human resources, institutions can improve performance in multiple categories. The successful financial services organizations will be those which find processes and practices that enhance multiple measures of performance. The results of the large scale survey of practices will be available in early 1996.

Suggested Citation

  • Frances X. Frei & Patrick T. Harker & Larry W. Hunter, 1995. "Performance in Consumer Financial Services Organizations: Framework and Results from the Pilot Study," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 95-03, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:pennin:95-03

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. R. E. Caves & M. E. Porter, 1977. "From Entry Barriers to Mobility Barriers: Conjectural Decisions and Contrived Deterrence to New Competition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 91(2), pages 241-261.
    2. Harry J. Holzer, 1987. "Hiring Procedures in the Firm: Their Economic Determinants and Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 2185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kim B. Clark, 1989. "Project Scope and Project Performance: The Effect of Parts Strategy and Supplier Involvement on Product Development," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(10), pages 1247-1263, October.
    4. Fried, Harold O. & Knox Lovell, C. A. & Eeckaut, Philippe Vanden, 1993. "Evaluating the performance of US credit unions," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 251-265, April.
    5. Jay B. Barney, 1986. "Strategic Factor Markets: Expectations, Luck, and Business Strategy," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(10), pages 1231-1241, October.
    6. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw & Giovanna Prennushi, 1995. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity," NBER Working Papers 5333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Vernon L. Smith, 1994. "Economics in the Laboratory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 113-131, Winter.
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    Cited by:

    1. M. S. Krishnan & Venkatram Ramaswamy & Mary C. Meyer & Paul Damien, 1999. "Customer Satisfaction for Financial Services: The Role of Products, Services, and Information Technology," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(9), pages 1194-1209, September.
    2. Berger, Allen N. & Demsetz, Rebecca S. & Strahan, Philip E., 1999. "The consolidation of the financial services industry: Causes, consequences, and implications for the future," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(2-4), pages 135-194, February.
    3. Steven J. Pilloff & Anthony M. Santomero, 1996. "The Value Effects of Bank Mergers and Acquisitions," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 97-07, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
    4. Frances X. Frei & Patrick Harker, 1996. "Measuring the Efficiency of Service Delivery Processes: With Application to Retail Banking Journal of Service Research," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 96-31, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.

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