The global investment management industry faces increasing competition and greater complexity. In the recurrent CXO Corner relay column, we ask top executives to point the way ahead, sharing their views and best practices for meeting the challenges. This time, we interview Björn Welander, Head of Securities & Wealth Operations, SEB.
Journal: Can you tell us a bit about your career, before and after joining SEB?
Björn Welander: Before joining SEB, I spent 15 years in the consulting industry, focusing on the asset management sector, spanning everything from software development to management consulting. After joining SEB, just over ten years ago, I have taken on various management positions covering most areas touching securities in one way or another. Currently, I am heading up Securities & Wealth Operations being globally responsible for securities administration in SEB.
Journal: What is your key motivational driver?
Björn Welander: Designing and building the future back and middle office for securities-related products is a great inspiration to me. It involves so many aspects that must all work seamlessly together; including the client offering, the processes, the IT systems and staff.
In general, I thrive when working with challenging transformations, where we can make a substantial difference for our clients. Considering the immense opportunities in the back and middle office areas, it is truly an interesting corner of the financial industry, where one can really make an impact.
Journal: Where do you see the greatest potential for making an impact in your current role?
Björn Welander: Definitely in the area of automation! Even though we, as an industry, have come far already on our automation journey, there is still so much more to do. Not only do we need to work with automation using traditional IT development combined with AI and new automation tools, but at the same time we need to revolutionize our way of working as well as our approach towards back office work.
Perhaps the most rewarding area to work with is the transformation of organizations and the people who work in them. It is arguably also the hardest area, since it involves changing people’s mindset about the way we work. Finding new ways of collaborating releases untapped potential in the organization to the benefit of our clients – and it generates higher satisfaction for the employees involved who get to work with more value-added tasks.
Journal: What is your vision and goal for SEB’s automation journey?
Björn Welander: I am a strong believer in “everything that can be automated, should be automated”. Yes, it will take time, in some cases quite a lot of time, but with time we will get there. Automation is actually nothing new, we have been working with this across the financial industry for many years, particularly in the back-office space. However, recent technological developments have given us new tools to use in our constant automation endeavor.
SEB is investing substantially in automating processes end-to-end to give our clients a fast and qualitative experience when interacting with the bank. The impact we are looking for is basically the same today as ten or twenty years ago, i.e. faster and more efficient processing with higher quality. However, the requirements from clients, predominantly relating to speed and digitalization, have never been as demanding as they are today, so the need for automation is becoming more important than ever.
Journal: What does it take to achieve automation and what hurdles do firms meet?
Björn Welander: In theory, it is fairly easy to create an automated process; all you need to do is to digitalize your data, to standardize your processes and the business rules that govern them. In reality, we all know this is far from easy. Data is often not standardized across the market, exceptions are numerous and require human knowledge and experience to sort out.