COO Community Management

The COO community meets regionally, with global and/or regional COO attending roundtable dinners in London and New York, which are hosted by iCOOC members.

Globally we coordinate COO Cluster Calls with 4 to 6 global COOs attending a virtual meeting, and quarterly we host COO recess dinners in New York and London.

These dinners are for 10 executive COOs, attending to enhance their network, and to discuss common challenges. The agenda is set at the table, with attendees requested to bring one point for discussion they are happy to sponsor. Recess dinner protocols include mobiles left at the door, individual points put in a hat to be chosen, debate under the Chatham House Rule.

These activities can be buy or sell side specific, or buy and sell side combined, subject dependant. Whilst debates can cover a multitude of subjects, they broadly align themselves to the following:

Understanding the role of the COO

In detail, and in general, we understand COOs seem to be measured on the following criteria:

• Increasing efficiency within business operations
• Keeping to the budget and meeting investor demands
• Realising cost savings (and realising future business benefit)
• Performance and agility of the business management and supporting operational functions
• Leadership skills and engendering a culture of loyalty performance and innovation
• Improving the company’s financial metrics and governance
• Improving company’s ethical standing, especially in relation to control and the regulatory agenda
• Strategic planning and the mindset of the overall leadership team
• Ability to attract, hire, train and retain talented people

COOs may need not only to master operational excellence, but also to become a driver of strategy.

This switch in focus highlights a dichotomy in the role of the COO today. On the one hand, COOs must focus their attention on the here and now. This demands a deep involvement in operations to ensure that they are performing at optimal level company wide. On the other hand, they must find the space to shape longer-term strategy, because they are best placed to assess the extent to which they actively engage with the board on key issues:

  • Discussing business performance and decision-making.
  • Driving operational innovation by embracing technologies.
  • Driving operational transformation and direction front to back.Realising operational efficiencies and standardisation

The main challenge for COOs is carving out the space to showcase their skills. It requires them to find a ladder out of the operational trenches, to gain a wider perspective of the business. But such challenges are what COOs thrive on. When asked what makes their role worthwhile, respondents point to the fact that it brings fresh challenges every day. They also enjoy engaging with a wide variety of different functions and departments across the business.

COOs need to challenge a common perception that the role is primarily concerned with keeping the wheels turning and little else, dealing with and executing the regulatory agenda, meeting the demands of the business from day to day. To overcome this, they must demonstrate that they make a strategic contribution to the business and that their role ‘moves the needle’ on business performance.

They must show they can, if required, run the business, although many of them lack experience in managing risk. Some say that COOs need to capitalise on their unique advantage point and now is the  time to do this. How? By getting involved in almost every function, COOs can spot interdependencies and help integrate activities across the business. They can break down functional and geographical silos and identify ways of combining assets to drive efficiencies and transfer best practise.

The markets’ COO may carry different responsibilities bank to bank, and the weighting of these responsibilities may vary, but they do carry the heavy burden of collectively shaping key component parts of the banking industry. This can be achieved by working with internal leadership as well as with peers industry-wide.

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