A career as a business analyst
Banks, insurance companies, and pension funds are dynamic, yet complex organisations. Consultant Figou recalls his early days, "When I first stepped into the banking sector, the internal workings of such an institution were somewhat of a mystery to me. Terms like 'change', 'run', and 'circles' seemed like a foreign language." Now, seasoned business analysts Figou Stam and Tim de Jong have accumulated valuable experience from tackling numerous assignments. They've developed a good understanding of how different departments work together. Alongside their manager Jeroen, they're now eager to demystify these complexities and share their valuable insights with others.
Run en Change
To get to grips with a business analyst’s role, it’s essential to understand the ‘run and change’ concept, a key principle in the financial world. In simple terms, company activities in the financial sector can usually be split into these two main areas: ‘run’ and ‘change’. They can be found across all parts of a business, including the front and back office, as well as in finance & risk departments.
This ‘run and change’ idea comes from the agile way of working, which is widely adopted in the financial industry. In this approach, you often work in diverse teams, tackling tasks in short bursts, known as ‘sprints’. This method helps teams quickly achieve results and stay flexible, ready to adapt to new changes and developments.”
Running The Business (RTB)
In the financial sector, ‘Run’ involves all the day-to-day tasks needed to keep the business running smoothly. Imagine tasks like creating reports or handling the accounting steps for financial closings. Under the ‘Run’ umbrella, you’ll find key roles such as risk reporting, controlling, asset management, financial accounting, financial reporting, and management accounting. If you’re in doubt about which path will suit you best, it could be helpful to think about what interests you more: accounting, controlling, or modelling.
When you join our Finance or Risk traineeship, you’ll probably start in the ‘Run’ area. Choosing a consulting career? Then your journey begins with ‘Run’ too! Most likely this will be your first ‘real’ job, so your knowledge base is probably theoretical at this stage. You understand the products and accounting principles and know the basics of how a bank operates, but it’s all from a theoretical perspective. Your next step is to apply this knowledge in real-world scenarios, to test and enrich your understanding. In your first year, you’ll dive into the ‘Run’ to get a feel for how a bank functions. In order to have a say or propose improvements, you need to understand the workflow: who to approach for what, and who not to. You’ll learn the structure, get to grips with the working methods, and develop your product knowledge.”
Changing The Business (CTB)
‘Change’ is all about implementing improvements to streamline current processes. It serves as a crucial link between two departments, providing support to the ‘Run’ side of the business. This is particularly vital in banks, since they’re constantly seeking to enhance efficiency with new technologies. Additionally, changes in laws and regulations often necessitate process modifications. Frequently, it’s a mix of both: tightened regulations call for a process review, presenting a perfect opportunity for efficiency improvements.
As a business analyst, your role is to translate day-to-day business operations into ‘Change’ initiatives. You gather requirements from the business and convert them into functional designs. These designs are then transformed by developers into technical specifications, detailing exactly what needs to be programmed to access new data attributes, implement new processes, or modify applications. The business analyst reports to the product owner, who prioritises these changes and schedules them into ‘sprints’.
While the bank’s IT infrastructure represents a significant third layer, this article primarily focuses on the ‘Run’ and ‘Change’ aspects. These are the key areas where you as a starting professional begin your journey through our programmes.
Your first year as a consultant
Figou and Tim have completed their first assignment at ING. Tim shares, “Working at a bank was new to me, so I found it fascinating to start in a ‘Run’ environment. It helped me understand how departments function and gain insight into the financial operations. From there, I was able to move on to the next stage. Our subsequent assignment was a comprehensive role in business process management at Volksbank for three months. As part of a ‘Change’ team, we visited various circles (scrum teams) across the bank to document processes. During these six months, we didn’t make any improvement suggestions. The starting point was the lack of documented processes. Regulators had pointed out that Volksbank’s process landscape was not up to standard. And when you’re mapping out current processes, you don’t want to just record them to solve the primary issue, but also to see if they can be done better or more efficiently.”
Figou adds, “As consultants, we’re hired to document processes, and it’s our job to further create our own assignments. When we’ve documented a process that we think can be improved, we propose enhancements. Over the course of the task, the focus gradually shifts towards this.”
Jeroen: "As a consultant, your independent role allows you to ask critical questions."
The challenges of being a business analyst
“As a business analyst, you really need to push for the changes you propose.” Tim explains, “What often happens is that the ‘Run’ doesn’t have enough capacity to implement the changes. Or colleagues from the ‘Run’ might resist, because they’ve been using a certain system for decades. Or the product owner might not see your improvement suggestions as a priority, leading to other projects being prioritised. It’s your job to get stakeholders on board. At Solid Professionals, you receive guidance on how to do this from more senior colleagues. It’s important, though, that you proactively seek out this advice.”
After two years, you have evolved into a generalist. Then, you start to specialise in your niche. If you want to move away from the nitty-gritty details and get energy from completing a project on a tight schedule, you might develop into a coordination role. If you find process optimisation exciting, you can grow into a black belt role. Eventually, you might lead a team of junior consultants, managing an entire project from start to finish at an organisation. There are many different paths you can take, from project manager to data analyst, to modelling expert.
Considering a career in consultancy?
Curious about the diverse opportunities in the field of business analysis within the financial sector? Discover more by getting in touch with us.