I was astounded by a recent article from The Wall Street Journal that noted that JPMorgan’s “40,000 technology employees make up about 17% of the bank’s head count.”
I have no idea if that’s a reasonable number to support JPMorgan’s vast global operations. But reading that article prompted me to think about the efficiencies that can be gained by a cloud versus legacy technical environment, and to recall the operating principles which guided the formation of our company.
From the outset, United Capital was primarily built in the cloud. We said to ourselves, “We’re not in the data center business; being in that business is not the highest and best use of our time.” We therefore decided we were going to maximize our use of Software as a Service solutions.
When our staffing structure is compared to legacy companies which traditionally have maintained on-premise servers and networks, our metrics are amazingly efficient. For instance, if 17% of our company’s 600 employees were dedicated to providing technical support, my department would have 102 people in it, instead of the fraction of that it currently contains.
QuoteWe said to ourselves, “We’re not in the data center business; being in that business is not the highest and best use of our time.”
If we delve even deeper into the numbers, some interesting and impressive figures emerge from a comparison of our United Capital FinLife platform versus the JPMorgan model: JPMorgan has more than 5,000 branches and over 40,000 tech employees. If half of the 40,000 are dedicated to operational support for their offices, there would be only four full-time employees per office devoted to this front.
With our current 83 offices, our equivalent number would be 332. Even if we group them into clusters or regions of 10, we would still be at 40. If we assume that we have five dedicated resources to maintain the operation of our FinLife platform, then the effective leverage we get from its use (compared to the JPMorgan model) is roughly 800%!
Some might logically and correctly argue that our cloud model incurs more third-party costs than an in-house technology services model, and those costs would torpedo any savings.
But if you assume that employee headcount often comes with its own organizational negative that inhibits operational flexibility in a rapidly changing world, any discussion strictly concerned with a pure cost comparison isn’t justified. Instead, the argument must also include strategic capability.
There are a number of benefits that are derived from a cloud-based model to help your company be more nimble. One concerns focus: “What is your highest and best use?” or “How much of your time should be oriented to something that is not really core to your business?”
Perhaps you might be inclined to argue, “I’ve got a technical team and a department that handles that.” Well, someone has to manage that department, and ultimately there’s going to be a fire drill around it.
Why not instead hire a company that spends every waking moment of their business lives dealing with that technology infrastructure? You would be getting their highest and best use, and any time a software upgrade is required, it is automatically applied.
In addition, given the realistic security threats from cyberattacks that most online companies face, cloud-based security solutions are typically better equipped to thwart attacks and to manage them more effectively.
I also think there is a benefit around flexibility. In today’s world, the consumer and business environments are rapidly changing. Companies need to be able to pivot and respond accordingly, and you can’t let your technology infrastructure be a hindrance to that.
CHOOSE TO EVOLVE
In a dynamic environment, you don’t want to have any kind of anchor weighing down your mobility. With a cloud operation, a business is not slowed down by the technology infrastructure that has been put in place nor its attached support structure.
QuoteWhy not instead hire a company that spends every waking moment of their business lives dealing with technology infrastructure?
There is genuine value in having access to a cloud-based platform that people can utilize to achieve greater technical efficiencies, and it also means they do not to have to hire people or invest time and resources in creating and managing large in-house teams to support it.
To put it in context, despite the size of JPMorgan’s technical staff, they have the resources to spend huge sums on leadership and consultants to improve their margins. This is not a luxury that a typical independent RIA can afford.
However, RIAs that are handicapped by legacy systems and balance sheets that can't sustain further margin loss do have something that JPMorgan doesn't have – a choice. A choice to evolve their business model, embrace a cloud platform and reduce staffing levels in an effort to be more efficient, nimble and profitable.
Whatever your own specific business needs are, a cloud-based technical support model is a best practice to consider.