05 Apr 2019

The Human Element of a Merger

Securities Services
People are at the core of any business. Effectively managing the human element of a merger is critical to success. 


A major part of any merger is how to manage bringing together two groups of employees. Thoughtful people planning at the outset can help to ensure a smoother transition. By taking a holistic view, firms can use their people to help ensure a successful merger and continued client satisfaction.

Identify Your Teams Early

Executive leadership should identify early on the individuals from both firms to lead operational issues throughout the consolidation process. Addressing how these teams are aligned and creating a joint governance structure between firms is a critical first step to mapping processes against people who can drive operational initiatives and maintain accountability for timelines. While corporate strategists, legal teams, consultants, and financial professionals play an important role in the early stages of consolidations, they are often not close enough to technical details to provide the deep operational insight needed to inform many of the strategic goals around consolidating technological infrastructure, platforms, or legacy operating systems. Closer to a cut-over date for the new firm, experts can move into more of an oversight role and may benefit from partnering with service providers and vendors who can monitor certain aspects of the transition on their behalf.

In the chaos of transition, it can be challenging to retain the experts who are closest to critical technologies and key systems. Planning early on to lock in key staff with appropriate retention or service agreements helps avoid future delays in operational transitions. In the largest of deals, transition can be a lengthy process with migrations taking place over years. Priorities and people are very likely to change throughout this process, and managers should think about ways to institutionalize and routinely communicate strategic goals as people rotate on and off of changeover teams.

Creating strong teams to manage transitions is an essential part of working through a merger. Bringing together people from various backgrounds and geographies helps ensure a holistic view.
Irmiga McKay, Head of Client Executives, Securities Services, Citi
Irimga McKayHead of Client Executives, Securities Services, Citi

Focus on the Client Experience

Bringing together operations, sales, and technology experts in cross-functional teams is one of the only ways to truly understand the impact operations has on the client experience. Firms should consider tasking a cross-functional group to work backward from the client’s engagement with every point of the organization to define how that connects to an optimal operational outcome. Operational and technological experts should be encouraged to engage directly with sales teams, who are positioned to speak directly to customer issues that might arise throughout the consolidation process. Combined sales teams will have a vested interest in mitigating the challenges of customers’ transitions post-consolidation and can provide insight into places along the client journey where operational issues might break down and create a client problem.

Key Questions to Consider

People are a critical part of a merger and engaging the right teams from the outset is an important part of the project's success. Here are three key issues executive leadership should consider:

  1. Who will be responsible for maintaining the client lens?
  2. Who should be in the cross-functional team to ensure we consider operational issues early and often?
  3. How do we retain the right level of expertise through this transition?
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