What Causes Profitability?

August 12, 2014
/   Spotlight

Digital Insight proves that digital bankers actually drive increase engagement and profitability with their financial institution.

Cause and Effect: If you build it, will they come?

July 23, 2014
/   Spotlight

Many financial institutions assume that digital banking is lucrative because the most valuable customers happen to bank online. While there is certainly a correlation between online bankers and higher profitability, quantitative evidence suggests that...

Cause and Effect: If you build it, will they come?

/   Spotlight

Many financial institutions assume that digital banking is lucrative because the most valuable customers happen to bank online. While there is certainly a correlation between online bankers and higher profitability, quantitative evidence suggests that...

Intuit 2020 Report: The Future of Financial Services

April 11, 2011
/   Insights

Today, Intuit released the latest edition of the Intuit 2020 report, Intuit 2020 Report: The Future of Financial Services, which identifies and examines four key trend areas that will  transform the financial services industry...

Platform Shift in the Making

February 13, 2013
/   Insights

What does the banking industry as a whole have to do with Amazon, Microsoft and Apple? Just about nothing—and down the road, it may turn into a major problem (if it isn’t already). Consider...

Infographic: How to Spot a Fake Check

March 8, 2013
/   Insights

The team over at TROY pulled together an infographic on how to spot a fraudulent check. With more consumers using remote deposit capture to upload and deposit checks through their smartphones, it’s important to...

Fast Facts: Student Loans

January 22, 2013
/   Insights

The Financial Services Roundtable recently released another iteration of its Fast Facts, reliable, bullet-point research about issues facing the financial services industry. Topics span TARP, Dodd-Frank, insurance, lending, retirement savings and more.  Below are some updated Fast...

Financial Literacy Month: How are you celebrating?

March 22, 2013
/   Insights

With April approaching, it’s almost time to kick off Financial Literacy Month! Strongly supported by the United States Congress and the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, Financial Literacy Month aims to promote the importance...

The Top 10 Trends in the Digital Banking Industry

December 18, 2013
/   Spotlight

2014 is rapidly approaching and as the year wraps, the Digital Insight team has pulled together the top 10 trends in the digital banking industry based on data and trends from studying financial institutions....

Citigroup is one of the biggest financial services corporations in the world, so it’s no surprise that the sudden switch in the company’s two top executive spots continues to generate considerable attention. It’s even being reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the circumstances behind the high-level shakeup.

But there’s another aspect to the story that’s also intriguing: While newly appointed CEO Michael Corbat has announced plans to optimize efficiencies at the venerable institution, the buzz is that he’s got his work cut out for him. That’s because, by some accounts at least, Citi has one of Wall Street’s least productive workforces.

The numbers seem to bear out that assertion. Citigroup generated about $206,000 in revenue per employee (RPE) through the first nine months of the year, down 7.5% from the year-ago period. Some other institutions, meanwhile, posted increases during the same time span.  This comes after the cutting of 100,000 jobs during the tenure of outgoing CEO Vikram Pandit. If current trends hold, according to estimates from Bloomberg, Citi will be one of only a half-dozen major lenders with a lower RPE than it had in 2005.

It’s easy—but according to experts, quite wrong—to overestimate the RPE metric when judging the business performance of not just banks but organizations in other industries.  “There’s only one metric that really matters when measuring HR.  It’s called Revenue per Employee (RPE),” claims a recent post in The HR Capitalist. “That’s all you need to know. The rest is BS.” That sentiment is echoed in other business performance sources as well.

So given the importance of this metric, how does the industry as a whole and, Citi in particular, stack up against other high-profile companies and industries?

24/7 Wall Street, which offers commentary for equity investors, did just such an analysis recently—tagging it as a study of companies with the ‘least valuable employees’—and the results make for interesting reading. Retailers and market-facing restaurant chains don’t fare too well: Sears (which also owns other brands) makes an appearance with an RPE of $139,000, as does Gap, with an RPE of $113,000, and JCPenney with $98,000. Starbucks may have some problems brewing at $89,000, and the stories of Mcjobs at McDonald’s may be true; the fast-food giant shows an RPE of only $65,000.

On the other side of the coin is Apple—the perfect company with the perfect products and the perfect market cap has one of the highest RPEs of any public corporation: $2.4 million. Even other flourishing tech brands can’t match that; for example, despite the much smaller employee base, Facebook (and coincidentally Google) come in at $1.2 million.

But here’s an element left out of this equation. Apple has come under attack for outsourcing much of its manufacturing; iPads and iPhones, among other devices, are made at corporations in China and elsewhere that pay a significantly smaller wage than Apple pays its own employees. There have also been numerous reports of less-than-ideal working conditions at some of these facilities, and even a recent strike at one.  If Apple built its products in-house, what would its RPE be then? And how would the market judge its performance?

Futurists frequently question the need for a central facility in a business environment where online collaboration technologies negate the need for a physical workplace. With business and support professionals virtually assembled around the world, it’s even possible to imagine a business world without Wall Street. But what other effects would this have?

RPE is surely a vital statistic, and it will be interesting to see how the new management team at Citigroup goes about raising productivity. But it’s also important to remember that in a complex global ecosystem, where jobs can be passed around between different economies and regions almost at will, it may be only one factor (and not the only factor) in gauging how good a company is at doing what it does.

What do you think about RPE? Let us know by tweeting at @bankingdotcom or replying in the comments section below.

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Brad Strothkamp

http://www.forrester.com/rb/analyst/brad_strothkamp

James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.