Vanguard Retail Operations (A)
The first two cases in this series are set in the financial services industry, and explore whether it is better for back-office workers to be generalists who provide the flexibility of being able to handle the complete range of transactions that the company faces or specialists who focus on a subset of the overall transaction mix. The objective is to introduce the advantages of demand pooling in reducing the variability associated with the forecasting of highly variable workloads, while also demonstrating the benefits to worker learning and efficiency improvements that can come from specialization. The case is set at the Retail Investor Group Operations of the Vanguard Group, the mutual funds and ETF giant. Karin Risi, the managing director, is faced with a back-office operation that hasn't kept up with massive transaction growth, one that is struggling under the weight of mounting client phone call and transaction volumes, client complaints, and buckling employee morale. And worse, the press was taking notice. The (A) case details the complexity in the growing backlog and frames the question of whether they should pursue a specialist model. The (B) case, for distribution in class, details the impact of an initial segmentation of workload into eight categories and poses additional questions for class discussion and analysis.