James A. Combs

“I was looking to broaden my business skills, but in a context that I could apply readily… We delivered a good return on the investment my firm made in my EMTM education.”

James A. Combs, Jr., EMTM’05
Senior Vice President
Wilmington Trust Company
Oaks, PA

James A. Combs, Jr., EMTM’05

Financial Services Perspective: A Good ROI

When Jim Combs of SEI Investments Company (Nasdaq: SEIC) began the EMTM program, he faced the challenge of forming a new product group in connection with an organizational realignment at his firm. So Jim focused his EMTM course knowledge and projects on the complex challenges associated with the design, development and delivery of technology and operational outsourcing solutions to corporations, private banks and trust companies, investment advisors and affluent families.

"I was looking to broaden my business skills, but in a context that I could apply readily," says Jim, Vice President of the firm's Global Services division. His two-year stint with EMTM has since yielded an impressive list of measurable outcomes. "We delivered a good return on the investment my firm made in my EMTM education," he says.

Applying New Tools and Concepts

Jim applied the tools and concepts he learned in EMTM's Organizational Behavior and Design course to prepare a business plan — with well-defined business objectives, an organizational and staffing plan, compensation plan and product strategy — that was used to justify the funding required to build a new internal product management organization within SEI Investments.

Then, as publicly-held SEI Investments prepared to extend its investment processing outsourcing solution into the much larger national bank market segment, he faced another important challenge: how to determine the cost and product delivery implications of this market initiative. "We wanted to create a good cost model for understanding the resource implications of serving a financial client three times the size of our then-largest customer," he notes.

For an EMTM Statistics class project, Jim performed a multiple regression analysis — using historical transaction volumes, functional staffing levels and operating expenses to develop a predictive cost model for a national bank strategic outsourcing solution. "The model proved to be fairly accurate in estimating internal costs, incremental head count and expense impact," Jim says. "We've since successfully gone to market with pricing and an operational model based in part on that analysis." Jim also used an EMTM Data Mining class to analyze prior year customer service inquiries and staffing levels to predict staffing requirements to support new business growth. "This analysis provided the service organization's management team with a more scientific method for determining the impact of increased volumes on staffing levels and the total cost to serve," says Jim.

Name virtually any EMTM course he's taken in his two years in the program, and Jim can explain how he'll use the concepts to address business challenges at SEI Investments. "I'm using my EMTM training to better identify product and business opportunities and exploit them more quickly and effectively," says Jim. "As I deliver stronger results across a wider range of activities, my scope of responsibilities has increased in both breadth and depth. Similarly, my group is happier and more motivated as I've exposed them to new tools and ways of doing things, and challenged them professionally within the context of their current jobs."

Rx for Companies Coping with Rapid Change or Stagnant Growth

Jim recommends EMTM for mid-career to top tier executives at companies coping either with rapid change or a stagnant growth rate. "If your company knows that it needs a new strategic direction, I strongly suggest sponsoring managers for this program so they can acquire the tools, knowledge, and analytical skills required for developing and executing a winning business strategy," says Jim. "EMTM gives you a greater awareness of tried and true techniques and principles for business management. It gives you an appreciation for the rapid pace of technological change, helps you determine the potential disruptions those changes may have on your business model, and provides you with the knowledge and capabilities to execute a strategy to position your business where it needs to be in the years ahead."