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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Company Cost Analysis Project for Financial Services Firm

Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Company Cost Analysis to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, KPIs, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. We followed this management consulting approach for this case study.

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Consider this scenario: A financial services firm has experienced substantial growth in terms of both its client base and revenue over the past few years.

However, despite the escalating revenue, the company has struggled to achieve expected net profit margins due to a rise in expenses. The firm requires a rigorous Company Cost Analysis to identify areas of cost inefficiencies and potential cost reductions.

<approach> Initial hypotheses might attribute these challenges to a lack of a structured approach to cost management, unnecessary overheads, or unoptimized value chain processes. While servicing a growing customer base, there could also be inefficiencies in the company's expenditure, possibly due to pursuits that do not align strategically with revenue generation.


A 5-phase approach would serve this Company Cost Analysis project best. The first phase involves conducting an initial cost assessment—the 'dig'—to establish a comprehensive understanding of the firm's financial layout. Key activities in this stage include analyzing current cost structure and identifying cost drivers. Pertinent questions to answer here include: "Which costs are increasing and why?" "Are there any non-value-adding activities or expenditures?"

Phase two is the benchmarking process—identifying best practices in the industry and comparing internal operations with those processes. This phase involves a deep dive into the industry standard costs and efficiency levels as well as competitor analysis. Furthermore, benchmarking would provide insights into market competitive practices and how they may differ from the firm's operations.

Stage three is the cost modeling phase, which includes developing a cost baseline and executing sensitivity analyses to assess potential cost reduction strategies. Employing this methodology enables the visualization of cost reduction scenarios and their impacts on the firm's financial status.

Phase four involves designing and planning initiatives that would address identified inefficiencies, reduce costs and align operations more closely with the company's strategic priorities. The fifth and final stage of the model is implementation followed by a tracking mechanism to monitor the progress and performance of cost reduction strategies.

Learn more about Cost Reduction Company Cost Analysis Cost Analysis

For effective implementation, take a look at these Company Cost Analysis best practices:

Strategic Account Management (101-slide PowerPoint deck)
Cost Drivers Analysis (18-slide PowerPoint deck)
Generic Cost Benefit Analysis Excel Model Template (Excel workbook)
Target Costing (23-slide PowerPoint deck)
Activity-Based Costing (ABC) Rapid Prototyping Toolkit (19-slide PowerPoint deck and supporting ZIP)
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Potential Challenges

When adopting these methodologies, it's imperative to keep in mind potential execution and adoption challenges. The approach's effectiveness largely depends on the company's internal capabilities and the organizational willingness to change. Significant effort and investment in stakeholder management, capability building and driving change could be necessary for successful implementation.

Case studies from other financial service firms can provide learnings to mitigate potential challenges. For instance, American Express went through a spectacular corporate reinvention, executing a transformative cost reduction strategy. The company was able to reduce its annual expenses by more than $1 billion by implementing strong transition management and making strategic cost reductions.

Unexpected external factors can also pose challenges. Therefore, it's crucial to create contingency plans and build the ability to adapt quickly. Last but not least, preserving customer service and value when implementing a major cost reduction strategy should always be top of mind. In 2018, AIG reportedly faced substantial customer backlash due to cost-cutting measures that adversely impacted service delivery.

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Sample Deliverables

The following documents are typical outputs of a Company Cost Analysis project:

  • Cost Analysis Report (PowerPoint)
  • Benchmarking Analysis Report (PowerPoint)
  • Cost Modeling Outputs (Excel)
  • Cost Reduction Strategy Plan (PowerPoint)
  • Implementation Tracking Report (MS Word)

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Value Driven Cost Management

The Cost Reduction Strategy should not simply be an exercise in cutting costs. It must be a value-driven process that ensures the firm's spending aligns with its strategic priorities. This requires a commitment to maintaining a balance between cost and value, focusing not merely on cost reduction but also on value creation on the revenue side.

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Adapting the Operating Model

As part of the cost management effort, the firm may need to consider adapting its operating model, potentially through restructuring, process automation, or outsourcing. However, this should be linked to the core strategic objectives of the firm to ensure alignment and avoid any repercussions. A "no sacred cows" approach can be adopted during this process, questioning every aspect of the operating model against its value and cost.

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Company Cost Analysis Best Practices

To improve the effectiveness of implementation, we can leverage best practice documents in Company Cost Analysis. These resources below were developed by management consulting firms and Company Cost Analysis subject matter experts.

Identification of Cost Drivers

The first critical step in addressing cost inefficiencies is to understand the underlying cost drivers within the organization's operations. A detailed analysis of the organization's financial data over the past quarters revealed that the major cost drivers included personnel expenses, technology investments, and real estate costs. Personnel expenses have risen sharply due to increased headcount to support the growing client base, while investments in technology were made to enhance digital capabilities and customer experience. Real estate costs have also escalated as the organization expanded its physical presence to accommodate growth.

The organization's cost structure reflects the industry trend towards digital transformation and talent acquisition to support scaling operations. According to a McKinsey report, the financial services sector has been investing heavily in technology to stay competitive, with costs often exceeding initial expectations due to the complexity of integration and the need for continuous innovation. Additionally, as the war for talent intensifies in the industry, firms are compelled to offer competitive compensation packages, which further drives up personnel costs.

Learn more about Digital Transformation Customer Experience Real Estate

Cost Reduction Strategy Design

With a clear understanding of the cost drivers, the next phase involved designing a cost reduction strategy. This strategy centered around three key initiatives: workforce optimization, technology rationalization, and real estate consolidation. Workforce optimization aimed to align headcount with operational needs, focusing on areas with a high impact on customer satisfaction and revenue generation. Technology rationalization involved reviewing the current technology stack to eliminate redundancies and ensure investments were directed towards systems that provided the highest return on investment. Real estate consolidation examined the organization's physical footprint, identifying opportunities to reduce space through remote working policies and optimizing office layouts.

The proposed initiatives were estimated to yield a significant reduction in operating costs while maintaining or enhancing service quality. For instance, by implementing a remote working policy and optimizing office space utilization, the organization could potentially reduce real estate costs by up to 20%, as reported by Gartner's research on post-pandemic workplace strategies. Similarly, technology rationalization could lead to savings of 15-25% in IT spend by streamlining applications and platforms, based on a Bain & Company study on IT cost optimization in the financial services industry.

Learn more about Customer Satisfaction Cost Optimization Remote Work

Implementation and Tracking

The implementation of the cost reduction strategy required meticulous planning and execution. A cross-functional team was established to oversee the initiatives, ensuring that each was executed according to plan and that synergies between them were maximized. The team also developed a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress and measure the impact of the cost reduction efforts on the organization's financial performance. These KPIs included metrics such as cost savings achieved, employee productivity, customer satisfaction scores, and technology utilization rates.

To facilitate tracking, the organization implemented a cloud-based performance management system that provided real-time visibility into the KPIs and enabled data-driven decision-making. The system also allowed for scenario planning and forecasting, helping the organization to anticipate and adapt to changing market conditions. As a result of these efforts, the organization was able to achieve a reduction in operating costs while maintaining high levels of customer service and employee engagement.

Regular updates were provided to the organization's leadership and stakeholders through a series of dashboards and reports. These communication tools were critical in maintaining transparency and building confidence in the cost reduction strategy. They highlighted areas of success, identified potential risks, and facilitated course corrections as needed. The organization's commitment to continuous improvement and its ability to adapt to new challenges were key factors in the successful implementation of the cost reduction strategy.

Learn more about Performance Management Continuous Improvement Employee Engagement

Preserving Customer Service and Value

While cost reduction was a primary focus of the organization's strategy, preserving customer service and value remained paramount. The organization conducted customer surveys and focus groups to understand the impact of cost reduction measures on customer experience. This feedback informed the refinement of the initiatives, ensuring that they did not compromise service quality. For example, the organization optimized its call center operations by implementing advanced analytics and automation, which improved response times and customer satisfaction without increasing costs.

Furthermore, the organization leveraged its technology investments to enhance digital channels, providing customers with more convenient and personalized services. By doing so, the organization not only reduced costs but also increased customer loyalty and revenue potential. According to a Forrester report, financial services firms that prioritize customer experience tend to outperform their peers in revenue growth, highlighting the importance of balancing cost management with value creation.

To close this discussion, the organization's comprehensive approach to cost management, which combined a rigorous analysis of cost drivers, strategic cost reduction initiatives, and a focus on customer service, resulted in improved profitability and competitive advantage. By aligning its cost structure with strategic priorities and adapting to the evolving market landscape, the organization was well-positioned for sustainable growth.

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Reduced operating costs while maintaining high levels of customer service and employee engagement through strategic initiatives.
  • Achieved up to 20% reduction in real estate costs by implementing remote working policies and optimizing office space utilization.
  • Saved 15-25% in IT spend through technology rationalization by streamlining applications and platforms.
  • Implemented a cloud-based performance management system for real-time visibility into key performance indicators (KPIs) and data-driven decision-making.
  • Enhanced digital channels led to increased customer loyalty and revenue potential, aligning with findings that customer-focused firms outperform in revenue growth.

The initiative's overall success is evident from the significant reduction in operating costs without compromising service quality or employee satisfaction. The strategic focus on workforce optimization, technology rationalization, and real estate consolidation directly addressed the major cost drivers identified in the initial analysis. The use of a cloud-based performance management system facilitated effective tracking and adaptation to market conditions, exemplifying a well-executed strategy. However, while the results are commendable, exploring additional avenues such as more aggressive automation and outsourcing could potentially have yielded further cost savings and efficiency improvements.

Given the successful implementation and positive outcomes, the next steps should focus on continuous improvement and scalability of the initiatives. It is recommended to conduct periodic reviews of the cost reduction strategies to identify further optimization opportunities. Additionally, expanding the scope of technology investments to explore emerging technologies like AI and blockchain could offer new avenues for cost savings and service enhancement. Finally, fostering a culture of innovation and cost-consciousness across the organization will ensure the sustainability of these efforts and support long-term growth.

Source: Company Cost Analysis Project for Financial Services Firm, Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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