eBank Microworld
Starting a new savings bank

Summary

eBank presents the difficult challenge of matching staffing levels with rapidly varying workloads, when there are unavoidable delays in getting the staff required. Low costs and high interest rates make it attractive for savers to invest their money with this business. But get that staffing wrong, and not only will poor service damage the company’s growth prospects, but existing staff may leave as well.

This game reflects the start-up of a low-cost, direct-service savings bank, similar to the 1998 launch of the UK firm 'Egg', as well as similar business models in other countries. Specifically, the challenge is to turn the business into a sustainable, strong profit generator within 36-48 months.

It has close analogies with any service-based business that relies on trained staff, such as: on-line insurance companies, road-side repair operations, and public services. Similar issues arise for organisations selling physical goods that require after-sales support.

Team role

Teams choose when to run forward and the simulation progresses one month with each step, or players can choose to repeat decisions over several months.

There are just two decisions: Interest rate offered to savers and the number of people to hire for the call centre

Challenges

There are 4 challenges included with the game - part played scenarios that provide different situations for students to work with

  1. Go for it: The business took off by offering high interest rates, but will this lead to service problems?
  2. React: Management has been reacting too slowly to both service quality problems and excess staffing.
  3. Build Capacity The business started by building staff capacity and growing steadily, and is about to become profitable.
  4. Match the market The business has grown steadily and profitably by matching competitors' interest rates and ensuring adequate staffing.

Key Learning points

Balancing of key resources is vital for successful business performance, and difficult when things are changing fast.

Generic learning points …

Business performance over time (sales and earnings) depends on the resources we have.

Resources are won and lost over time (customers = sum of all customers ever won, minus all ever lost).

Specific to this microworld …

Need for balance between growth of ‘demand-side’ resources (savers) and ‘supply-side’ resources (the service staff who provide the capacity to deal with the workload from savers).

Lead-time required to bringing resources into balance (the hiring and training time). Intangible resources (reputation) can severely constrain growth of tangible resources (savers) – it responds quickly to poor service, and slowly to improvements.

Service demand is driven by three distinct forces – the winning of new customers (new savers have to be processed), the ongoing support for having the customer-base resource (regular account statements and enquiries) and the losing of customers (processing accounts for savers who leave).

Uses
Workshops and courses for General Management, Strategy, Systems Thinking and Service Management.

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Information for Teachers

Documentation provided with this game is the User Guide and a short document - "the Egg story" a selection of news items about the launch of internet bank Egg in the UK in late 1998.

See also

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